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超级计算机将在单个细胞尺度精确模拟“人脑

发布时间:2012/4/29 7:55:43    发布者:中国中西医结合医学会    点击量:1248

 

据英国《每日邮报》网站4月15报道,人脑的能力或许会让现有机器相形见绌,但科学家们目前正打算让全球功能最强大的超级计算机变身为“人脑”。如果成功,那么,该“人造大脑”将彻底变革我们对阿尔茨海默病等神经疾病的理解,甚至让我们进一步洞悉人类如何思考、做决定等。

该项目的领导者是瑞士洛桑联邦综合理工学院的电脑工程师亨利·马克拉姆,他将同包括英国剑桥大学韦尔科姆基金会桑格研究所在内的欧洲科研团队携手合作。

他们打算让这台计算机将迄今所有与大脑运行的未解之谜有关的信息结合在一起,并将这些信息复制在屏幕上,甚至精确到单个细胞和分子的程度。他们希望该项目能在12年内“竣工”。

马克拉姆说:“人脑极其复杂,其拥有数十亿个相互连接的神经元,使神经科学家很难真正理解大脑的工作原理,而模拟大脑将使我们能操纵并测量大脑的各个方面。”

该“大脑”位于德国杜塞尔多夫的一个研究机构内,将突出展示围绕一个半圆形“座舱”而建立的几千幅三维图像,这样,科学家们能虚拟地“飞行于”不同的区域并观察这些神经元之间的相互连接。

这台超级计算机旨在将全球目前正在进行的神经科学研究整合为一个平台,全球每年约有6万多篇与神经科学有关的论文发表。项目完成后,科学家们可能会使用这台超级计算机测试新药,这会大大节省新药获批所需的时间,并研发出更智能的机器人和计算机。

该项目已经收到欧盟提供的资助,也已被列入将于下月发放的10亿欧元援助基金的备选项目之一。

过去15年中,马克拉姆领导的研究团队一直在该领域辛勤地耕耘着,他们用计算机模拟出了大脑皮质柱(哺乳动物大脑的基本组成部分)工作原理,也模拟出了实验鼠的部分大脑。

但人脑完全不同。人脑拥有1000亿个神经元,每个神经元每秒会执行数十亿次计算,与一台台式机差不多。如果要求该“大脑计算机”每秒执行1018次计算,需要一个核电站来为其提供能量,这将成为科学家们面临的主要一个挑战。

不过,也有人担心“操控”人脑并制造出能自我思考的计算机会带来可怕的灾难。比如,德国就有媒体将该科研团队称为“弗兰肯斯坦团队”。弗兰肯斯坦是英国小说家玛丽·雪莱创作的科幻小说《弗兰肯斯坦》中的主人公的名字,是迄今最著名的人造生命缔造者,小说讲述了科学家利用高科技打造人造怪物的故事。但马克拉姆表示:“如果我们取得成功,会让全球约20亿脑部受损者受益。”

对于很多科学家来说,大脑仍是一位“熟悉的陌生人”,有很多未解之谜。大脑已经经历了数百万年的进化,很多科学家将其看成是科学领域的“终极挑战”。研究人员表示:“知道大脑的工作原理有望带来巨大的进步。”(生物谷:Bioon.com)

Scientists to build ‘human brain’: Supercomputer will take 12 years to build

Monday, April 16, 2012 from DailyMail

(1)The 'brain' will take 12 years to build
(2)It will feature thousands of three-dimensional images built around a semi-circular 'cockpit'

The human brain’s power could rival any machine. And now scientists are trying to build one using the world’s most powerful computer.

It is intended to combine all the information so far uncovered about its mysterious workings - and replicate them on a screen, right down to the level of individual cells and molecules.

If it works it could be revolutionary for understanding devastating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and even shedding light into how we think, and make decisions.

Leading the project is Professor Henry Markram based in Switzerland, who will be working with scientists from across Europe including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at Cambridge.

They hope to complete it within 12 years. He said: ‘The complexity of the brain, with its billions of interconnected neurons, makes it hard for neuroscientists to truly understand how it works.

‘Simulating it will make it much easier – allowing them to manipulate and measure any aspect of the brain.’

Housed at a facility in Dusseldorf in Germany, the ‘brain’ will feature thousands of three-dimensional images built around a semi-circular ‘cockpit’ so scientists can virtually ‘fly’ around different areas and watch how they communicate with each other.

It aims to integrate all the neuroscience research being carried out all over the world – an estimated 60,000 scientific papers every year - into one platform.

The project has received some funding from the EU and has been shortlisted for a 1 billion euro (£825million) EU grant which will be decided next month.

When complete it could be used to test new drugs, which could dramatically shorten the time required for licencing them than human trials, and pave the way for more intelligent robots and computers.

There are inevitably concerns about the consequences of this ‘manipulation’ and creating computers which can think for themselves. In Germany the media have dubbed the researchers ‘Team Frankenstein’.

But Prof Markram said: ‘This will, when successful, help two billion people annually who suffer from some type of brain impairment.

‘This is one of the three grand challenges for humanity. We need to understand earth, space and the brain. We need to understand what makes us human.’

Over the past 15 years his team have painstakingly studied and managed to produce a computer simulation of a cortical column – one of the small building blocks of a mammal’s brain.

They have also simulated part of a rat’s brain using a computer. But the human brain is a totally different proposition. High energy consumption: The computer will require the output of a nuclear power station like Sellafield.

Our brains have 100 billion neurons. Each one performs billions of ‘calculations’ per second – roughly similar to a desktop computer.

So the brain computer will need to be able to do a billion billion calculations which will require the output of a nuclear power station.

Finding a way to power the supercomputer will be one of the researchers’ major challenges.

The brain is still largely an unknown quantity for researchers and unravelling its mysteries - which have evolved over millions of years - is widely considered the final frontier of science.

Richard Walker, who works with Professor Markram, said: ‘Our brains consume tiny amounts of energy but they last for 90 or more years.

‘At the moment we cannot even afford to run the biggest computers we could build, so if we can find out how the brain works, it could bring huge advances.’ Disorders of the brain, from depression and mental illness to the diseases of old age such as Alzheimer’s – which affects 800,000 people in Britain – are also a growing problem.

David Cameron recently pledged £66million to fund research into the ‘national crisis’ of dementia.