CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Tech Industry

Images: Mapping the human brain

Can "Blue Matter" help illuminate the workings of the neocortex? IBM and a Swiss research group are betting on it.

    Mapping the human brain

    IBM and Switzerland-based Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have announced a joint initiative to create a model of the circuitry in the human neocortex, which is believed to be the center for higher cognitive functions. It is also the portion of the brain that evolved most recently and that is unique to mammals.

    On its Web site, IBM notes that researchers can learn more about the morphology of the neocortex by inserting blue dye into each neuron. The image at right shows a fraction of the cells and connections within the neocortex's microcircuitry.

    Credit: IBM

    cells and connections within the neocortex's microcircuitry

    Mapping the human brain

    The neocortex is organized into six layers and thousands of columns. The golden neurons shown here are part of the fifth layer. Other neurons from the fifth layer are visible in the background.

    Credit: IBM

    golden neurons

    Mapping the human brain

    At right are three stained pyramidal neurons. These neurons are nearly 2 millimeters tall. They receive and process inputs from other neurons.

    Credit: IBM

    neurons

    Mapping the human brain

    Pyramidal neurons make up 80 percent of the neurons in the neocortex.

    Credit: IBM

    pyramidal neurons

    Mapping the human brain

    A team of IBM researchers are working on "Blue Matter," the software used to run simulations of protein dynamics on the Blue Gene hardware. The software is at the core of the IBM-EPFL effort, which is nicknamed the Blue Brain Project.

    At right are G Protein-Coupled Receptors in a membrane environment. These membrane proteins are of interest because they are targeted by many drugs, including those used to treat cancer, congestive heart failure, Parkinson's disease, asthma, anxiety and psychosis, IBM said.

    Credit: IBM

    G Protein-Coupled Receptors

    Mapping the human brain

    Lipids provide the environment for membrane proteins and allow important functions, such as cell signaling and cell division, to happen. The study of lipids is key to fighting diseases that are related to membrane proteins.

    Credit: IBM

    lipids

    Mapping the human brain

    At right is a model of fatty acids and cholesterol. To try to better understand these elements, IBM conducted an atomic-level simulation using its "Blue Matter" tools.

    Credit: IBM

    fatty acids and cholesterol

    Mapping the human brain

    An artist's rendition shows what IBM's Blue Gene/L supercomputer will likely look like after it is installed at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. The installation process should be complete later this year.

    Credit: IBM

    artist's rendition

    Mapping the human brain

    At right is an additional rendition of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab installation.

    Credit: IBM

    artist's rendition