Crowdsourcing Neuroscience: Eyewire
As you may have gathered already, the retina has a lot of neurons and neuronal connections, and if we hope to understand how the retina works, we have to observe the connections and neurons in many retinal samples. To this end, lots of retinal samples have been collected and imaged by microscope, and now its your job to make sense of these pictures.
Imagine dividing the 3D image of the retina into smaller cubes. Any given neuron will flow through a number of these smaller cubes, and our automated procedure is pretty good at tracing out a specific neuron through these cubes. However, sometimes the program fails to fill in all of a neuron, or misses extra branches in the neuron’s structure. We want you to fix the computer’s mistakes by adding in whatever the program missed.
You’ll receive more specific instructions in the tutorial section of the Eyewire game interface (“Play” tab in the main site menu), but for starters, you’ll get to look at your cube from two perspectives, one in 3D and the other in 2D. The 2D view will essentially represent a cross section, or slice, through the cube. The program will already have done some work, coloring in the neuron of interest, and you’ll be able to see this coloring in both views. You can navigate up and down through the slices by scrolling readily with your mouse.
Every time you see the computer’s coloring falling short, stopping where there is no obvious line or neuronal boundary, you’ll want to click in the unfilled space to color it in. The computer will then continue your addition, both within your current slice and up and down through the other slices. You might then want to check through the neuron again, observing whether the computer’s continuation of your addition was done correctly, or if there are further novel additions to be made. When there are no more additions to be made, you are done with the task.