German Scientists Tap NVIDIA GPUs to Unlock Secrets of the Brain

Monday, June 18, 2012

ISC'12 -- NVIDIA today announced that its GPUs will be used by scientists at Germany's Forschungszentrum Jülich, which hosts the Jülich Supercomputing Centre, one of Europe's largest and most powerful supercomputing resources, to accelerate advanced neurological research targeted at unlocking secrets of the human brain.

NVIDIA also announced a new, multiyear collaboration with the center to drive the next generation of GPU-accelerated scientific research in neuroscience and a range of other fields, including astronomy, astrophysics, material science, particle physics, and protein folding. Together the two organizations are launching the "NVIDIA Application Lab," a jointly run and staffed resource for the European scientific community located at the center's facilities in Jülich.

The lab will enable scientists across Europe to take advantage of GPU-accelerated supercomputing by providing optimized scientific applications and technical support.

"Jülich is one of the most influential supercomputing facilities in Europe, with an impressive track record of solving some of the most challenging scientific problems," said Steve Scott, chief technology officer of the Tesla business at NVIDIA. "The new application lab focused on the breakthrough advantages of GPUs will further enhance their position as one of the world's foremost institutions driving the next wave of scientific discovery."

Advanced Brain Research at Jülich
Neuroscience is among the most exciting and increasingly important research focus areas at Forschungszentrum Jülich. The center is undertaking a new approach to advanced neuroscience research, and potentially uncovering the causes and treatments for autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and other debilitating neurological diseases.

Researchers from the Jülich Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-1, Structural and Functional Organization of the Human Brain), also at Forschungszentrum Jülich, are using NVIDIA® Tesla® GPUs to accelerate by as much as 50x the reconstruction of histological brain sections necessary for the rendering of a high-definition, structurally accurate and realistic model of the human brain. Once fully developed, the model will give researchers a previously unattainable level of visibility into brain architecture, function and interconnections with levels of detail never before available to neuroscientists.

To create this model, researchers at the institute INM-1 are reconstructing a vast collection of data sets including images of histological sections (microscopic tissue structure), magnetic resonance images and images from an advanced 3D polarized light imaging (3D-PLI) technique developed at INM-1. 3D-PLI provides, for each voxel of the brain, information about the direction and the inclination of fiber tracts. To trace the tracts over long distances, tractography algorithms are applied, which also require high-performance GPUs.

"3D-PLI is the only way to achieve highly detailed images of nerve fibers in adult human brains, but reconstructing and rendering them in real time into the world's first micro-atlas of the human brain poses a major computational problem," said Professor Katrin Amunts, director of INM-1. "Imagine the billions of nerve cells inside the human brain, connected via fibers. This gives you a sense of the complexity and intricacy needed to accurately model the network within the human brain."

Jülich hopes to leverage key learnings from its neuroscience research to serve as a blueprint for the NVIDIA Application Lab to enable other advanced GPU-accelerated research projects across a range of scientific fields.

Enabling Hundreds of European Scientists - New NVIDIA Application Lab
Beginning later this month, the NVIDIA Application Lab will focus on enabling hundreds of scientists across Europe, including members of the PRACE high performance computing organization, to take advantage of GPU-accelerated systems at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre by providing optimized scientific applications and technical support.

"The new lab will streamline the process of setting up and optimizing new and existing scientific applications to take advantage of GPU acceleration," said Professor Thomas Lippert, director of the Jülich Supercomputing Centre. "This agreement will enable hundreds of researchers to more easily access the game-changing power of GPU computing to advance all types of research."

Researchers in and outside of Jülich are using Jülich's GPU-accelerated supercomputers, including the 206-node Jülich Dedicated GPU Environment (JuDGE) system equipped with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, which delivers approximately 240 teraflops of peak performance.

About the Jülich Supercomputing Centre
The Jülich Supercomputing Centre operates supercomputers of the highest performance class in Europe. It enables scientists and engineers to solve highly challenging and complex problems in science and engineering in collaborative infrastructures by means of supercomputing and grid technologies. More information is available at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre website.

About NVIDIA Tesla GPUs
NVIDIA Tesla GPUs are massively parallel accelerators based on the NVIDIA CUDA® parallel computing platform. Tesla GPUs are designed from the ground up for power-efficient, high performance computing, computational science and supercomputing, delivering dramatically higher application acceleration for a range of scientific and commercial applications than a CPU-only approach.

More information about NVIDIA Tesla GPUs is available at the Tesla website. To learn more about CUDA or download the latest version, visit the CUDA website. More NVIDIA news, company and product information, videos, images and other information is available at the NVIDIA newsroom. You can also follow us on Twitter (@NVIDIATesla).

NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) awakened the world to computer graphics when it invented the GPU in 1999. Today, its processors power a broad range of products from smartphones to supercomputers. NVIDIA's mobile processors are used in cell phones, tablets and auto infotainment systems. PC gamers rely on GPUs to enjoy spectacularly immersive worlds. Professionals use them to create 3D graphics and visual effects in movies and to design everything from golf clubs to jumbo jets. And researchers utilize GPUs to advance the frontiers of science with high performance computing. The company has more than 5,000 patents issued, allowed or filed, including ones covering ideas essential to modern computing. For more information, see

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NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) is the AI computing company. Its invention of the GPU in 1999 sparked the growth of the PC gaming market, redefined modern computer graphics and revolutionized parallel computing. More recently, GPU deep learning ignited modern AI — the next era of computing — with the GPU acting as the brain of computers, robots and self-driving cars that can perceive and understand the world. More information at 
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