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article imageA video game helps scientists understand the human brain

By Amanda Byas     Aug 4, 2013 in Entertainment
Many gamers are not neuroscientists, but there is a computer game that allows one to reconstruct a neural circuit of a mouse’s retina. It is actually not as difficult and boring as it may seem.
In fact, it is pretty fun, which can be a good thing when playing video games.
The game is called EyeWire. It is a browser-based game that asks player to make the connections between retinal neurons by coloring in 3-D pieces of the brain. Like other games out there, if you are good at EyeWire it earns you points, but the difference between this game and any other game is you don’t just get on the leader board, but your data is used by scientists to build a better image of the human brain.
EyeWire was created by Sebastian Seung’s, a neuroscientist, at MIT. EyeWire main purpose was to put research that Seung and his colleagues do on a daily basis into a gaming format. Currently Seung is studying the connectome, which is the complex tangle of connections among neurons inside the brain.
As of right now, Seung and his colleagues are reconstructing neural circuits in the retina to get a better understanding of how the eye perceives different movements. For instance, when you see something that causes you to look either up or down, it is rumored that there are certain cells that will respond to that certain stimuli.
Seung and his colleagues are not quite sure how those cells work, or how they are connected to each other, but they are slowly trying to find this out.
Amy Robinson, creative director states:
“Sebastian likes to say, ‘If we don’t understand how something as simple as motion perception works, how we are going to be able to answer these higher level questions like what happens in learning or mental disorders?’”
Even if figuring out something that seems so simple as motion perception is extremely time consuming; you can only imagine how long it will take for scientists to figure out how the entire brain functions. As one can see why they may need some help figuring out things.
More about EyeWire, Brain, mouse retina, Video game, Seung
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