A team of international neuroscientists from the Blue Brain Project have digitally recreated a part of a rat's brain using supercomputers. This accomplishment can lead to infinite possibilities, including the reconstruction of the human brain.

The scientists were able to create a computer reconstruction of a piece of a rat neocortex the size of a single grain of sand. The neocortex can be found in the rat's primary somatosensory cortex, which is responsible for receiving sensory information. The simulated circuitry showed a very complex pattern of nerves and brain cells.   

"The electrical behavior of the virtual brain tissue was simulated on supercomputers and found to match the behavior observed in a number of experiments on the brain," the team reported on its project page.  

The simulation shows complex neural circuits involving 31,000 brain cells connected by approximately 37 million synapses or junctions between two nerve cells. This 'virtual brain slice' is one of the scientific community's most detailed brain models yet.

The study is the first major achievement of the Blue Brain Project, formed in 2005 with a goal to build a virtual simulation of the human brain. Led by neurobiologist Henry Markram from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, the project's mission is to produce a complete virtual replication of the human brain that can show a neuron's three-dimensional shape. Markram's team also aims to include the neuron's electrical and biological properties in their work.

The Blue Brain Project is part of a controversial undertaking called the Human Brain Project, a research program also led by Markram. In 2014, the Human Brain Project was criticized through an open letter signed by hundreds of neuroscientists worldwide who pointed out the program's 'overly narrow approach.' Markram's many critics do not see the relevance of the findings.

One of the critics of the Human Brain Project is Lisbon neuroscientist Zachary Mainen.

"There is nothing in it that is striking, except that it was a lot of work," said Mainen.

Despite the criticism, Markram feels justified by the recent published study. He expressed that this is the kind of work he had promised to deliver when he started at EPFL and he delivered it.

The study is the first-ever draft of a brain map with 31,000 brain cells. Markram said the study does not yet prove the principle that scientists are capable of reconstructing a human brain virtually with 85 billion or more functioning brain cells. However, this could be the first step towards the goal.

The research team's study, complete with photos, videos and models was published in the journal Cell on Oct. 8, 2015. The model of the virtual brain slice has been uploaded online and can be explored for free.

Photo: Tatiana Bulyonkova | Flickr 

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.