Year two documentary on the Blue Brain project

The year two film of director Noah Hutton’s 10-year documentary-in-the-making on the progress of the ambitious Blue Brain Project is now online and well-worth watching.

The Blue Brain Project is often touted as aiming to ‘simulate the human brain’ but a more accurate description would probably be that it aims to create a simulation of cortical column circuits from the neuromolecular level up to the point where it’s as equally as complex as the human brain.

If the distinction isn’t clear imagine that you’re interested in how London works, so you decide to build a detailed computer simulation of suburban streets, but instead of aiming to replicate the geography of the genuine British city, you just make sure that it has as many roads as the capital itself.

Clearly, this is not an exact simulation of London, not least because the city is more than just suburban streets, but the complexity of the model would be incredibly useful in understanding the interaction between street level and city level activity at massive levels of complexity.

The same goes for neural simulation and the link between micro and macro levels of complexity is a major challenge for neuroscience. This is exactly what the Blue Brain Project aims to tackle.

However, as you can see in the film, project leader Henry Markham has the tendency to say that the project is about ‘understanding the brain’, which makes for good headlines, and takes nothing away from the impressiveness of the project, but is so broad that it doesn’t reflect the somewhat more neurobiological focus.

The project is, nonetheless, wonderful neuroscience and Noah Hutton’s film captures its progress during its second year.

Link to Noah Hutton’s ‘Blue Brain, Year Two’ film.


  1. ac
    Posted September 7, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Rather, it’s like you’re interested in how the UK works, so you simulate the road network of Norwich.

    • Posted October 30, 2011 at 3:25 am | Permalink

      I cannot see how that holds. Mind is what brain does, and replicating the structure and activity of the brain gives us tools of an entirely new quality for understanding the mind.

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