A Quarter Million Gamers Helped Build This Incredibly Detailed Map of the Brain (SingularityHub):
“In 2012, when Angry Birds was in its prime, Seung had an inspiration.
“What if,” he wondered, “we could capture even a small fraction of the mental effort that goes into Angry Birds (for brain mapping)? Think of what we could do.”
Although the initial idea was to use deep learning-based AI tools to reconstruct the neurons, humans were—and still are—better at spotting the patterns of neuronal branches and connectors than machines. Collaborating with Dr. Kevin Slavin, a fellow professor at MIT with a background in game design, Seung tried to make a game about brain tracing as enthralling as a first-person shooter. Spoiler: you can’t … In the game, each player is given a tiny cube of the retinal tissue, about 4.5 microns wide—that’s about the width of a human hair for a 10-by-10 block of cubes. To ensure accuracy, each cell is reviewed by between 5 and 25 gamers—if the results match up, the trace is accepted by the game as being complete. These traces are then fed as “training data” to the deep learning algorithm, which learns to better recognize individual neuronal branches among a giant tangled mass.
Eventually the goal is to automate the entire process. While a pipe dream just five years ago, the power of deep learning in biology has been transformative. A recent study used a powerful algorithm to identify dead neurons in microscope-generated images, a task normally relegated to junior neuroscientist trainees. As more data pours in, EyeWire may eventually learn to self-map, and such a strategy could be adopted to explore other regions in the brain in other species.”
New Study based on EyeWire:
- A digital “museum” provides dense anatomy and physiology of retinal ganglion cells
- The inner plexiform layer divides into four sublaminae defined by anatomical criteria
- The aggregate neurite density of a ganglion cell type is approximately uniform
- Inner marginal ganglion cells exhibit significantly more sustained visual responses