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Surprising Science

Scientists to Build a Virtual Brain

Swiss scientists are vying for $1.3 billion dollars in grant funds to construct an artificial human brain. The open source coding for the brain would be made available to all researchers. 

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of Swiss researchers believe they can build a virtual human brain using advances made by neuroscience over the last decade, from modelling the structures of ion channels to the mechanisms of conscious decision-making. “First the scientists must decide on the volume of brain tissue to construct, and, second, they must distribute mathematical models of neurons throughout this volume in a manner consistent with experimental data from real human brains.” The project is awaiting $1.3 billion from a European science fund. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Some scientists do not think the plan will work. Others believe that dealing with a virtual brain will prove just as complex and mysterious as working with a real one. Still, the Swiss team envisions a computer that will learn and gradually develop more complex cognitive abilities just like a human brain. If the project gets the go-ahead, researchers have promised to publish the code used to program the brain, meaning limitless experiments could be run on the software, testing virtual drugs against the debilitating diseases that affect the mind. 

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