Supercomputer Cray XC40 will build a map of neurons

Published on September 26, 2017

Supercomputer Cray XC40 will build a map of neurons

    Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory are using the Cray XC40 supercomputer to build a circuit for the interaction of neurons in the brain - the so-called connect . In the XX century, scientists made a nematode worm connection - it took 12 years. Current technologies make it possible to systematize large amounts of information much faster.


    / Flickr / Ivan / CC A

    team of scientists needed a supercomputer to process data from a study using x-rays and electron microscopes. The subject of study is the brain of a shrew. Scientists plan to generate about exabytes of data.

    After the shrew, the brain of the mouse, which is ten times larger (75 million neurons), will be in line. Ultimately, scientists want to explore the human brain, which contains 100 billion neurons connected by 100 trillion links.

    The process of making a connection begins with the analysis of the brain at the submicron level - for this it is studied using x-ray microtomography at a source of high-brightness synchrotron radiation Advanced Photon Source (APS). As a result, scientists will get pictures of the finest “layers” of material on which blood vessels and cell bodies are visible. Scanning the entire brain in the Argonne lab takes about an hour.

    To then “make out” smaller details, an electron microscope is used - due to short-wavelength rays, it allows you to zoom in to a nanometer scale. So it is possible to capture the synaptic connections between individual neurons of the brain. Further, scientists use a special set of computing tools that will turn the collected data into a neural map. For example, machine learning will help shape predictive models and identify “points of interest”.

    The Cray XC40 supercomputer, which will be used for this, has a theoretical peak performance of 9 thousand teraflops - it is provided by 200 thousand Intel Xeon Phi 7230 64C cores with a frequency of 1.3 GHz. At the moment, it is the 16th most powerful computer in the world.

    “Thanks to the capabilities of the Argonne supercomputer, we can get truly revolutionary images that reveal details of the functioning of the brain that we could not see before,” says Kamel Fezzaa, a project participant.

    Developing and effectively applying methods of rapid analysis: data collection, analytics and the use of graphs and machine learning, scientists intend to promote the initiative on the use of supercomputers in their research. The Cray supercomputer is already in use at the Human Brain Project (HBP) , a ten-year human brain research project founded in 2013.

    Studies of the human brain can provide an understanding of how even small changes can cause the onset and development of neurological diseases - Alzheimer's disease or autism. In the future, this will help determine how to effectively treat these diseases.

    About the Argonne National Laboratory

    Argonne National Laboratory - US Department of Energy National Research Center. It was founded in 1946. Engaged in basic research in the fields of physics, biology and environmental research.

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