EyeLearn on EyeWire!


In 2010, the NIH announced that it would award 40 million to fund the Human Connectome Project. The goal of this project is to build a “network map” that will shed
light on the anatomical and functional connectivity within the healthy human brain.
In the Seung lab, we aim to go a step beyond the NIH initiative: our challenge is to understand not only regional connections in the brain, but the connections between individual neurons. Neuroscientists have found ample evidence that thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are encoded in intricate patterns of neural activity that flicker across
our brains. However, in order to study this activity, it is necessary to generate 3D
reconstructions of neurons to see how their structure and connectivity contribute to
their function.
A collaborative team of scientists, software engineers, artists, teachers
and social networking experts in the Seung lab have created EyeWire.org, where “citizen scientists” help create these 3D reconstructions via interactive game-play. This summer, in collaboration with the MIT Online Science and Technology Educational
Community (MOSTEC), the lab offered an online course on neuroscience and connectomics to 24 students across the country, which culminated with a symposium at MIT.

We have since expanded our curriculum and educational partners, and aim to teach another course in January 2013; this time, however, it will be offered a number of our partner schools across the globe. Students from different countries will be paired up, and will work on EyeWire while developing a proposal for how to propagate citizen science throughout their communities. The students will work for prizes that will allow them to implement their proposals.

As science progresses, it is becoming increasingly useful for students to learn about neuroscience early on: increasing understanding of the brain and improved methods to study it will enable the scientists of tomorrow to develop treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and mental illnesses. Research will also contribute to our understanding about normal human behavior and mental well-being, will help greatly in the development of artificial intelligence, and will also lead to better understanding of how we learn, allowing optimization of human intelligence.

The class in January will make extensive use of TED-Ed, a new branch of TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. On the Ted-Ed website, there is a library of carefully curated educational videos, many of which represent collaborations between talented educators and animators nominated through the TED-Ed platform. TED-EdThis platform allows users to take any useful educational video and easily create a customized lesson around the video. Users can distribute the lessons, publicly or privately, and track their impact on the world, a class, or an individual student. All of the videos developed for the class will be permanently archived on both the Seung Lab’s and TED-Ed’s YouTube channels.

By participating in this program, students in both developed and developing countries will gain exposure to advanced science that they otherwise would very likely have no means of access- ing. Our goal is to not only pique the curiousity of these students in science and neuroscience, but to inspire them to reach out to others in their communities and to encourage widespread participation in citizen science projects. By joining together students from different countries, we also hope to create a global community for the neuroscientists of tomorrow!

Want to get involved? Contact Claire at ceo@mit.edu!

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