Henry Markram, “Building a digital brain”

April 28, 2016

Henry Markram, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Markram is a professor of neuroscience at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL). He finished school at Kearsney College (1980) in South Africa. He studied medicine and neuroscience at Cape Town University (1988), obtained a PhD in neuroscience at the Weizmann Institute (1991) in Israel, and completed postdoctoral work as a Fulbright Scholar at the NIH (1992) in the USA and as a Minerva Fellow at the Max-Planck (1994) in Germany. He started his own lab at the Weizmann Institute in 1995, spent a year sabbatical research at the University of California San Francisco (2000), and moved to the EPFL to found and direct the Brain Mind Institute (2002). In 2005 he founded the Blue Brain Project to develop a radically new approach to neuroscience – algorithmic and digital reconstruction and simulation of the brain on supercomputers. The Blue Brain Project is today a team of around 100 scientist and engineers and receives 20 million CHF a year of Swiss Federal funding. In 2011 he started forming a consortium of 112 universities and developed a proposal for the Human Brain Project to scale the Blue Brain up to reconstructing and eventually simulating the human brain. In 2013 the Human Brain Project was awarded a €1billion euro over 10 years by the European Commission.

Henry is known for his work on how synapses learn, the brain’s computing principles, his work on autism as an intense world phenomenon, multiple discoveries the microstructure of the brain and pioneering simulation neuroscience. A major recent milestone reached is the publication of the first digital copy of a part of the neocortex that displays brain like properties when simulated on supercomputers. The milestone marks the beginning of digital neuroscience as a new path to understanding the brain.

Henry also invented the first fully digital model for academic publishing and co-founded Frontiers Media SA with Kamila Markram in 2008. In 8 years Frontiers became the 5th largest Open Access academic publishing company in the world with over 60’00 internationally distributed leading scientists as editors, and publishing around 20,000 scientific papers per year, doubling every 18 months.

Henry has published over 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers, been invited to present his work in over 300 conferences and meetings, received numerous awards, has been featured in multiple news networks (over 200 traditional, social and TV news reports and documentaries), his TED lecture on brain simulation has been viewed over 1 million times and his work has been cited over 22,000 times.