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251 Stars 42 Forks GNU Lesser General Public License v3.0 1.1K Commits 16 Opened issues


Visualizer for large-scale and interactive ray-tracing of neurons

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One of the keys towards understanding how the brain works as a whole is visualisation of how the individual cells function. In particular, the more morphologically accurate the visualisation can be, the easier it is for experts in the biological field to validate cell structures; photo-realistic rendering is therefore important.

The Blue Brain Project has made major efforts to create morphologically accurate neurons to simulate sub-cellular and electrical activities, e.g. molecular simulations of neuron biochemistry or multi-scale simulations of neuronal function. Ray-tracing can help to highlight areas of the circuits where cells touch each other and where synapses are being created. In combination with ‘global illumination’, which uses light, shadow, and depth of field effects to simulate photo-realistic images, this technique makes it easier to visualise how the neurons function.

Brayns is a minimalistic visualiser that can perform ray-traced rendering of neurons. It provides an abstraction of the underlying rendering engines, so that the best possible acceleration libraries can be used for the relevant hardware. (

To keep track of the changes between releases check the changelog.

Contact: [email protected]



User guide

Command line arguments are documented in the User Guide.


The following platforms and build environments are tested:

  • Linux: Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 18.04, Ubuntu 20.04, Debian 9, RHEL 7 (Makefile, x64)

Using Docker images

Start Brayns as a service

docker run -ti --rm -p 8200:8200 bluebrain/brayns

More documentation is available on DockerHub:

Start the Brayns web UI

docker run -ti --rm -p 8080:8080 bluebrain/brayns-ui

More documentation is available on DockerHub:

Building from Source

Ubuntu 18.04

To install all dependencies needed by Brayns on Ubuntu 18.04 run:

sudo apt install git cmake g++ libtbb-dev libgl1-mesa-dev libxrandr-dev \
libxinerama-dev libxcursor-dev libboost-all-dev libglew-dev \
libwebsockets-dev libassimp-dev libhdf5-dev


In order to ease the application compilation process, we recommend using the following tree structure:

- src
  +- ispc-v1.10.0-linux
  +- OSPRay
  +- Brayns

Intel ISPC compiler

Download and extract ISPC compiler 1.10.0 archive.


Clone embree in the same folder level as ISPC compiler

  git clone
  mkdir embree/Build
  cd embree/Build
  git checkout v3.5.2
  make install


Clone OSPRay in the same folder level as ISPC compiler

  git clone
  mkdir OSPRay/Build
  cd OSPRay/Build
  git checkout v1.8.5
  make install


  git clone --recursive
  mkdir Brayns/Build
  cd Brayns/Build
  make install

A number of dependencies are optional, and are related to some specific Brayns features:

Enable/Disable assimp supported mesh file loader (.obj, .ply, etc.)


Enable/Disable Brion supported morphology file loader (.h5, .swc, BlueConfig, CircuitConfig)


Running Brayns viewer

export PATH=/bin:$PATH

Running Brayns off-screen service

export PATH=/bin:$PATH

Known Bugs

Please file a Bug Report if you find new issues which have not already been reported in Bug Report page. If you find an already reported problem, please update the corresponding issue with your inputs and outputs.

Funding & Acknowledgment

The development of this software was supported by funding to the Blue Brain Project, a research center of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), from the Swiss government’s ETH Board of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s FP7-ICT programme under Grant Agreement No. 604102 (Human Brain Project RUP).

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under the Specific Grant Agreement No. 720270 (Human Brain Project SGA1).


Brayns is licensed under the LGPL, unless noted otherwise, e.g., for external dependencies. See file LICENSE.txt for the full license.

Copyright (c) 2008-2021 Blue Brain Project/EPFL

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3 as published by the Free Software Foundation.

This library is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Lesser General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Lesser General Public License along with this library; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA

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