Thu, Jan 16, 2020 - Page 1 News List

Taiwanese join coalition to map the human brain

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Taiwanese researchers yesterday joined scientists from other Asian countries to launch a Singapore-based coalition named SYNAPSE, that aims to complete the first map of the human brain by 2023.

The acronym SYNAPSE stands for “Synchrotron for Neuroscience — an Asia-Pacific Strategic Enterprise,” the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a press release.

The coalition’s founding members — from Taiwan, China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea — yesterday signed memorandums of understanding at a ceremony in the city-state, committing to completing the first human brain map by 2023 and to implement a high-performance computing network to process related data, the ministry said.

They are to use synchrotrons — a type of cyclic particle accelerator that is an extremely powerful source of X-rays — to replicate the structure of the brain, it said.

The National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center and the National Center for High-performance Computing, both affiliated with the ministry, would play key roles in the project, the ministry said.

The coalition would link six facilities in the five nations, Hwu Yeu-kuang (胡宇光), a distinguished research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Physics, said by telephone, while attending the signing ceremony at the National University of Singapore.

Australia is expected to join the coalition soon, he said.

The idea of establishing the coalition was first broached by him and National Tsing Hua University Brain Research Center director Chiang Ann-shyn (江安世), Hwu added.

“The images captured by SYNAPSE with unprecedented speed, clarity and granularity will form an extensive human brain map showing how neurons are connected and how they interact to result in cognition and intelligence,” National University of Singapore professor Low Chian-ming (劉建明), the coalition chair, was quoted as saying in the press release.

“Our findings could potentially contribute to effective treatment for increasingly important neurodegenerative pathologies such as the Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia,” Low said.

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