Neuroscientists worked with hundreds of thousands of gamers to help them discover new types of neurons and build an open digital neural catalog
Thanks to the Internet, and humanity’s natural curiosity, citizen science is on the rise.
Through online citizen science games, scientists from different disciplines crowdsource some complex research problems by calling upon gamers around the world.
Last January, online gamers helped astronomers discover a star system comprised of five exoplanets.
Recently, physicists, to prove Einstein was wrong about one of his intriguing concepts, also used an online game in which 100,000 players took part.
Now, it’s the turn of neuroscientists to recruit the help of online gamers.
Citizen Science Gamers Build a Neural Atlas, Discover new Types of Neurons
Researchers from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI) have launched an online video game to make mapping the brain more of a fun activity than a tedious task.
No less than a quarter million players took part in the Eyewire game and helped neuroscientists map with high precision more than 3,000 neurons, six of which are whole new neural types.
With the help of a machine learning software, Eyewire players had to follow the intricate patterns of neurons and trace the neural paths of each cell.
To ensure the accuracy of the map, moves generated by each player were cross-checked, compared to moves of advanced players, and verified by researchers.
The Eyewire Museum: First Brain Exhibition
Since PNI scientists launched the Eyewire game six years ago, over 265,000 players have mapped more than 3,000 neurons.
One thousand of these neurons are on display in the Eyewire Museum, an interactive catalog of neurons available online for the world researchers and public alike.
Although 1,000 neurons is nothing in the grand neural scheme, it’s a start.
The Eyewire project was launched back in 2009 with just a tiny map of a mouse’s retina.
“This museum is something like a brain atlas,” said Alexander Bae, a co-author on the study. “Previous brain atlases didn’t have a function where you could visualize by individual cell, or a subset of cells, and interact with them. Another novelty: Not only do we have the morphology of each cell, but we also have the functional data, too.”
As a cherry on the cake, the data collectively generated by the community is used by the Eyewire AI to enhance its abilities at recognizing patterns.