Human-scale Brain Simulation via Supercomputer: A Case Study on the Cerebellum

Neuroscience. 2021 May 10;462:235-246. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2021.01.014. Epub 2021 Jan 20.


Performance of supercomputers has been steadily and exponentially increasing for the past 20 years, and is expected to increase further. This unprecedented computational power enables us to build and simulate large-scale neural network models composed of tens of billions of neurons and tens of trillions of synapses with detailed anatomical connections and realistic physiological parameters. Such "human-scale" brain simulation could be considered a milestone in computational neuroscience and even in general neuroscience. Towards this milestone, it is mandatory to introduce modern high-performance computing technology into neuroscience research. In this article, we provide an introductory landscape about large-scale brain simulation on supercomputers from the viewpoints of computational neuroscience and modern high-performance computing technology for specialists in experimental as well as computational neurosciences. This introduction to modeling and simulation methods is followed by a review of various representative large-scale simulation studies conducted to date. Then, we direct our attention to the cerebellum, with a review of more simulation studies specific to that region. Furthermore, we present recent simulation results of a human-scale cerebellar network model composed of 86 billion neurons on the Japanese flagship supercomputer K (now retired). Finally, we discuss the necessity and importance of human-scale brain simulation, and suggest future directions of such large-scale brain simulation research.

Keywords: Cerebellum; Computer simulation; Human-scale brain simulation; Spiking network; Supercomputer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain*
  • Cerebellum
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neurons