ERC Starting grant to Marie E. Rognes

Head of the Biomedical Computing Department, Marie E. Rognes, has been awarded the very prestigious ERC Starting Grant. Only seven Norwegian researchers has achieved this so far in Horizon 2020, and only a total of 19 ERC grants have been awarded to Norwegian researchers. Securing an ERC Starting Grant is a significant recognition of Marie E. Rognes and her research, and marks a milestone for Simula in EU research. Marie E. Rognes will receive EUR 1.5 million over the next five years in order to conduct the “Waterscales” project.

The full title of the Waterscales project is “Mathematical and computational foundations for modeling cerebral fluid flow”. The project is awarded from the panel PE1 (Mathematics) of the European Research Council (ERC). The aim of the project is to establish the mathematical, numerical and computational foundations for predictively modeling fluid flow and solute transport through the brain across spatiotemporal scales – from the cellular to the organ level.

Your brain has its own waterscape: whether you are reading or sleeping, fluid flows through the brain tissue and clears waste in the process. These physiological processes are crucial for the well-being of the brain. In spite of their importance, we have little understanding of these processes. Mathematics and numerics could play a crucial role in gaining new insight. Indeed, medical doctors express an urgent need for multiscale modeling of water transport through the brain, to overcome limitations in traditional techniques. Surprisingly little attention has been paid to the numerics of the brain's waterscape however, and fundamental knowledge is missing.

In response, the ambition of the Waterscales project is to establish the mathematical and computational foundations for predictively modeling fluid flow and solute transport through the brain across scales -- from the cellular to the organ level. The project aims to bridge multiscale fluid mechanics and cellular electrophysiology to pioneer new families of mathematical models that couple macroscale, mesoscale and microscale flow with glial cell dynamics. For these models, we will design numerical discretization that preserve key properties and that allow for whole organ simulations. To evaluate predictability, we will develop a new computational platform for model adaptivity and calibration. The project is multidisciplinary combining mathematics, mechanics, scientific computing, and physiology.

If successful, this project enables the first in silico studies of the brain's waterscape across scales. The new models would open up a new research field within computational neuroscience with ample opportunities for further mathematical and applied study. The processes at hand are associated with neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and brain swelling caused by stroke. The Waterscales project will provide the field with a sorely needed, new avenue of investigation to understand these conditions, with tremendous long-term impact.

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