Caveat lector: This blog is where I try out new ideas. I will often be wrong, but that's the point.

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Allen Institute for Brain Science

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Allen Institute for Brain Science (twitter) about my work on brainSCANr and how it integrates with their Allen Brain Atlas.

view from my hotel room
For those of you not familiar with the organization it was started by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. So far he's invested about $500,000,000 of his own money to allow the Institute to prosper. They've got several concurrent projects going on, namely looking at gene expression in the human and mouse brain, connections between regions, and so on.

They made a splash about 5 years ago with their Nature paper, "Genome-wide atlas of gene expression in the adult mouse brain" and then again in 2009 with their Nature Neuroscience paper, "An anatomic gene expression atlas of the adult mouse brain". It's my understanding they've got a huge new Nature paper coming out soon as well.

And they recently just hired consciousness neuroscience research extraordinaire Cristof Koch away from Caltech to be their Chief Science Office. Although shorter than we'd hoped, it was really nice to be able to sit and chat with him about my research and future directions.

Why are these papers so cool? Honestly it's mostly because of the amazing technology driving their massive data collection efforts. They've got an enormous facility with hundreds of scientists and automated robotic data collection systems just tearing through terabytes of data.

They were also really interested in my work with Uber... it was a pleasant surprise to meet a group of scientists who understood the importance of working with software engineers, data visualization people, and so on.

data collection facilities

It's clear Paul Allen and the Institute have built a very data-driven, tech heavy team. Their goal is not only to collect all this data, but to share it with everyone.

These are my people.

Over dinner last night there was a lot of excited talk about the future of data in neuroscience. I've said it before--and it's nice to sit with a group of scientists who agree--that I think it's arrogant to believe that the person who knows what best to do with the data that I collect is me.

And that philosophy is built into the Institute.

Don't get me wrong, they are doing amazing things with their data internally, but they really do hope that researchers will take their data and run with it and do things they couldn't imagine (which is I guess why I was invited).

They've put together what is probably the most user-friendly neuroscience data site I've seen that allows researchers to explore and play with data.

tool to explore point-to-all gene expression correlation maps
trying to get a handle on all the information!
brain data art
loving the OHBM Space Needle art

I really believe these kinds of endeavors will be the future of neuroscience: data-focused and engineering-heavy with a huge scientific team running in parallel to take part in the data exploration and to guide hypothesis-driven research.

I can't wait to see more efforts like this start popping up in the next few decades.

Lein ES, Hawrylycz MJ, Ao N, Ayres M, Bensinger A, Bernard A, Boe AF, Boguski MS, Brockway KS, Byrnes EJ, Chen L, Chen L, Chen TM, Chin MC, Chong J, Crook BE, Czaplinska A, Dang CN, Datta S, Dee NR, Desaki AL, Desta T, Diep E, Dolbeare TA, Donelan MJ, Dong HW, Dougherty JG, Duncan BJ, Ebbert AJ, Eichele G, Estin LK, Faber C, Facer BA, Fields R, Fischer SR, Fliss TP, Frensley C, Gates SN, Glattfelder KJ, Halverson KR, Hart MR, Hohmann JG, Howell MP, Jeung DP, Johnson RA, Karr PT, Kawal R, Kidney JM, Knapik RH, Kuan CL, Lake JH, Laramee AR, Larsen KD, Lau C, Lemon TA, Liang AJ, Liu Y, Luong LT, Michaels J, Morgan JJ, Morgan RJ, Mortrud MT, Mosqueda NF, Ng LL, Ng R, Orta GJ, Overly CC, Pak TH, Parry SE, Pathak SD, Pearson OC, Puchalski RB, Riley ZL, Rockett HR, Rowland SA, Royall JJ, Ruiz MJ, Sarno NR, Schaffnit K, Shapovalova NV, Sivisay T, Slaughterbeck CR, Smith SC, Smith KA, Smith BI, Sodt AJ, Stewart NN, Stumpf KR, Sunkin SM, Sutram M, Tam A, Teemer CD, Thaller C, Thompson CL, Varnam LR, Visel A, Whitlock RM, Wohnoutka PE, Wolkey CK, Wong VY, Wood M, Yaylaoglu MB, Young RC, Youngstrom BL, Yuan XF, Zhang B, Zwingman TA, & Jones AR (2007). Genome-wide atlas of gene expression in the adult mouse brain. Nature, 445 (7124), 168-76 PMID: 17151600
Ng L, Bernard A, Lau C, Overly CC, Dong HW, Kuan C, Pathak S, Sunkin SM, Dang C, Bohland JW, Bokil H, Mitra PP, Puelles L, Hohmann J, Anderson DJ, Lein ES, Jones AR, & Hawrylycz M (2009). An anatomic gene expression atlas of the adult mouse brain. Nature neuroscience, 12 (3), 356-62 PMID: 19219037