UC & IBM in brainy neuroscience study

UC & IBM in brainy neuroscience study

Stewart Dowding


The University of Canterbury (UC) and IBM Research are bringing together their collaborative brain power to develop better computer modelling for the human brain in a new joint study agreement. 

The collaboration will allow a UC PhD student intern to work with international researchers in the field of Computational Neuroscience, modelling brain function and neural tissue in silico (via computer).

UC Mechanical Engineering Professor Tim David of UC High Performance Computing, who is also an Honorary Professor of the Christchurch Medical School, has been working on modelling the complex chemical pathways in brain cells to determine how they might communicate. He leads the Brains Trust Research (BRATS) group, which investigates advanced mathematical and numerical models of blood flow in the cerebral tissue and cerebro-vasculature.

Professor David and his BRATS team’s work on computational physiology and mathematical modelling came to the attention of IBM Master Inventor Dr James Kozloski from the Computational Biology Center at the TJ Watson Labs in Yorktown Heights, New York, United States.

As a result, the University of Canterbury is sending a summer intern to IBM’s Yorktown lab to build models and perform simulations, which will join IBM's Neural Tissue Simulator (NTS) and Professor David's previous work.

“There's an expectation that with this new code from UC, the NTS would be able to do additional analysis of the vascular brain system – which it currently doesn't do,” Professor David says.

Bioengineering PhD student Stewart Dowding, who has a Master’s degree in Engineering from UC, says he is deeply grateful to the University for the opportunity to travel to the US and participate in a joint research study with IBM Research.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for not only my own personal development and my career, but also to develop a powerful model of brain tissue that might advance our understanding of many devastating neurodegenerative diseases.

“Our main aim in working with IBM is to produce a powerful tool able to investigate complex brain function. The collaboration with IBM Research is a great partnership for the University and a very exciting opportunity for me, personally,” Stewart says.

“Collaborations like this between institutions have the potential to lead to major breakthroughs in research.”

Stewart will be heading to the US in early August.


- University of Canterbury