Sunday, April 16, 2006

Collaborative Digital Brain Mapping Comes of Age

Google Maps and related geomapping services provide high-resolution satellite maps to anyone with an internet connection and have set the standard for online digital mapping. We are now beginning to witness similar digital mapping technologies spilling over into other non-related fields, one of the more interesting of which is neuroscience and the collaborative digital mapping of the brain.

Launched less than a year ago, has rapidly developed to lead the field in digital brain mapping technologies. With several terabytes of ultra high-resolution brain image data, consisting of several dozen mouse, monkey, and human brains, its online brain image database is the largest and most diverse currently available. This massive image data is integrated with structural information regarding spatial locations of different brain areas and markers, and the relations between them. And in the collaborative spirit, online users are free to add their own labels and annotations, and to place landmarks throughout the digital brains they explore. Users may even share their images, landmarks, and other annotations with other users in the BrainMaps forum, which in many ways parallels the Google Maps Community, but on a smaller scale.

The U.S.-sponsored 'Decade of the Brain' has come and gone; it officially ended in the year 2000. It would take another five years before came onto the scene, and in a way, it encapulates what the Decade of the Brain should have been about: Collaborative digital brain mapping and a resource available to everyone with an internet connection.

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