Funding for international cooperation between Helmholtz and Canadian research institutions
Jülich intensifies cooperation in the German-Canadian laboratory HIBALL
Jülich, 5 January 2020 – The German-Canadian laboratory HIBALL, which is based around the 20-micrometre BigBrain model developed by Katrin Amunts of Forschungszentrum Jülich and Alan Evans of McGill University, was selected for funding by an international panel of experts as one of three projects in the “Helmholtz International Labs” programme and will receive up to € 300,000 per year for a period of five years.
HIBALL, the Helmholtz International BigBrain Analytics Learning Laboratory, now intends to further develop the BigBrain infrastructure to achieve a high level of interoperability with brain initiatives in Canada and Europe, complementing the ongoing work in the European flagship project Human Brain Project.
Digital 3D atlases of the human brain are basic tools for understanding this organ. Most atlases today offer a resolution in the millimetre range, allowing neuroscientists to study structure-function relationships of areas and large networks. However, they do not incorporate information about thin fibre bundles, cortical layers, columns, microcircuits, or cells. In order to understand brain organisation, spatial scales must be bridged and models at the level of 1 to 20 micrometres have to be developed. As a result of their close cooperation, the laboratories of Katrin Amunts, Forschungszentrum Jülich, and Alan Evans, McGill University Montreal, developed the 20-micrometre BigBrain model. In the European Human Brain Project, it became the basis for the most comprehensive atlas of the brain to date. The cellular data are spatially linked with data on many other aspects of brain organisation. The new German-Canadian laboratory HIBALL will take this successful cooperation to the next level, enabling the establishment of a sustainable, transcontinental research platform for mapping the brain. This will be achieved through the increased use and joint development of the latest AI and high-performance computing technologies for building highly detailed 3D brain models – in close cooperation with CIFAR and MILA in Canada, as well as Helmholtz AI, the Helmholtz-spanning platform on AI. The goal is to create a microscopic 3D map of functional neuroanatomy at the cellular level.
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