Countdown to Neuropia



Original countdown announcement post below.

It’s a new era of EyeWire.

We embark upon a journey to create the world’s most complete catalog of neurons found in the retina. These neurons, known as ganglion cells, compute information about vision prior to sending a signal down their axons along the optic nerve into the brain. They are responsible for fundamental aspects of sight, yet they are largely unknown. Countdown to NeuropiaWhile the retina may seem like a single thin film of tissue at the back of the eye, in reality it is composed of several layers and contains many cell types, including forests of neurons. Scientists don’t know how many different cell types there are. That’s where EyeWire comes in. Together, we’ll map the world’s most complete catalog of retinal neurons. Sebastian Seung and our research team have selected an area within the EyeWire dataset containing 348 neurons. We’ve already mapped 103 of these cells. Over the next year, we will map the remaining 245 neurons in three phases.

EyeWire Phases Countdown to Neuropia
Phase 1 (blue), 2 (green) and 3 (red)

Phase 1 (shown above in blue): 19 neurons  (50 x 50 micron area)

PHASE 1 COMPLETE! 14 Nov 2014

Phase 2 (green): 63 neurons (100 x 100 micron area)

PHASE 2 COMPLETE! 26 Feb 2015

Phase 3 (red): 163 neurons (200 x 200 micron area)

This quest is already leading to the discovery of new cell types.

eyewire dataset with neuron inside it
EyeWire’s complete dataset (left) and a neuron inside it (right)


EyeWire's Countdown Area
The Countdown Area. Here you see a raw image of the top of the dataset used in EyeWire. The large white branch is a blood vessel. The circles are neuron cell bodies. The red square denotes the entirety of the countdown area, a 200 x 200 micron region. Green xes note the cell bodies within the countdown area. Note that some cell bodies cannot be seen because they are below the surface.



New levels in Eyewire

From this point forward, EyeWire will change a bit. We will no longer solely be focused on Starbursts for our advanced level. Instead, we’ll divide up the cells in our data set into Mystery (Level 1) and Lightning (Level 2). Level 1 cells will usually have thicker branches and generally be easier to map. Level 2 neurons will be more challenging and will likely contain nubs, boutons and narrow, spindly branches. These cells will be worth double points. On occasion, it may be difficult to determine if a cell should be categorized as a Mystery or Lightning cell.  In these cases the following may happen.

    1. If a cell’s difficulty is impossible to determine we may ask Scouts and Scythes to help grow out some of the branches before it is made live.


  • If a cell is categorized as a Mystery Level cell, but is later determined to be too difficult for Level 1, it may be re-categorized as a Lightning Level cell.  Cells that get bumped from Level 1 to Level 2 will not receive retroactive double points as we currently have no easy way to award these points.



Players can unlock Lightning Level cells by completing the Lightning Challenge, our updated tutorial for Level 2. If you’ve already passed the Starburst Challenge, you don’t need to pass the Lightning Challenge.  You will also gain a new badge that will be awarded to players from this point forward when they unlock Level 2. Check out the gallery below to explore the varied shapes and sizes of neurons mapped by EyeWirers. We anticipate discovering even more strangely shaped cells. Thanks for playing and as always, we’ll see you online at


Check out KT’s promo video!

Countdown API

For our players that know how to sling some code, we have an API you can use to track progress on the countdown: It returns: completed is the number of countdown cells completed and left is the total number of countdown cells remaining. Special thanks to Nico Kemnitz (nkem), a longtime player come visiting student, for developing it!

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