“Senior neuroscientists have attacked the Human Brain Project, a billion-pound European Commission initiative aiming to simulate the human brain. An open letter to the EC from over 200 scientists says the project is “not on course”, pre-empting a scheduled review. They ask that the review be transparent and carried out by top neuroscientists not affiliated with the HBP. If the letter is not heeded, they have pledged to boycott associated funds.
The project’s figurehead, Prof Henry Markram from the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland, says the criticisms are “premature” and likens the debate to the backlash faced by the Human Genome Project…
In particular, the letter protests against recent changes to the project, claiming its scope has been further narrowed and one of its key strands removed. That strand focussed on cognition: higher-order brain processes, like thinking and decision-making.
Prof Markram denies this interpretation. “Those projects are still there, their leader is there,” he said. “Cognition is a crucial part of this whole thing.”