Yesterday I gave a talk at SCI on our retinal reconstruction project, that I’ve mentioned briefly before. This project is designed to completely reconstruct a mammalian retina at the ultrastructural level, identifying all neuronal types and all synaptic connections. It is an ambitious project, but one that we have the tools to complete. Exploration of the retina has been a 150 year journey to understand and elucidate its structure and function. We as a scientific community are close to a superficial understanding of how the retina works, but if we are truly to understand blinding disease and discover how to intervene biologically or bionically, a complete understanding of the circuitry of the retina will be required. To accomplish this, through our collaboration with the folks down at SCI, we are building new approaches to the discovery and mapping of neural systems. In addition to the Computational Molecular Phenotyping strategies based on a metabolomic approach, we have developed, the creation of software tools that streamline workflows that enable high-throughput of non-linear automated image mosaicking and image registration with high precision combined with process segmentation and tracking are what we are after. Finally, the identification of synapses or connection points in large terabyte sized data sets need to be mapped along with neuronal identity, enabling a new age of neuroscience discovery bridging identity, connection and function. We are pretty excited about all this and the collaboration that has been under hot development with the folks at SCI for the past two years.
One might be surprised from looking at the two images above that the one with all of the displays is not the office of the computer scientist. Rather that one is my office, the bioscientists office, where I get to bathe myself in cold cathode light while the sparse office with a laptop and floor to ceiling windows filling the room with natural light is Tolga’s office. If I had a choice, Tolga’s would be the one, but I still think it needs an Asian screen, a Persian carpet and a small, low coffee table.
As an interesting aside, when I was setting up for my talk in the Evans & Sutherland conference room, I looked over to see a Merlin, something rarely seen these days and something I had not seen since the late 70s or early 80s when we had one. The cool thing was that it still worked, so James had to play with it a bit remarking “wow, this was made the year before I was born”… Which I suppose is true, if not a little surprising.