02. May 2024

“Virtual Brain Twin” Project Launch “Virtual Brain Twin” Project Launch

A team of researchers has developed a virtual brain twin for more effective treatment of psychosis patients

Mental health is an increasingly important public health issue in the European Union. Effective treatment options are in greater demand today than ever before. Roughly one percent of the world’s population suffers from schizophrenia, and the limitations of current medicine are apparent in that 30–50% of patients do not properly respond to the available medication. This is where the four-year Virtual Brain Twin project comes in, backed by roughly €10 million in European Union funding. The University of Bonn Center for Life Ethics is a project member, serving as a review instance of attendant ethical questions. The project kick-off meeting was just held in Brussels. 

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Launched at the start of this year, the project, with full title “Virtual Brain Twin for Personalised Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders,” is coordinated by EBRAINS AISBL. The project represents an innovative approach to mental healthcare through efforts to develop an individual virtual twin brain for schizophrenia patients. Accomplishing this involves the use of neural microcircuit simulation, mathematical analysis, innovative artificial intelligence (AI) applications and insights from psychiatric care practice and clinical studies.

The goal behind the Virtual Brain Twin platform is helping clinicians optimize the type and dosage of prescribed medications and exploring alternative therapies, including brain stimulation and lifestyle adaptation. The platform leverages big data, multi-scale models and high-performance computing in a high data security environment to interconnect various levels, from molecules to small and larger networks and on to the brain as a whole. Embedded within EBRAINS, the European research infrastructure for digital neuroscience, the Virtual Brain Twin platform is intended to be initially used by neuroscientists, clinical researchers and mathematical modeling specialists. It is intended to be accessible to clinics and patients in a later phase, in order to obtain better treatment results. Backed by €10 million in funding from the European Commission, this four-year project is part of the Horizon Health Europe Calls 2023 initiative. It is seen as a pioneering project for the growth of personalized medicine in psychiatry.

The project focus is on schizophrenia patients, under the scientific direction of Professor Viktor Jirsa, who is Director of the Inserm Institut de Neurosciences des Systèmes at Aix-Marseille-Université, France and Chief Science Officer EBRAINS AISBL. “The Virtual Brain Twin project is aimed at improving quality of life for affected patients while simultaneously making development gains in the area of personalized treatment,” he comments.

“Virtual brain twins can improve therapy effectiveness for schizophrenia patients, but many ethical questions of interest arise in this context,” says Professor Christiane Woopen of the Center for Life Ethics, who is also a member of the Individuals & Societies and the Sustainable Futures Transdisciplinary Research Areas at the University of Bonn. As she further explains, these concerns range from the concrete handling of individual data on down to fundamental questions around what our concept of mental illness is, and how technological advances can change our self-understanding of mankind. “We are very much looking forward to collaborating with this great, diverse consortium.”


Officially launched in 2019, the EBRAINS research infrastructure is a key outcome and the legacy of the EU-backed Human Brain Project (HBP). In 2021, two years later, EBRAINS was included in the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). In the next phase following on the HBP recently completed, EBRAINS transition over to a sustainable infrastructure.

EBRAINS is an open, interoperable infrastructure for high-quality research data, replete with tools and brain research computing facilities. The infrastructure provides researchers with a wide range of datasets, a comprehensive multi-level brain atlas, AI-based analysis tools, modeling and simulation tools and access to high-performance computing resources as well as robotics and neuromorphic platforms conformant with the FAIR principles. For more information visit: https://www.ebrains.eu/.

EBRAINS AISBL is an international non-profit organization with headquarters based in Brussels, Belgium. It is organized around a central hub which coordinates a Europe-wide service network comprised of these 11 national hubs (currently): Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. 

Silke Gaertzen
Center for Life Ethics
University of Bonn
Phone: +49 228 73-66200
Email: lifeethics@uni-bonn.de

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