A Large Scale Brain Research Project Launched in Russia
Lobachevsky University won one of the first projects to create an information model of the human brain. This project is supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and provides more than 200 mln roubles in funding. The University is heading a consortium of leading Russian research centers. Renowned Russian and international neuroscientists will conduct brain research within this project, headed by Prof. Alexei Semyanov, Director of the Institute of Biology and Biomedicine at Lobachevsky University.
Key partners of Lobachevsky University in this 3-year project are Saint-Petersburg State University, the National Research Centre Kurchatov Institute, the Center for Neuroeconomics and Cognitive Studies of the Higher School of Economics, and the Institute of Laser and Information Technologies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Over the past few years, Lobachevsky University has made a significant investment in its research capacity recruiting top research leaders and young promising scholars to join its research institutes. Now, the University provides a highly attractive environment for biotechnology development with extensive opportunities for research and scientific cooperation between leading Russian and international scientists. This is one of the reasons why its scientists obtained funding from the Ministry under the research grants scheme.
The project responds to the increasing importance of studies of brain diseases, notably Alzheimer's disease. Neurodegenerative disorders, causing the brain to lose its cells, are the bane of aging population.
Increased life expectancy means that humankind will have to face the problem of memory loss and personality disorders very soon.
The human brain is the most efficient computer of all - it can make a correct decision even if it lacks some of the initial information. This is something that modern electronic devices are not able to do. However the way that the human brain works is still a mystery and that is why we can't cure most brain diseases.
Similar research projects have already been started in Europe and the US. Asian countries are looking to get into this field.
Prof. Alexei Semyanov said: "Our project has one significant advantage over European and US programs - they are trying to explain the functions of the brain as the functions of an algorithmic system consisting of a large number of neurons which generate electric signals and can interact with each other… We view this approach as oversimplified, and it is highly unlikely that it will solve problems."
According to Alexei Semyanov, Russian researchers view the human brain as an integral system, where there is almost the same number of astrocytes as neurons. Thus studying only neurons means exploring only half of the brain. Russian scientists are introducing a more consistent and thorough approach.
Source: Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod