The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist
Your connectome, the map of all 86 billion connected neurons in your brain, is hopelessly complex. In fact, one human connectome has a staggering 10,000 times that number of neural pathways. Every thought you have and every memory you hold exists in your connectome, and major efforts are under way to map it.The good news is that you don’t need a fancy neuroscience degree to help out. In fact, the fancy degreed neuroscientists are hoping that you might pitch in.
Created by scientists at MIT, Eyewire is a browser game that lets players take on the challenge of mapping neural pathways in brains – no scientific background required. By playing, gamers are not only mapping neurons, but also training artificial intelligence algorithms to better understand how to map neurons themselves, what Amy Robinson, Creative Director at Eyewire, calls “augmented intelligence”. The more that gamers play, the better the computers get.
In an amplifying way, the team at MIT hopes that these human assisted computers will one day learn to map neurons by themselves.
To date, over 70,000 gamers from over 100 countries have signed up to play Eyewire, and it’s a good thing they did. Using today’s state of the art technology, it takes an AI-assisted researcher almost 50 hours to reconstruct a SINGLE neuron! At that pace, one researcher would need to devote the next 50 million years to neural mapping; no bathroom breaks allowed. Thankfully, there is one thing that technology does consistently overly time, which is improve.