Digital twins/ Virtual Brains

Despite our significant advances in medicine, many treatments are still ineffective or produce severe side-effects for a significant portion of the population. Personalised medicine seeks to tailor healthcare to the needs of the individual patient. This change towards a more personalised approach is also happening within brain research. Within the Human Brain Project, researchers are working to create virtual individual brain models to improve diagnostic and therapeutic conditions.

Research within the Human Brain Project seeks to provide evidence for personalising brain network models, which, by construction, generate functional brain signals linkable to behavioural indicators including cognitive performance e.g., intelligence, and memory capacity.

The existence of in-silico twins of individual brains raises a number of philosophical, societal and ethical issues, such as: What precisely is a “virtual twin brain”? What are the risks involved in attempting to copy the one organ we believe to be the seat of our consciousness and our emotional processes? How fine-grained is the individual fingerprint of a connectome-based brain model? And how tight is the link between societally relevant markers such as intelligence and brain structure and functional signals? Addressing these concerns requires an examination of how environmental variations may express themselves in the variations of brain structure and function, an analysis of the concept of Virtual Twin Brain in terms of similarity and adequacy and of the relationship between social/environmental versus cerebral structural/functional variability.

Within the framework of the HBP, this line of research seeks to conceptually analyse  implications of building Virtual Twin brains, articulate their clinical, ethical and societal impact, and promote responsible embedding and use of the relevant findings in society.


Kathinka Evers, PhD


Arleen Salles, PhD

Neuroethicxs & philosophy of the brain cover
Last modified: 2023-04-14