European Commission selects Human Brain Project, with Israelis as partners, as flagship research initiative, backed by €1.2 billion in funding

Prof. Idan SegevJanuary 27, 2013: The European Commission has chosen the Human Brain Project, which includes the Hebrew University as a participant, as one of two Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship topics. The enterprise will receive funding of €1.19 billion over the next decade.

The project will bring together top scientists from around the world who will work on one of the great challenges of modern science: understanding the human brain. Participating from Israel will be a team of eight scientists, led by Prof. Idan Segev of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University, Prof. Yadin Dudai of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Dr. Mira Marcus-Kalish of Tel Aviv University.

“Once the project is completed, it will have implications as important as the Human Genome Project,” said Prof. Segev, the David and Inez Myers Professor in Computational Neuroscience and co-Director of the recently inaugurated Max Planck-Hebrew University Center for Sensory Processing of the Brain in Action.

One major objective of the Human Brain Project is to collate information about the brain from various advanced research approaches and make it possible to build models of brain activity through the use of powerful supercomputers. This will enable the attainment of a deeper understanding of the brain and its illnesses, and at the same time nake possible the development of powerful computer technologies and brain-driven robotics.

“Without a full computer model of the human brain, we will never fully understand the brain,” said Segev. “The brain is the most energetic, efficient and powerful computer we know of — and understanding it will provide the next generation of brain-inspired efficient and learning machines.” He predicted that “given current trends, by about 2030 we should have the requisite complexity to create a fully functioning, highly detailed artificial brain.”

More than 80 universities and research institutions in Europe and the world will be involved in the 10-year Human Brain Project, which will commence later this year and operate until the year 2023. The project will be centered at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, which has an active partnership with ELSC and is headed by Prof. Henry Markram, an Israeli who was recruited to the EPFL 10 years ago.

The participation of the Israeli scientists testifies to the leading role that Israeli brain research plays in the world, said Israeli President Shimon Peres. “Israel has put brain research at the heart of its efforts for the coming decade, and our country is already spearheading the global effort towards the betterment of our understanding of mankind. I am confident that the forthcoming discoveries will benefit a wide range of domains, from health to industry, as well as our society as a whole,” he said.

“The human brain is the most complex and amazing structure in the universe, yet we are very far from understanding it. In a way, we are strangers to ourselves. Unraveling the mysteries of the brain will help us understand our functioning, our choices, and ultimately ourselves. I congratulate the European Commission for its vision in selecting the Human Brain Project as a Flagship Mission for the forthcoming decade,” said Peres.

Source: Dept. Media Relations, Hebrew University