Human Brain Project Henry

Human brainMany researchers refused to join on the grounds that it was far too premature to attempt a simulation of the entire human brain in a computer. Photograph: Sebastian Kaulitzki /Alamy

The world's largest project to unravel the mysteries of the human brain has been thrown into crisis with more than 100 leading researchers threatening to boycott the effort amid accusations of mismanagement and fears that it is doomed to failure.

The European commission launched the €1.2bn (£950m) Human Brain Project (HBP) last year with the ambitious goal of turning the latest knowledge in neuroscience into a supercomputer simulation of the human brain. More than 80 European and international research institutions signed up to the 10-year project.

But it proved controversial from the start. Many researchers refused to join on the grounds that it was far too premature to attempt a simulation of the entire human brain in a computer. Now some claim the project is taking the wrong approach, wastes money and risks a backlash against neuroscience if it fails to deliver.

In an open letter to the European commission on Monday, more than 130 leaders of scientific groups around the world, including researchers at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and UCL, warn they will boycott the project and urge others to join them unless major changes are made to the initiative.

The researchers urge EC officials who are now reviewing the plans to take a hard look at the science and management before deciding on whether to renew its funding. They believe the review, which is due to conclude at the end of the summer, will find "substantial failures" in the project's governance, flexibility and openness.

Central to the latest controversy are recent changes made by Henry Markram, head of the Human Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne. The changes sidelined cognitive scientists who study high-level brain functions, such as thought and behaviour. Without them, the brain simulation will be built from the bottom up, drawing on more fundamental science, such as studies of individual neurons. The brain, the most complex object known, has some 86bn neurons and 100tn connections.

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Q&A

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Apart from pattern recognition in images, what other functions can the human brain still perform better than computers?

Parallel processing. Massively massive parallel processing. The kind that regulates every single organ in your body while concurrently allowing you to exercise fine motor control over billions of cells a few microns in diameter AND carry on a conversation with someone while you look at and appreciate a picture on a wall.

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How fast does the Human brain see an image?

If you were to see in frames per second, the human eye perceives the typical cinema film motion as being fluid at about 18fps

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How does the human brain perceive the position of the image seen on plane mirrors

Your brain perceives the reflected object as being as far BEHIND
the mirror as the real object is in FRONT of the mirror.

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