InterSpeech 2015

The HBP-Atlas – concept, perspectives and application for language and speech research

Katrin Amunts

Studying the human brain remains one of the greatest scientific challenges. A comprehensive understanding of the structural and functional organization of the brain is not only of great importance for basic science, but also for the development of new approaches that improve diagnosis and the treatment of neurological and psychiatric diseases. With this mindset, the Human Brain Project (HBP) started its work in October 2013 with the aim of creating a European ICT infrastructure for neuroscience. The immense complexity of the brain, with its approximately 86 billion nerve cells, makes it essential to include modeling and simulation approaches, combined with methods of high performance computing (HPC), in order to analyze the organizational principles of the brain.

One of the central elements oft he HBP is the Human Brain Atlas. It includes data from different aspects of brain organization, e.g., cytoarchitectonics, fibre architecture, molecular architecture and results from fMRI studies revealing the functional segregation of the brain. Such multi-level atlas allows analyzing the neural underpinnings of language processes with unprecedented detail, and studying structural-functional relationships at the level of cortical areas.

Conversely, the understanding of neural mechanisms might inspire new advancements for HPC. Those insights into the brain provide simulation, and give computer scientists the opportunity to develop a new generation of computers and software that are inspired by the functional principles of the brain. HPC opens up new avenues for neuroscientists to develop virtual brain models, such as the BigBrain model, which connects the macroscopic with the microscopic organization level for the first time in a reference system. In such models, data from the genetic, molecular, and cellular levels up to cognitive systems could be combined together for a subsequent analysis at different scales.