Speaker: Richard Frackowiak

The traditional approach to determining disease nosology – eliciting symptoms and signs, creating clusters of like individuals and defining diseases primarily on those criteria has not generated fundamental breakthroughs in understanding sequences of pathophysiology mechanisms that lead to the repertoire of psychiatric and neurological diseases. We now know that a single gene mutation may present with multiple phenotypes, and vice versa, that a range of genetic abnormalities may cause a single phenotype. These observations lead to the conclusion that a deeper understanding is needed of the way changes at one spatial or temporal level of brain organisation (e.g., genetic, proteomic or metabolic) integrate and translate into others, eventually resulting in behaviour and cognition.

The Human Brain Project is a massive collaborative effort, funded by the European Union, between basic and clinical neuroscientists and computer engineers. We aim to develop a working biological theory of the brain from the most basic level – its genes, to the most complicated – cognition, emotion, perception and action. Using data collected over decades, interrogated by radical new data-addressing protocols developed for the purpose, we will employ supercomputers to generate disease signatures based on a combination of clinical details and biological information. Neurologists and psychiatrists will use the results of data mining the masses of data in Europe’s hospital and research databases to develop new diagnostic schemas facilitating thus an era of precision medicine.

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