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Neuroinformatics and Grid Techniques to Build a Virtual Fly Brain

The world of healthcare could be transformed by realistic models that capture the processes and disorders of the human brain – but creating these involves overcoming immense scientific and technological challenges. The aim of this Theme is to begin with a simpler, more tractable problem: simulating the brain of a fly.

With only 100,000 neurons, compared to a human’s 100 billion, the fruit fly Drosophila has the simplest brain capable of complex behaviour. Modelling this brain promises insights into animal and human cognition. Drosophila is also an excellent candidate for this study due to the well-established data that already exists for this organism. Its genome was sequenced in 2000, and efforts to improve the sequence and its functional annotation are highly integrated and span the entire community. Further, the application of ontologies in biology was in part pioneered in Drosophila and is thus more mature here than in most other organisms. This is the key underpinning step in linking information about brain components and low-level functions to complex high-level outcomes.

This Theme will produce a road map for the construction of a virtual fly brain, based on grid technology. It will explore data standards and integration, data-warehousing, large scale simulation and visualisation, annotation and curation, and applications in research and industry. Establishing a point of focus for bioinformatics and neuroinformatics in Drosophila will enable gaps in the current databases, biological domain and modelling/simulation efforts to be identified and translated into new projects. The Theme also aims to engage communities of interest in animal and human healthcare research, in order to advance the development of e-Science infrastructure for biological modelling and create new applications for study of Drosophila in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

1 September 2007 to 31 December 2009
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