Neuroscientists Rely On Gamers To Further Brain Research

Neuroscientists Rely On Gamers To Further Brain Research

A group of researches at MIT have developed a game to map out neural pathways in the human brain.

John Pugh, BI
  • 17 march 2013

Imagine if every time you kicked back to relax and play some video games, you were also helping scientists get closer to solving complex medical issues. The implications could be quite powerful, as it is estimated that Earth’s population spends approximately 3 billion per week playing computer games. Harnessing even a fraction of this work towards scientific research would have the potential to lead to a wealth of discovery.


A group of neuroscientists at MIT have done just that with a game called EyeWire, which challenges participants to map out neural pathways in the human brain. Players get a virtual cube of material packed with a tangle of neurons to analyze. The layout resembles a three-dimensional coloring book: a computer looks over the model and does a rough sketch to map out a single neural branch amid the tangle, leaving the player to go over the details and accurately fill in any missing spots. Meticulously passing over and coloring in each slice eventually leads to the mapping of complete neural pathways.

Although the game does use a certain amount of artificial intelligence to map out the neurons, at this point human vision is still much better than machine for correctly picking out patterns in this kind of task. Additionally, the AI is actively learning each and every time a player plays the game, leading to more accurate digital tracing in the future.


The amount of information to be mapped is massive. Researchers estimate there are 100 billion neurons in the brain with an estimated one million miles of connectivity, enough to encircle the globe 40 times. It takes an MIT-trained neuroscientist 15 to 80 hours to reconstruct a single neuron, which in turn would take 570 million years to map out the entire brain. EyeWire currently has over 40,000 registered and active users, resulting in more than 500 hours of work per day spent mapping out neurons. Through this gamified approach, the seemingly impossibly large task of mapping out the brain is made possible by enlisting the help of willing gamers.

Sebastien Seung, one of the designers of the project, says:

We need an army of people to go out and explore that jungle. Professional scientists are too few in number to do all that by themselves, so why not engage the public? It’s a great adventure. What could be more exciting than exploring the brain? It’s much more exciting than any artificial video game.


Scientifically focused games such as EyeWire give researchers a way to draft the assistance of people completely outside the usual academic realm, which is generally a very closed off group. By being open for anyone and everyone to play, users are not required to have any sort of degree or higher qualification. Gamified science platforms such as this have great potential to harness human’s playful ingenuity towards constructive ends.


PSFK has partnered with  Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Innovation Yesterday

After The Initial Success Of AR Gaming, What Does The Future Hold?

With Pokemon GO earning up to $10m a day, R&D departments are busy searching for the next phase

Arts & Culture Yesterday

The Next Great Art Movement Will Come At The Swipe Of A Finger

An improved app, optimized digital display and monthly art discovery service round out Electric Objects' renewed commitment to democratizing the art world


Get PSFK's Related Report: Sports Debrief

See All
Retail Yesterday

A TV Streaming Service Is Designed Just For Kids

Toca TV is a new platform offering thousands of original and curated children's videos for a monthly subscription fee

Travel Yesterday

Bus Stop Transformed Into A Fitness Station For Commuters

Sports drink company Lucozade live-streamed an athletic trainer working out at a stop in Manchester to encourage travelers to get moving

Technology Yesterday

Shiseido And Microsoft Have Created A Makeup Filter For Women Who Telecommute

The Japanese cosmetic company built an augmented reality app that works alongside Skype for Business

Mobile Yesterday

Samsung Is Using AR To Help Beachgoers Stay Safe

Pocket Patrol utilizes a phone's camera to promote beach safety and educate people about hidden hazards

Design & Architecture Yesterday

500 Plastic Chairs Used To Create A Recyclable Pavilion

Design agency CODA built a grandoise art piece from simple lawn furniture


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Marketing Experts: Millennials And The Power Of Cool

'Good Is The New Cool' Authors Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones share their 7 principles for branding with a social impact

PSFK Labs Yesterday

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

Retail Yesterday

Exchange Your Old Razors For New Ones At This Bartershop

The subscription-based shaving company lets customers trade their unwanted razors for Harry's brand steel at a temporary New York pop-up

Food Yesterday

A Brewer Has Created The Most Expensive Chips To Snack On

St. Eriks Brewery created crisps made from rare mushrooms to go with its artisan beer, donating all proceeds to charity

Travel Yesterday

Melbourne Hotel Lets Guests Stay In Their Own Chrome Airstream Trailers

Notel is a luxury rooftop with six guest rooms made from vintage 1970s mobile homes

Infants Yesterday

Battery Powered Cradle Will Rock Itself

NoomiNoomi is a clever device that makes it easier to put babies to sleep

Sustainability Yesterday

Swedish Citizens Get A Tax Break For Repairing Old Goods

A sustainability initiative encourages people to fix, rather than replace, broken objects

Fitness & Sport Yesterday

How Precision Data Can Make Anyone A Better Performer

The Sports Debrief from PSFK Labs looks at how analytic tools are being developed to optimize human performance across all industries

Home Yesterday

You Can Now Buy Furniture From A Daytime TV Show

Home furnishing online retailer Wayfair is partnering with Lifetime to create a shoppable life improvement television program

Social Media Yesterday

Instagram Tool Prevents People From Harming Themselves

A new anonymous reporting option on the social media platform hopes to provide better emotional support for users

No search results found.