Eyewire prepares to enter… the Outer Realms!

Outer Realms, eyewire, e2198, science, citizen science

You’re invited to join a journey to the edge of the neuroverse and venture into unknown territory.

With the Amacrine Adventures wrapping up soon, and with regions like the Dig and the Countdown to Neuropia now behind us, only so much remains of e2198, the dataset behind Eyewire that was generated by Max Planck Institute in 2011. But you may be surprised to learn a good number of cells are left to trace!

Since we started tracing cells in e2198, we’ve certainly covered a lot, but once our amacrine cells run out in the Ganglion Cell Layer (GCL), Eyewire is floating back to the Inner Nuclear Layer (INL), where the 16 sectors of the Dig were traced between 2016 and early 2020. There, we’ll be exploring a strange, mysterious place that can only be dubbed the Outer Realms: the remaining INL cells that lie outside the Dig sectors. With the Outer Realms, we’re approaching the edge of the Eyewire universe. Nearly a decade later, and with the help of hundreds of thousands of people, we are finally nearing e2198’s completion.

EM image showing cross-section of the entire retina. The Eyewire dataset is labeled with a black rectangle.
ganglion, inner nuclear
3D reconstructions of neurons mapped by Eyewirers from the ganglion and nuclear layer. The Inner Plexiform Layer is where all the synapses and dendrites of Eyewire neurons are found.

The Outer Realms are shown below in blue. You may notice that the reconstruction zones don’t reach all the way to the ends of the dataset. As you get closer to the edge, the images have more cracks and other defects that trip up the 3D segmentation, riddling reconstructions with fused mergers that make mapping them impossible.

Eyewire reconstruction zones, eyewire, infographic

These cells will be familiar if you played in the Dig: a mixture of several types of amacrine cells, plus bipolar cells. However, this time we’ll be starting with these 8 sectors, in which Level 1 cells will be called Lightyear cells, and Level 2 cells will be called Parsec cells; just like entering the furthest reaches of our solar system, this is the final frontier of e2198, and we expect some weird and wild phenomena!

At this time, HQ has no solid estimate for when we will finish the Outer Realms, but we hope you’ll join us for this dizzying, amazing exploration— because after this, Eyewire is going to change in ways never before seen! The Outer Realms aren’t an end, but they’ll start the transition to a whole new world.

As always: FOR SCIENCE!

Artwork by Amy Sterling