[ExI] Blue Brain Project

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 8 19:51:47 UTC 2010

Richard Loosemore <rpwl at lightlink.com> wrote:

> Ben Zaiboc wrote:
> > Anyone not familiar with this can read about it here:
> > http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/out_of_the_blue/P1/
> > 
> > The next ten years should be interesting!
> Or not.
> Markram is NOT, as many people seem to assume, developing a
> biologically 
> accurate model of a cortical column circuit.  He is
> instead developing a 
> model that contains neurons that are biologically accurate,
> down to a 
> certain level of detail, but with random connections
> between those 
> neurons.  The statistical distribution of wires is
> supposed to be the 
> same as that in a cortical column, but the actual wires...
> not so much.

> Markram's entire project, then, rests on his hope that if
> he builds a 
> randomly wired column model, the model will "self-assemble"
> and do 
> something interesting.  He produces no arguments for
> what those 
> self-assembly mechanisms actually look like, nor does he
> demonstrate 
> that his model includes those mechanisms.

> As far as I can tell, Markram's only reason to believe that
> his model 
> columns will self-assemble is ... well, just a hunch.

This is pretty much what a human brain starts out as.  The brain of a baby is *massively* overconnected, and 90% of the connections get pruned away as the baby starts to learn.  Markram's reason to believe that his model columns will self assemble is that that's what they do in biological systems.

Even so.  Suppose this is not the case, suppose Markram's random interconnections fail to capture something intrinsic to the biological situation, it's still not a pointless exercise.  We are constantly mapping the connections in the brain (the connectome project), and while hand-wiring them is out of the question, we will surely extract significant statistical patterns that should help with setting up the blue brain with more successful starting patterns.

The blue brain project might not produce the results Markram hopes it will, but it can't fail to produce useful information, even if it's just "how not to build a brain".

Ben Zaiboc


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