Published: 17 Sep 2012 22:40 GMT+02:00 | Print version
Updated: 17 Sep 2012 22:40 GMT+02:00
Researchers in Switzerland said on Monday a new computerized model of part of a rat's cortex predicts connections between neurons, which could help explain how the brains of mammals -- including humans -- work.
"This is a major breakthrough because it would otherwise take decades, if not centuries, to map the location of each synapse in the brain," said Henry Markram, head of the Blue Brain Project at Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.
Launched in 2005, the project aims to develop a virtual mammal brain by 2018.
One of the greatest challenges in neuroscience is to map the synaptic connections between neurons, the statement said, dubbing the so-called
"connectome" the "holy grail that will explain how information flows."
To reconstruct a rat's "virtual cortical microcircuit," the researchers used data about the geometrical and electrical properties of neurons compiled
over 20 years from experiments on slices of living brain tissue.
"Each neuron in the circuit was reconstructed into a 3D model on a powerful Blue Gene supercomputer," the statement said. "About 10,000 of virtual neurons were packed into a 3D space in random positions according to the density and ratio of morphological types found in corresponding living tissue."
According to the researchers, whose findings are published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the locations on the model matched that of synapses found in the equivalent real-brain circuit with 75 to 95 percent accuracy.
"Overall, this work represents a major acceleration in the ability to construct detailed models of the nervous system," according to the statement.
A snap of a finger, a handful of scattered microphones and a computer algorithm are all it takes to create an accurate three-dimensional map of a room, Swiss and US researchers said on Monday. READ () »
A 72-year-old Swiss man died on Monday after the motorcycle he was driving collided with a van in a Jura Mountain pass. READ () »
After a cool spring, torrential rains, flooding and wind storms, Switzerland is now sweating it out through a heatwave. READ () »
Foreign banks based in Switzerland called on Monday for a rapid resolution of a dispute with Washington over Swiss banks' role in tax evasion by Americans, warning the prolonged uncertainty was putting entire financial institutions at risk. READ () »
The Swiss federal government wants the OECD group of industrialized nations to broker a global deal on the exchange of information about people who bank their cash outside their homeland. READ () »
Swiss researchers said Monday they have created a small four-legged, high-speed robot that runs like a cat in a bid to create a new breed of automated devices for use in search and rescue operations. READ () »
Swiss-Swedish engineering giant ABB on Monday named the head of its Discrete Automation and Motion (DM) division, Ulrich Spiesshofer, as its new chief executive after Joe Hogan announced last month he would step down. READ () »
Almost one in six Swiss residents suffers from symptoms of depression, an illness that costs Switzerland’s economy an estimated 11 billion francs a year, a report released on Monday says. READ () »
Questions are being raised anew about the safety of a level crossing in a Fribourg village after an eight-year-old boy was killed by a train near the same spot where his uncle died in 2004. READ () »
Swiss President Ueli Maurer says Switzerland is prepared to launch a criminal investigation against American spy Edward Snowden if concrete proof of his activities in the Alpine country is confirmed. READ () »