Thursday, February 18, 2010

10 year Blue Brain documentary

I found this today via

Bluebrain | Year One from Couple 3 Films on Vimeo.

Henry Markram is attempting to reverse engineer an entire human brain, one neuron at a time. This piece is an introduction to director Noah Hutton's 10-year film-in-the-making that will chronicle the development of The Blue Brain Project, a landmark endeavor in modern neuroscience.

I think my favorite part of the mini documentary is the end where the music cuts out and you just hear the fans blowing in Blue Gene. So ominous!

I thought a task no less Herculean than modeling the human brain would elicit more enthusiasm from the people doing it, but I had to keep turning up the volume higher and higher. I've seen people speak with more enthusiasm about putting drywall up in a new housing development.

Still, this is one of those things like the Human Genome Project which, once completed, will usher in a revolution in medicine and (maybe far enough down the line) artificial intelligence. Of course people express skepticism over the Blue Brain project. The same thing happened with the Human Genome Project. "It's too complex." And then once it's done, they think "oh that wasn't such a big deal!"

On the other side you have people who are yahoos. I remember talking with an irritating relative of an ex years ago. He kept saying, "It's all genetic! Everything's genetic! Just wait until they finish the genome! It's all genetic!" I gently pointed out to him that the HGP had already been finished (I think this was in 2003). He kind of stared at me silently and then asked, "So what did they find?" "Well," I replied, "it's not all genetic!" You know, don't take up smoking again just yet!

Looking back, though, these are the major breakthroughs that make so many avenues of research and treatment possible. Just a few months ago researchers in San Diego sequenced lung cancer. Scientists will be able to sequence many more cancers over the course of the next few years. Less than 10 years after the sequencing of the human genome, personal genomics has become affordable. One can easily imagine a similar trajectory following the sequencing of the connectome.

Which is good news for those of us who are S-M-R-T, since it turns out the Alzheimers gene makes you a sharp crayon when you're younger. Ah, Mother Nature. Your sense of humor!


JCD said...

Did you see this?

Sort of like the opposite end of the spectrum in attempting to do crack the brain open.

der Augenblick said...

"Wessel says that perhaps the microcircuit is the orange clownfish Marlin and the Blue Brain is the blue regal tang Dory and together they are searching for Nemo: an understanding of how consciousness emerges from the soggy three-pound mass of nerve and glial cells we call the brain."