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Information and the Brain

Scientists in the research area of information investigate how information is processed in biological and technical systems. The focus here is on brain research, basic research for future information technologies, and supercomputing.

Multi-colored 3D visualization of nerve fibres in the human brain: green, violet, black3D visualization of nerve fibres in the human brain
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Amunts, Axer et al.

Neuroscience

The human brain is the main object of research in neuroscience. Its aim is to better diagnose and cure neurological disorders. This includes work on the structural and molecular organization as well as cognitive processes of the healthy and diseased brain, and the development of the brain throughout a human life. For these purposes, Jülich’s researchers make use of methods – such as imaging techniques and nuclear-chemistry processes – that are themselves being further developed at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM). Close cooperation exists with university hospitals, including those in Aachen, Cologne, and Düsseldorf. Investigations into the brain and how it works are based on complex theoretical models that are constantly being refined by means of empiric data and computer simulations. Ethical issues associated with neuroscience are also addressed.

Future information technologies

Researchers investigate phenomena and processes in biological and non-biological systems for the future of information processing. Information processing in nature is extremely complex, efficient, and uses little energy. Scientists therefore examine how information is transmitted, processed, and stored in biological systems. The aim is to understand how these processes work in detail so that they can be utilized in non-biological systems. Work in this area comprises information processing in living cells and in “soft matter”, as well as the relevant physical and chemical processes. In the long term, these insights, for example on protein folding, coding information on DNA, or the information transfer that occurs in the eye and brain during the process of seeing could help treat diseases or compensate sensory impairments.

For the future of information technology, Jülich’s institutes investigate physical phenomena in organic and inorganic systems in conjunction with materials and novel material combinations and they develop elements for future computer components and architectures. For this purpose, they make use of methods such as high-resolution microscopy techniques and neutron scattering. These are developed further at Jülich to enable increasingly more detailed insights into the depths of matter to be gained. Various approaches are pursued at Jülich, including the further development of nanoelectronics and semiconductor electronics. Quantum-physical phenomena are another major focus of Jülich’s research work.

Supercomputing and simulation science

Supercomputing is both a tool for science and its own area of research. In many scientific fields, high-performance computing has become an irreplaceable bridge between empiricism and theory. Emphasis at Jülich is also placed on researching new, energy-efficient computer architectures and the functioning of future generations of computers. Simultaneously, Jülich experts also support colleagues from other areas of science in using scientific supercomputing applications and they expand the possibilities of simulation science.