Citizen scientists playing the online game Eyewire are helping neuroscientists map the J cells of the retina—a task that will help understand the machinery of the mind. Wired reports today that MIT professor of computational neuroscience, Sebastian Seung, described the approach at Wired 2012:
Any amateur neuroscientist can log on and scroll through 3D scans of retinal neurons. Users mark out the paths the neurons trace from cell to cell, correcting the guesses the computer might have got incorrect. There’s even an international leaderboard for people to compete with each other for points.
Seung, author of the 2011 book Connectome: How the Brains Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, calls the retina “a computer that performs some of the tasks of visual perception.” Unraveling and building a parts list of its spaghetti-tangle of neuron pathways will help explain how some brains are wired differently, he says.