The human brain has always been an enigma for scientists.
(Mirror Daily, United States) – After years of studies and tests, researchers developed Blue Brain Project to recreate portion of a rat’s brain. The achievement has enabled scientists to better understand how rat brains work and to set the grounds for the much-awaited 3D model of the human brain.
The Blue Brain Project was started a decade ago, but it was only yesterday that scientists managed to digitally recreate a portion of a rat’s brain. The recreated ‘slice’ of brain is incredibly small (it is not bigger than a grain of sand), but it contains so much neural activity and information that researchers had to use a special computer software to understand it.
The experiment first saw the reproduction of the neurons in rats’ neocortex – the brain area that scientists digitally remodeled. According to Henry Markram from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the lead author of the study, this small portion of the brain contains 31,000 cells and 40 million synapses that scientists had to digitally reproduce.
For this purpose, they initially created possible synapses and then, maintained only those connections that were truly active. At the end of this first stage of the experiment, researchers developed a computer software that could register the neural activity of the small brain portion and subject it to further tests.
Experts used various variables to determine the effects they could have on the 3D model of the rat brain. It appears that the small neocortex portion has the ability to switch neurons, depending on the activities that the brain has to focus on. A small change in the ion amount completely modified the structure of the neural circuitry.
Scientists have further noticed that the brain slows down its neural activity during sleep, which prompted experts to conclude that the human brain may have the ability to switch between different ‘modes’, depending on its activities. In the future, investigators plan to discover all the possible states that the brain could use. They also want to understand what happens to the brain and the body when the brain is stuck in a wrong state.
No matter how similar rat brains may be to human brains, the differences cannot be ignored. Consequently, scientists think they should first digitally recreate a portion of the human brain and then, subject it to similar experiments.
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