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The Brain Simulation Platform will use parallelised versions of the well-established Neuron, STEPS and NEST simulators and will exploit simulation workflows and tools developed by EPFL's Blue Brain Project. The prototype brain reconstruction and simulation tools and workflows available at the start of the project have made it possible to create models of neural microcircuits containing up to 33,000 neurons and to connect these models in larger systems containing up to a million neurons. More important than the size of models, however, is the general approach. EPFL's Blue Brain Project has already developed algorithms that reconstruct brain models using experimental data and applying key biological principles. Models are then validated against experimental data that was not used in the reconstruction process. Data and principles are continuously updated, an approach that ensures that models become steadily more accurate as the research proceeds. Validated models provide virtual specimens for in silico neuroscience. In the future, the same approach will make it possible to apply biological signatures of brain diseases as new configurations of the model emerge, creating simulations of disease. The goal of the Brain Simulation Platform for the operational phase of the HBP is to create the technological capabilities necessary to reconstruct, first the complete mouse brain and ultimately, the complete human brain. Planned tool development and modelling in the ramp-up phase constitute only a first step toward these goals. Key areas of research with goals going beyond the ramp-up phase include:
- Development of the software ecosystem, workflows and algorithms required for data-driven and predictive reconstruction of future brain models.
- Extension of existing brain simulators to support very large brain models, including models of the whole brain.
- evelopment of techniques for scalable parallel reaction-diffusion simulations of biochemical processes inside individual brain cells.
- Use of molecular dynamics and other molecular simulations tools to predict reaction kinetics for biological processes which can be used to configure descriptions of molecular interactions in less detailed, higher-level simulations.
5. Development of tools allowing biologists to use the Brain Simulation Platform to configure and validate brain models of increasing size, incorporating data down to the molecular level.
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