News & Events

Documentary filmmaker to speak about The Blue Brain Project

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is pleased to announce the next speaker in its 2013-2014 University Distinguished Lecturer Series—Noah Hutton, a documentary filmmaker and neuroscience enthusiast who will deliver a talk titledEngaging Minds: The Blue Brain Project and the Race to Understand the Human Brain on Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. His talk is free and the public is invited to be a part of this special evening.

Hutton has created films on topics that range from the oil boom in North Dakota, to a concert documentary about jazz drummer Dave King, to leukemia and bone marrow donation (following a Grammy-winning musician, the founder of a major charity, and an Olympic hopeful in their personal journeys). His most ambitious project to date, however, is the documentary series he’s filming through 2024 on the work neuroscientists are doing through The Blue Brain Project to reverse engineer the human brain (in a massive simulation on IBM supercomputers).

Hutton brings to bear both his educational experiences and his love of filmmaking in his documentary work. As the son of actors Timothy Hutton and Debra Winger, he spent his childhood on and around film sets and developed a passion for filmmaking at an early age. Hutton attended the Fieldston School in Bronx, New York, and graduated from Wesleyan University, where he studied art history and neuroscience.

Hutton is a now a director based in New York City, working through his production house, Couple 3 Films. His first feature film,Crude independence, was an official selection of the 2009 SXSW Film Festival and won Best Documentary Feature at the 2009 Oxford Film Festival. In 2009, he began filming his documentary series about The Blue Brain Project.

In 2010, he directed More To Live For, a chronicle of three extraordinary men suffering from leukemia whose lives depend on finding the perfect bone marrow match and in 2011 he directed a series of 30 short films about the human mind for Scientific American. His 2012 concert film King for Two Days, which premiered at the 2012 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, is a portrait of jazz drummer Dave King (The Bad Plus). In 2013, he curated Subjective Resonance Imaging, an international gallery show in conjunction with the 2013 Human Brain Mapping Conference, and was a featured speaker at the 2013 Association of Neuroaesthetics Symposium at the Venice Biennale. He is also the founder of the website The Beautiful Brain.

Hutton’s April 15 talk will focus on Bluebrain, a 14-year documentary film-in-the-making about the 21st century race to understand the human brain. In 2009, neuroscientist Henry Markram publically announced that he seeks to reverse-engineer a human brain with digital simulations of all the physical properties of every neuron, powered by IBM Blue Gene supercomputers, by 2020. To do this, he created the Blue Brain Project, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and instantly became one of the highest-profile neuroscience projects in the world.

In 2013, Markram and Blue Brain led a group of scientists from across Europe to unify their research aims and win a historic $1 billion Euro flagship award to become the Human Brain Project and pursue their brain simulation project on a much larger scale over the next decade.

The film serves as an ongoing state-of-the-union for the current state of brain research, surveying the work of prominent projects and their leaders in years to come, with yearly shorts released ahead of a full re-edit into a documentary feature due for completion in 2024. As the simulation of the full brain is built over the course of this decade by the Human Brain Project, so too will this documentary about a historic quest in human history.

The University’s Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 1999. Each year, the UDLS Committee sponsors four to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints. While the emphasis tends to be on featuring visiting academics, it is not exclusively so. The speakers typically spend two days at the University meeting with classes and presenting a community lecture.

For more information about this Distinguished Lecture, contact Gayla Shaw at 207.768.9452 or email info@maine.edu.