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.
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.
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.
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.