Breaking Records Doing Science

crazyman crazy stats in EyeWire

Last night @crazyman4865, a previous Daily Top Score Recordholder in EyeWire, declared a battle for victory over @a5hm0r who dethroned him last week.

Fast forward 12 hours and check the leaderbaord. Crazyman is up to 62,000 points with Ash not far behind at 46,000. This is a new scoring time record in EyeWire!

How did they get so many points?

starburst structure bouton neuron eyewireThe Starburst Challenge. Advancing to level 2 unlocks double points. More importantly, in EyeWire HQ’s opinion, it will make you proficient at discovering branches of Starburst Neurons. These difficult to reconstruct cells have complex branches with important structures called “boutons,” which form synapses with J Cells.

Let’s rewind. The goal of EyeWire is to map connections among neurons in the retina. We do this in order to understand how and why a connectome, a map of neural connections, consists of sub-circuits that process information. To do this, we need to identify cells, their branches and the synapses that link them. From this map, we can understand how signal transmission results in information transfer.

synapses explained in eyewire

We’re on a quest to understand how direction selectivity works.

The J Cell only responds to upward motion — this means that when an object in your field of vision moves up, the J Cell fires, propagating a signal down your optic nerve deep into the brain.

How does a neuron only respond to one direction of motion, but not others? The answer has to do with both its shape and connectivity.

The J Cell is asymetrical, as you’ve surely noticed when as you navigate the 3D interface in EyeWire. J Cell dendrites (branches), rather than being round like the tree structure we often associate with neurons, exibit the characteristic shape you see below.

J Cell Top and side EyeWire

Starburst neurons, on the other hand, branch out in all directions, but they’re still flat from the side, as you see below.


These two neuron types make connections in the retina. Below, we’ve superimposed several J Cells with Starburst branches, all mapped in EyeWire.

J and Starburst neural networks mapped in EyeWire

We think we have made an important discovery about how direction selectivity works, which has to do with where the starburst cells make synapses onto Js. To be sure, we need to map more starburst branches. The Starburst Challenge, therefore, is much more than points. Playing will help unlock mysteries of the mind.

Join over 58,000 people who are trailblazing the future of neuroscience at


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