EBRAINS focuses on the interface between neuroscience and computing, forging synergies between the contributing disciplines and creating added value for society. The short-hand goal of EBRAINS is: Computing the Brain, entailing that EBRAINS provides the researcher's gateway for advanced computational analyses of brain data (stored and curated according to FAIR principles), for understanding these data through models, simulation and brain atlasing, and carry over insights from modeling to new experiments, robotics and applications in neurotechnology and AI. Thereby EBRAINS aims to unify and integrate subfields of neuroscience that were previously fragmented. By investigating brain complexity at different levels - from neurons to networks to systems controlling cognition - EBRAINS enables the transfer of empirical and theoretical findings to applications in neuromedicine, brain-inspired computing and technology. Much of this transfer revolves around the pivot of high-performance computing: this is not only needed to process big-data streams from empirical neuroscience, but also to perform complex data analyses and brain simulations time-efficiently. Therefore EBRAINS links research to PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, and relies on FENIX, a partnership of five European supercomputing centers supplying a federated data infrastructure and interactive computing services. A second pivot for collaborative research in EBRAINS is to make research reproducible and data shareable with large-scale communities. FAIR data policies are a prerequisite to make science transparent and reproducible, and create trust. EBRAINS means ethically responsible research and innovation: it is legally compliant, reflective and responsive to societal needs.
On a worldwide scale, there is currently no comparable Research Infrastructure that is specifically tailored to neuroscience and has been developed through a co-design process, integrating heterogeneous neuroscientific disciplines with computer science, physics, math and hardware engineering. The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) measures about 22,000 members in 33 countries, who are the targeted prime users. As one of the main neuroscience subdisciplines, computational neuroscience is gaining momentum through the increase of supercomputing resources. Results from cellular neuroscience provide grounds for modeling, simulation and neuromorphic design. Cognitive neuroscience inspires “cognitive computing” and AI, but also needs better computer models addressing biological cognition, including consciousness and its neural basis. What these efforts have in common is a multidisciplinary, multi-scale approach. To make all these players work together, a concerted approach is necessary for which EBRAINS provides the technological and organizational basis.
Currently, Dutch neuroscience is a large stakeholder in the Human Brain Project (HBP) and aims to participate substantially in EBRAINS as a pan-European endeavor. First, Dutch groups will contribute data acquired by their EBRAINS Facility Hubs, including a large-electrode array facility (LEAF), neuronal imaging, computer modelling and cell-specific interventions. As needed, we will refer to the Dutch groups as ‘EBRAINS-NL’ whereas the European endeavor is denoted as “EBRAINS-EU” (or simply “EBRAINS”). EBRAINS-NL will co-design advanced data curation, processing and analytics with other partners in (and outside) Europe, providing new standards for the field. Second, they will facilitate the transfer from data to computational models, using supercomputers and making these models more comparable to physiological data. Third, Dutch groups will form a node for utilizing EBRAINS resources to develop new applications for brain-inspired robotics and neurotechnologies, such as brain-machine interfaces and other neuroprosthetic devices for treatment of nervous system disorders.