Time-Wasting Tip #15 for the Overworked Grad Student

Graduate Division

Got a long incubation time to kill? Waiting for your cells to spin? Bored in-between classes? In class? This week, we have another science game for you to waste your time with—this time, with the wonders of z-stack microscopy of the human brain.

Eyewire.org is an online Flash-based game that lets you help scientists track the pathways of neurons within the human retina. To do this, scientists painstakingly took images at many different depths of focus in retinal tissue, to generate what are called “z-stacks” of images.

Then, an artificial intelligence (AI) program tries to trace each individual neuron through the stack to see where the cells are located in 3-D space. The game is built for people to assist the AI when it gets stuck, by manually going through each stack and highlighting regions of the image that look as if they match the neuron being mapped.

It’s like a coloring book where the lines all look like blobs, and a robot has half-colored in one of them. It’s your job to help color the rest! It’s another addicting, visually oriented game that will both waste time and help fellow scientists with their work.