Blue brain technology is a program that powers the blue brain—the first artificial brain to have ever been developed. Brain Mind Institute (BMI) and International Business Machines (IBM) collaborated to launch the Blue Brain Project (BBP) in July 2005 with the primary goal of simulating mammalian brain functions in great detail. It aimed to gain a better understanding of biological intelligence and its processes using the blue brain technology. It was launched by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) through its founder Henry Markram, a strong proponent of human brain simulation.

Blue brain technology is a virtual machine powered by artificial neural networks (ANNs). It is one of the advanced applications of artificial intelligence (AI) to the human brain that aims to address many of the pressing problems involved in brain dysfunctions, the human mind, and consciousness.

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How Does Blue Brain Technology Work?

Blue brain technology uses the Blue Gene supercomputer that IBM developed to jumpstart the brain simulation process. The main goal is to create a program that can upload a human brain to a computer. By doing so, the machine can think and decide even in the absence of a human body.

The human brain is highly complex with millions of synapses and transmissions occurring simultaneously. That is the main reason why people can react to a given situation in real-time. Using a standard machine for such a project is thus impossible. As such, IBM created the Blue Gene supercomputer to serve as an interface between a human brain and a computer using small robots or nanorobots, also called nanobots.

These nanobots are small enough to stay and travel inside the body by passing through the circulatory system. They can then study, monitor, and provide updates about the brain, including neuronal interconnectivity.

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How Can One Upload Data to Blue Gene?

Uploading brain data happens through the nanobots. The nanobots follow three main steps, namely:

Data Acquisition

Since the nanobots can pass through the human body’s circulatory system, they are able to collect human brain fragments and bring them under a microscope. This process allowed experts to study each neuron’s dimensions and electrical activity. All observations are then converted into algorithms that accurately describe each neuron’s process, functionality, and positioning methods. The algorithms then generate virtual neurons that are considered biologically similar to real-life ones. Once this is achieved, the neurons undergo simulation.

Data Simulation

The simulation process has two aspects:

  • Speed: At present, blue brain technology can run one second simulated time of neurons for five minutes. That means simulating 10,100 neurons or one cortical column would be 200 times slower than in real life. The only way to advance their performance is to precisely identify which functions are significant.
  • Overflow: In this step, the algorithms aim to define and describe neurons as accurately as possible. They must adapt to the age and disease stage of the brain being simulated. First, the algorithms must develop a network skeleton that represents various types of synthesized neurons. Once done, the cells are combined based on predefined rules. Finally, the simulated neurons are brought to life and observed through visualization.

Data Visualization

Blue brain technology uses RT Neuron to visualize neural simulations. The software uses the outputs from the simulation and feeds them to a system so they can be viewed in 3D. That makes it easier for researchers and programmers to pause, stop, start, and zoom in on activities between neurons, allowing them to study the simulated brain in detail.

Blue brain technology has been crucial in ensuring the Blue Brain Project’s success after many years of study. Without it, brain simulation would be nothing more than an ambitious project.