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HBP, BBP? Same difference?

HBP, BBP? Same difference?

There is some confusion about the difference between the Human Brain Project (HBP) and the Blue Brain Project (BBP). Ideas are floating around that they are the same project under different names or that the Blue Brain Project will become the Human Brain Project among other curious associations.

The Blue Brain Project (BBP) and the Human Brain Project (HBP) are unique projects that overlap in some clear ways. This is not to say that the HBP will be a mere extension of the BBP but rather that the proposed HBP will be a large-scale project offering a solid opportunity to coordinate the work of around 150 international scientific groups (of which BBP will be just one) towards a unifying goal.


What is the HBP?


The HBP is a European Future and Emerging Technologies  (FET) Flagship candidate, which means that it is one of six pilot projects that were launched to ‘compete’ to become full-scale FET Flagship initiatives.

The decision on which two pilot projects will be selected is to be announced in February 2013 by the EU Commission but until then, these pilots remain in the ‘proposal’ phase i.e. scientists are working on the final proposal for the HBP but the actual project start is subject to the EU decision.

The HBP’s main goal is to lay the technical foundations for a new era of ICT-based human brain research – it will catalyze a global effort to integrate knowledge and data from different disciplines to achieve a better understanding of the human brain, novel treatments for brain disease and inspiring new brain-like computing technologies. It is proposed to be a massive ICT-accelerated research project that will be characterized by three research agendas in fields of neuroscience, medical informatics and future computing.

The Human Brain Project will focus on research in three areas, namely Neuroscience, Medicine and Future Computing

In addition, the HBP has specific goals to create six ICT platforms to carry out research devoted to the goals of the HBP. The scientific public will be able to submit proposals to make use of these platforms. These platforms will take the form of: a neuroinformatics facility, a brain simulation facility (the Blue Brain Project will play an important role in this facility), a high performance computing facility, a medical informatics facility, a neuromorphic computing facility and a neurorobotics facility.


Please see the report available here for a more in depth description of these platforms and the proposed project in general.


And the BBP?


The BBP is a swiss-led project hosted by the Ecole Polytechnique Féderale de Lausanne. It is devoted to creating unifying models and simulations of the rodent neocortical column, and eventually the mammalian brain, through integration of knowledge and data.

Through ever-increasingly detailed models of the mammalian brain (currently, a mesocircuit of rodent neocortical columns), the BBP is making leaps in understanding the multi-level (neuronal, synaptic, molecular etc) organization of the rodent brain. In addition,  it is producing research tools to be used by the scientific community - for example, innovative software and models that will be successively released. 


See the blog post “Step inside the Blue Brain Project” and here for more information.


Scope and funding and location

The proposed HBP will comprise approximately more than 250 leading scientists representing 24 countries worldwide. The sheer scope of the proposed HBP exceeds that of the BBP many times over. The HBP will be a multi-institutional endeavor while the BBP is essentially a Swiss-led project.

In terms of funding, the HBP’s funding will come from the European Commission in concert with contributions from participating states and institutions. The BBP is funded by the Swiss Government.

Both the BBP and the swiss-led part of the HBP will be housed in the still-to-be-built Neuropolis center but for now, the BBP is located in the Quartier d’Innovation Building J in the Ecole Polytechnique Féderale de Lausanne.



It’s easy to see how these projects could be confused but as explained above, they are two unique projects. The BBP will contribute work and experience along with approximately 150 other groups internationally to achieve the goals of the HBP.


**** Since the writing of this blog post, the Human Brain Project has since been selected by the EU as a Flagship Initiative and is set to commence officially in October 2013. Further details regarding the HBP can be found on the website


----Melissa Cochrane

*Disclaimer: All information reflects my opinion and perspective of the complicated inner workings of the Blue Brain Project and the Human Brain Project.




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