The Programme „Decoding the Human Brain"

Understanding the organisational principles of the human brain with its approximately 86 billion nerve cells is one of the major challenges of the 21st century’s research. The results can give us an insight into the biological condition of being a human, to understand how we perceive the world, think and behave, based on the highly complex architecture of the brain. This analysis also provides the knowledge necessary to develop new therapies for neurological and psychiatric diseases, which is increasingly important in an ageing society. A comprehensive overview of the brain’s make-up is not only significant for basic sciences and our image of man; rather, it is also a prerequisite for comprehension and diagnosis of disease processes, as well as for the development of new therapies. Currently neurological and psychiatric diseases are considered ailments that impact the quality of life the most.

Decoding the Human Brain aims at contributing to a realistic, three-dimensional model of the human brain based on brain structure and function, both of which change or are modulated at different time scales. Among others, advanced neuroimaging techniques and methods from high performance computing are employed to provide the knowledge basis for such model. Therefore, the programme will be realised in close interaction with the programme Supercomputing & Big Data—an allied programme partnership. The model of the human brain has the potential to be an innovative tool for basic neurosciences, and for preclinical and clinical research.

In the programme Decoding the Human Brain, neural mechanisms that control cognition and behaviour will be investigated on different spatial and temporal scales—from the genetic and molecular to the cellular, mesoscopic and network levels. In addition to empirical research, modelling, theory and simulation are also important. Furthermore, mathematical-physical models of the brain are an innovative tool for basic scientific, pre-clinic and clinic examinations of the brain. The spatial and temporal organization of brain processes will be studied on the basis of all connections and networks—the connectome—in an integrated and systematic approach, which will be supported by neuro-ethical approaches. Finally, studies undertaken on representation as neurobiological or psychological phenomena and as a theoretical construct will also be incorporated into the programme.

Participating Helmholtz Centres:

Forschungszentrum Jülich

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