Traditionally, the study of the brain was organized somewhat like an archipelago. Neuroscientists would inhabit their own island or peninsula of the brain, and see little reason to venture elsewhere.
Molecular neuroscientists, who study how DNA and RNA function in the brain, didn’t share their work with cognitive specialists who study how psychological and cognitive functions are produced by the brain, for example.
But there has been an awakening to the idea that brains of humans and mammals should be studied like the complex, and interrelated systems that they are. Neuroscientists realized that they had to start collaborating across disciplines and sharing their data if they wanted to make advances in their own field.
Ellisman and his UCSD colleagues have devised a solution: crowdsource a brain. And this week they unveiled their years-long project — the Whole Brain Catalog — at the annual convention of the Society for Neuroscience, the largest gathering of brain experts in the world.
You can also see an impressive artists rendition of the Whole Brain Catalog on YouTube.
UPDATE 10/27: Looks like Voice of San Diego scooped the New York Times, who just posted on this topic in today’s bits blog.
Full disclosure: I am intimately involved with this project.