The INCF Neuroinformatics blog
Philantropist Paul G. Allen has committed another $300M of funding to the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The institute plans to double its staff and to launch three new scientific initiatives.
This week, the Allen Institute for Brain Science announced that they have a funding commitment for another $300M from philantropist Paul G. Allen, bringing his total investment in the Institute to half a billion dollars.The funds will be used to cover the first four years of an ambitious ten-year plan for the Institute, during which the current staff will be doubled in size and three new, complementary scientific initiatives will be added to the Institute's already existing endeavors.
"We're now at a crossroads where technology has advanced sufficiently to begin to tackle ever more complex questions at large scale", said Allan Jones, Chief Executive Officer, at the March 21 press conference in Seattle (a video of the press conference is available on the announcement event page).
One of the new efforts is targeted toward understanding the visual system of the mouse, from cells and their connectivity to perception and decision making. The project and its vision is described by Christof Koch and R. Clay Reid in a Comment in this week's issue of Nature, and there is also a nice interview with Christof Koch in this week's issue of Science.
While the results from the Institute's founding in 2003 up until today are impressive on their own - large-scale brain science which has produced several brain atlases in astounding detail and more than a petabyte of data - the truly remarkable part is that all results are open and accessible to the community (see www.brain-map.org), even before publication. This commitment to open science, which is a mandate set up by Paul Allen when the Institute was founded with $100M in seed funding from his foundation, will continue unchanged.
It will be very interesting to see both the results and these projects' effects on the neuroscientific community.
Image: a coronal section of an entire mouse brain, which was stained to delineate anatomical boundaries in many brain regions. Cell bodies are stained in red (NeuN) and axonal projections in green (NF160). Image credit: Allen Institute of Brain Science (it is highly recommended to view the full resolution original image).
Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and MIT have developed a quicker method for imaging whole mouse brains, potentially leading to a much increased amount of available whole brain imaging ...
The collaborators just published a paper in Nature Methods (available online January 15) describing how their microscopy method, serial two-photon (STP) tomography, enables automated high-throughput imaging of fluorescently labeled mouse brains. A typical whole mouse brain scan is reported to take 6.5 to 8.5 hours, while a scan at the maximum resolution takes 24 hours - in any case quick enough to potentially, as the researchers put it "transform the emerging field of systematic whole-brain anatomy, until now limited to dedicated atlas-generation initiatives, into a routine methodology".
If this turns out to be a true prediction, we are likely to see many comparably small and diverse data sets in the hands of many different groups and labs, some years from now. And a corresponding increased need to compare data sets with each other and with reference atlases, to integrate data for combined queries, and to describe and publish both data and analysis methods. We of course hope that the tools and services INCF and the Task Forces, especially those in Digital Brain Atlasing and in Datasharing, are developing will be useful in this regard, and that we also can help support and complement the community-developed tools already out there.
Have you identified a problem or barrier that you think we can help you and your scientific field or subfield with? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
(Figure: Figure 1a-c from the paper, showing method scheme and 2D/3D views of the resulting brain scans. Reused with permission from Nature Methods)
1. T Ragan et al (2012) "Serial two-photon tomography for automated ex vivo mouse brain imaging" Nature Methods, doi:10.1038/nmeth.1854
2. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory press release, January 12, 2012