Digital research infrastructure should bring a new paradigm for neuroscience

In a new article published in eNeuro, fifteen leading scientists from the European Human Brain Project (HBP) describe how a new culture of collaboration and an era of digitization have transformed neuroscience research over the past decade.

“The way we study the brain has fundamentally changed in recent years,” says first author Katrin Amunts, scientific director of the HBP, director of the C. and O. Vogt-Institute of Brain Research, Düsseldorf and director of the Institute of neuroscience and medicine. at the Jülich Research Center. “In the past, separate communities often focused on specific aspects of neuroscience, and the problem was always how to connect the different worlds, for example, in order to explain a certain cognitive function in terms of the underlying neurobiology .”

The HBP has brought together communities from different disciplines and countries to work collaboratively on common goals. In the new in Euro article “Linking brain structure, activity and cognitive function through computation”, HBP researchers outline their scientific approach and illustrate the potential of the EBRAINS infrastructure for neuroscience research.

The human brain is one of the most complex systems known, and many of its most basic functions are not yet fully understood. There is an urgent need to better understand the complexity of the brain in order to target mental and neurological diseases. This requires the integration of information from multiple scales, both spatially and temporally. To meet this challenge, the HBP has built the EBRAINS digital research infrastructure in a co-design approach between neuroscientists, developers, engineers and computer scientists.

The authors highlight the growing need for digital tools and describe how HBP scientists are using highly advanced methods from computing, neuroinformatics, simulation and artificial intelligence to conduct cutting-edge brain research. . “The HBP is the first large-scale project that systematically links brain research, medicine and information technology,” says Viktor Jirsa, director of the Institute of Systems Neurosciences at Inserm and Aix-Marseille University and last author of the in Euro item. “The HBP challenged us to think beyond the boundaries of our own labs and fields and enabled us to go much further than we could ever have gone on our own.”

The development of neuro-inspired technologies benefits enormously from the growing body of knowledge about perception, plasticity and learning. In this way, brain research becomes a key driver of technological advances in the fields of computer science, artificial neural networks, cognitive computing and neurorobotics. “Basic neuroscience research is rocket fuel for advances in medicine and computing,” says Jirsa.

In collaboration with the wider neuroscience community, the authors are currently writing a position paper outlining their scientific vision for the next decade of digital brain research. Researchers from all over Europe are invited to contribute to the living article which has just been published. “We will continue to make neuroscience more open, cooperative and participatory,” Amunts says.

Reference: Amunts K, DeFelipe J, Pennartz C, et al. Connecting brain structure, activity and cognitive function through computation. in Euro. 2022;9(2). doi:10.1523/ENEURO.0316-21.2022

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