Scientists are planning an ambitious project to map the human brain down to each neuron and the molecules that make it work.
Eighty universities and research centres from 22 European Union countries will work with others in US, Japan and China on the 10-year "Brainome" project.
A key aim of the project is to develop a deeper understanding of the factors that control intelligence, personality and the risk of mental illness, 'The Times' reported. The knowledge of the way the brain computes can also be applied to technology.
Karlheinz Meier, of Heidelberg University in Germany, a researcher on 'neuromorphic computing' - the term for systems that mimic the brain - said it is possible to merge realistic brain models with new hardware for a completely new paradigm of computing - one that more closely resembles how the brain
itself processes information.
"The brain has the ability to efficiently perform computations that are impossible even for the most powerful computers while consuming only 30 Watts of power," Meier said. The three key organisations at the heart of the Brainome are the Human Brain Project, which is creating a "virtual brain" housed in a supercomputer near Dusseldorf; the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, which is trying to map
the cortex, the seat of consciousness and reasoning; and Harvard University's brain research through advancing innovative neurotechnologies initiative.