Baylor represented at White House Frontiers Conference

President Barack Obama hosted the White House Frontiers Conference last month at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University and among the featured exhibits was one that included work by the lab of Dr. Andreas Tolias, associate professor of neuroscience at Baylor.

The exhibit, “Using Games to Map the Brain,” is part of the Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) program supported by the U.S. government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).  (Read more here.) This exhibit was designed by Princeton University and Eyewire, and is based on data collected by the Allen Institute for Brain Science and Baylor College of Medicine.

In Eyewire, a game created by the Seung Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, neurons are mapped in 3D. A quarter million gamers have logged on and turned big data in to carefully charted 3D neural circuits. At the Frontiers Conference, Eyewire showcased a new version of this project, “EyeWire Neo,” which is based on data collected by the Allen Institute and Tolias Lab.

Dr. Jacob Reimer, assistant professor of neuroscience, says the data collected by him and his colleagues consists of rapidly recorded images of neural activity in mice brains as they observe different visual stimuli. Using activity-sensitive fluorescent proteins, these recordings show which neurons in the brain light up in response to different stimuli.

“We collect multiple movies at different depths in the brain and characterize a couple thousand cells in small areas in the mouse cortex,” Reimer said. “Our collaborators at the AIBS then find the exact location where we have recorded activity and perform electron microscopy to get an incredibly high-resolution image of the structure. From these images, the Princeton group can extract cells, dendrites, axons, and even the tiny synaptic connections between cells.”

The Baylor researchers involved in this project includes the Pitkow and Patel labs, led by respectively Dr. Xaq Pitkow, assistant professor of neuroscience, and Dr. Ankit Patel, assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University.

The White House Frontiers Conference was created to explore innovation across the globe, focusing on how the U.S. can face challenges and continue to excel in the fields of science and technology.