Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blue Brain and the eServer Blue Gene

As I have mentioned before, researchers in Switzerland recently launched an ambitious project called Blue Brain, which uses IBM's eServer Blue Gene, a supercomputer capable of processing 22.8 trillion floating point operations per second (TFLOPS).

States the Computerworld article: The Blue Brain project is modeling the behavior of 10,000 highly complex neurons in rats' neocortical columns (NCC), which are very similar to the NCCs in a human brain. The NCCs run throughout the brain's gray matter and perform advanced computing. The first objective of Blue Brain is to build an accurate software replica, or template, of an NCC within two to three years.

What I find interesting is that the researchers say that "some major brain experiments could be done in silicon rather than in a "wet" lab. A simulation that might take seconds on the supercomputer could replace a full day's worth of lab research. Ultimately, simulated results of brain activity could be matched with recorded brain activity in a person with a disease in order to "reverse-engineer" the circuit changes in diseases. The real value of a simulation is that researchers can have access to data for every single neuron," IBM researcher say.

The future of acadmic medicine is anyone's guess - can these academics keep up with the new technoglogy available?