Brain Simulation

Watching weather predictions, one often sees typhoon, tornadoes, rain and cold waves simulations. In addition to advances in gaming, animation and social media technologies, neuroscience has benefitted from progress in brain simulation. Computational neuroscience and quantitative psychology have long relied on computer modeling to simulate neural activity and networks.

The Blue Brain (hardware: Blue Gene supercomputer, software: NEURON) is a project that aims at modeling the mammalian brain down to molecular detail. Scientists at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lauzanne, Switzerland) continue working on the undertaking, and attempt to uncover what lies underneath it all.

Brain-computer interface (BCI) consist of transmitting commands to the machine mentally (Brunner et al., 2010). Although development is underway, such systems continue to be clouded by noise to the point of message integrity loss. The two types of signals used are the event-related desynchronization (ERD) and steady-state evoked potentials (SSEPs). Through their work, the scientists show that a hybrid is possible, and conducive to improved communication.

Neurons, or brain cells, are surrounded by extracellular space. Xiao & Hrabetova (2011) report previous findings pointing to anomalous diffusion, and hypothesized that glomeruli are behind the process in the granular layer. Perhaps to non-neuroscientists, the most interesting part of their study is the use of geometrical models. The numerical Monte Carlo simulation was used, using in-house and external programs. The authors’ hypothesis proved correct - a crucial factor for neurotransmitter and neuromodulator research and application.

Clearly, computer simulation significantly impacts science: biology, physics, mathematics and astronomy. Amazingly enough, there are even theories that currently, humankind is living in a computer simulation organized by an Ancient civilization, or a future society.

neuron

Neuron, photo: Public domain

neuron architecture

Public domain: Neuron architecture

References:

  • Brunner, C., Allison, B. Z., Krusienski, D. J., Kaiser, V., Muller-Putz, G. R., Pfurtscheller, G. & Neuper, C. (2010). Improved signal processing approaches in an offline simulation of a hybrid brain-computer interface. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 188: 165-73.
  • Xiao, F. & Hrabetova, S. (2011).  Monte Carlo simulation study of geometrical factors causing anomalous diffusion in brain extracellular space. The Open-Access Journal for the Basic Principles of Diffusion Theory, Experiment and Application, 1-2.
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