Become a Citizen neuroscientist.
Written by Rich.
Brainchild of the connectonomics Prof. Sebastian Seung, EyeWire.org has become a very clever way to grab the attention of the masses, by getting the online community to start playing a game. Give each player a 3D stack of images of brain tissues, captured by automated microscopes, and give them points depending on how well they identify the trajectory of a single neuron, and you have one way to tackle the data bottleneck problem that connectome labs face. The problem is that the data can be acquired easily enough (well if you have super automated fancy serial imaging devices that pump out Terabytes of high quality data), and at a much faster rate than it can be currently digested. The anaylsis tends to be a manual process and much more time consuming than researchers can afford, although people are working on more automation and AI methods. So let the online community have a whack at it! Use points to make it competitive, and promote quality assurance and let it loose. Sign up today at EyeWire.org
When you have been trained you get the chance to explore a bit more
When you then get to start playing the game. On the left here you see the 3D representation of the cell you are playing with, on the right you are presented an axial/horizontal orientation of the image slice you are in. Moving up and down through the image slices (using the arrow keys) and clicking with your mouse to fill in the gaps of the computer generated neuron is your objective. Once you feel satisfied that you have mapped out the whole neuron, simply click on 'check my work', and you have contributed to the database in exchange for some points.
With the feedback you can see how accurately you have mapped out the neuron and see your total points ranked compared to other gamers.
As the name suggests EyeWire.org is focusing on mapping the connections between retinal cells, leading to a better understanding of the visual systems connectomics and provide a subsequently more advanced knowledge of how the visual system, and perception, works in humans. I think this is a really cool endeavour, and a great way to spread the awareness of neuroscience in general. The training is really clear and makes the idea simple really simple. I already feel the need to gain more points than my currently poor 141, so we will see far my career as a 'citizen neuroscientist gets'
Here is Sebastian's Book! Recommended to read by theNeuroAtheist (click for link):