We've landed on Mars, can grow organs, and even skydive from space, yet we don't even know how many different types of cells there are in the human brain. Neuroscientists don’t even know precisely how many different types of cells are in the brain. Here at Sebastian Seung‘s Computational Neuroscience Lab at MIT, we’re taking a different approach: crowd-sourcing. In order to solve the mind’s great mysteries, we need you.
Why don’t we know how the mind works? One reason is that your mind is massive. Researchers estimate that there are 100 billion neurons in your brain with an estimated one million miles of connectivity [1,2]. A million miles is equivalent to driving around Earth 40 times. You can infer that in order for such great length of neurons to fit into your three pound brain these structures must be very tiny. A large neuron is about 100 microns in diameter while the contact area of a synapse is less than 7 cubic nm [3, 4: data from Seung Lab].
By playing the 3D game Eyewire, you become part of the Seung Lab at MIT by helping to map the connections of a neural network.
Rather than mapping and entire brain, we’re starting with a retina. Our goal is to map the connections of a specific type of cell: J-Cells.
These neurons are responsible for perception of upward motion. We plan to publish the outcome in a scientific journal and list EyeWire users as co-authors.