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The path to understanding the brain: Henry Markram at TEDxCHUV

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Published on Jun 28, 2012

Thousands of studies have unveiled an exceptional level of detail about the brain -- but how much more do we need to know before we can "understand" the brain? Henry Markram proposes a massively multi-disciplinary effort -- brining together neurologists, mathematicians, engineers, and data scientists -- to aggregate all of our current knowledge and integrate it into one experimental model.


Knowledge of the brain is highly fragmented and we have no way to prioritize the many experiments needed to fill the gaps in our understanding. It is time for a strategy of global collaboration, where scientists of all disciplines work together to solve this problem. We propose building a platform to catalyze efforts, integrate knowledge, and use supercomputers to simulate what is known about the brain, to predict gaps in our knowledge of the brain, and to test hypotheses about how it works.

Henry Markram is the Coordinator of the Human Brain Project, a proposed international effort to understand the human brain. His research career started in medicine and neuroscience in South Africa, then at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, at NIH and UCSF in the United States, and the Max-Planck Institute in Germany. In 2002, he joined the EPFL, where he founded the Brain Mind Institute. His career has spanned a wide spectrum of neuroscience research, from whole animal studies to gene expression in single cells. He is best known for his work on synaptic plasticity. In the past 15 years he has focused on the structure and function of neural microcircuits -- the basic components in the architecture of the brain. In 2005, he launched the Blue Brain Project: the first attempt to begin a systematic integration of all biological knowledge of the brain into unifying brain models for simulation on supercomputers. The strategies, technologies and methods developed in this pioneering work lie at the heart of the Human Brain Project.

About TEDx:
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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