Ganglion Style: Crowdsourcing Science through Online Games
Alex Norton for EyeWire
Seung Laboratory, MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
To better understand the eye-brain connection, researchers developed the online game EyeWire. The game challenges players, most of whom have no background in neuroscience, to scroll through and color in images of cross-sections of neurons. With over 100,000 players’ help, the researchers are creating virtual 3-D models of actual neurons.
By comparing this gamer-generated map of ganglion cells in the retina with data about the neurons’ firing activity, neuroscientists can develop a functional model of how vision works. Players’ performance in the game will also be used to improve artificial-intelligence algorithms for future 3-D modeling programs.
EyeWire’s creative director, Amy Robinson, says that players include high school and college students, sculptors, dentists, and retired people. “It’s extraordinary to see how much effort they put into the game,” she says. “Discoveries can be made with the help of people who are not scientists, but gamers with an interest in the brain.”