Mapping the retina via a game


Crowd-sourcing human person-power to solve complex or ambiguous problems that computers aren’t good at, isn’t new. People have proven invaluable at folding proteins, designing RNA sequences, or helping recognize Orca vocalizations.

The newest attempt on the block to play off our love of playing games, for science, is EyeWire. A game to map the neural connections in the retina. “Only if we mobilize an army of fearless explorers will we ever succeed in mapping out all the connections in the retina,” says Sebastian Seung, a professor of neuroscience at MIT.

How it plays is easy enough: you’re presented with a “cube” of microscopic eyeflesh, and you need to help the AI identify where the wiggly little neurons are going. By using our eyes, and our brain’s rather great ability to spot patterns, you slide the “slice” on the right up and down through the 3D structure of the cube, marking where you think the neuron is going, and the visualization on the left builds a 3D neuron out of your guess. Once you think you’ve mapped it all out, even the little branches, you submit and move on to the next.

All for the glory of science, or if you prefer, the global high-score list.

Try it yourself: EyeWire