The INCF Neuroinformatics blog
For the Fourth Year in a Row, Cajal’s Butterflies of the Soul (Oxford University Press) was the best seller book at the Society for Neuroscience meeting. The author Javier DeFelipe, research professor at Laboratorio Cajal de Circuitos Corticales at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid and Instituto Cajal (CSIC), talks about the exciting adventure of compiling some of the most beautiful scientific illustrations by Nobel Laureate Santiago Ramón y Cajal.
INCF: How did the idea of compiling Cajal's drawings come about?
DeFelipe: The main aim of this work is to demonstrate to the general public that the study of the nervous system is not only important for the many obvious reasons related to brain function in both health and disease, but also for the unexpected natural beauty that it beholds. The illustrations included in this book represent only a small sample of the thousands of figures that were produced during Cajal's time. Of course, I have not been able to go through all the articles and books of the time, thus, only selected figures have been included due to space limitations. This selection reflects my own interests, which may not be fully shared by other readers.
INCF: Is Ramón y Cajal the illustrator known worldwide?
DeFelipe: In the field of neuroscience, Cajal is well known for his beautiful drawings. Nevertheless, the artistic skills of Cajal were also shared by Pío del Río-Hortega and Fernando de Castro and also by other famous disciples of Cajal. There are also many other important pioneers in neuroscience, including Deiters, Kölliker, Meynert, Ranvier, Golgi, Retzius, Dogiel and Alzheimer.
INCF: Who is the target audience for this book?
DeFelipe: Neuroscientists, neurologists, psychiatrists, physicians, artists and the general public. We think this book will be of general interest, not only due to the captivating aesthetic appeal of the illustrations but also because they represent the bases of our current understanding of the nervous system. The reader will find that many of the illustrations can be considered to belong to different artistic movements, such as modernism, surrealism, cubism, abstract art or impressionism.
INCF: Where do the illustrations come from?
DeFelipe: This book contains a collection of more than 300 figures dated from 1859 to 1932. These were obtained from private collections, books, and articles.
INCF: Any future projects? Maybe a part two?
DeFelipe: I am preparing a new book entitle “El jardin de la Neurologia. Reflexiones sobre lo bello, el arte y el cerebro” (The Garden of Neurology. Reflexions on the beauty, art and brain)
- Cajal’s Butterflies of the Soul
- Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (November 12, 2009)
- ISBN-10: 0195392701
The Society for Neuroscience celebrated its annual meeting from 14 to 18th October, in New Orleans, US. As in previous years, INCF offered a series of dual demo sessions of Neuroinformatics tools and software (short demo videos are available on the INCF YouTube Channel). An open mini-hackathon took place on Wednesday, were developers were welcome to join for on-site coding and discussion. The INCF DATASPACE was launched during SfN, along with the Data Share Award. INCF was located near other Neuroinformatics exhibitors like Neuroscience Information Framework (NIF), Whole Brain Catalogue, Cognitive Atlas, CARMEN and NeuroDevian.
The 5th Annual INCF Congress of Neuroinformatics took place September 10-12 at the University Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar der TU München, in Munich, Germany. It welcomed more than 200 researchers in all fields related to neuroinformatics, including data- and knowledge-bases of the nervous system from molecular to behavioral levels; tools for the acquisition, analysis, and visualization of nervous system data; and theoretical, computational, and simulation environments for modeling the brain. The meeting included a series of keynote speakers, workshops, poster sessions and live demonstrations of neuroinformatics tools.
Dr. Sean Hill, Executive Director of the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility –INCF- explains: “The Annual INCF Neuroinformatics Congress brings together world class scientists and a diverse international research community to exchange tools, techniques and knowledge for the acceleration of our understanding of the brain through data sharing and multilevel analysis, data integration and computational modeling“.
Some highlights of the event included:
- Keynote speakers: Michael Brecht, Sonia Grün, Atushi Miyawaki, Russel Poldrack and Gordon Shepherd.
- On Sunday September 10th, Yasuo Kawaguchi, Carl Petersen, and Harald Luksch presented their work in a workshop on the “Function-structure relationship in microcircuitry.”
- On Monday September 11th, Kim “Avrama” Blackwell, Thomas Bartol, Nicolas Le Novère, and Upinder Bhalla presented in a workshop on the “Systems Biology of the Neuron.”
- On Wednesday September 12th, Cameron Neylon, Amarnath Gupta, and Mercè Crosas participated in a workshop on “If there is a data deluge, where are the data?”
Immediately following Neuroinformatics 2012, the same venue hosted the Bernstein Conference on Computational Neuroscience, the annual meeting of the National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience (NNCN) that represents about 200 research groups from over 20 locations in Germany.
A full program and further information is available at the website: neuroinformatics2012.org
The meeting was sponsored by: Bernstein Network, IEEE-EMB, CARMEN, Springer and Columbia University Press and Physion Consulting.
On May, INCF hosted an open house and networking event. Guests were able to meet INCF Director Stan Griller and Executive Director Sean Hill and other members of INCF Secretariat, who explained neuroscience resources offered by INCF, recently developed software tools and standards and benefits of collaboration with INCF. Head of Programs, Linda Lanyon (right) introduced attendees to INCF Programs. Invitees included scientists in related disciplines and representatives from granting agencies, government and other relevant organizations.
Last July, INCF travelled to Barcelona to participate in the Federation of European Neurosciences - FENS- Meeting. INCF had a large booth where demo sessions took place. On Sunday, Andrey Sobolev introduced guests and attendees to the G-Node Tools and Services for Electrophyisiology Data. On Monday Daniel K. Wójcik (left) presented the 3D Brain Atlas Reconstructor and Scalable Brain Atlas. Attendees were able as well to learn about each INCF Program and meet the Tasks Forces members and Secretariat. On Wednesday, everybody was welcome to present and discuss their own neuroinformatics work.
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