Sunday, 22 February 2015

EyeWire: Playing and Learning at the Same Time

by David Danso-Amoako

I want to tell you about a way in which you can make a huge contribution to the science of mapping our brain - by playing an online game. 

How? Well, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), they were trying to map the human brain in order to understand how neurons work in our brains. This used to be an impossible undertaking because it would take years to map one single neuron, let alone the 100 billion in our brain. However, neuroscientist Sebastian Seung and his team from MIT found a way to advance progress of their precise mapping by making a game called EyeWire to involve people in the ongoing project to map the human brain.

Scientists at MIT scanned neurons in a mouse brain, which is similar to a human brain.The paths of these neurons were then mapped through the use of their own artificial intelligence software.  Unfortunately, there were gaps in the path of the neurons that the artificial intelligence mapped. To fix this they have developed a game where the path of the neuron is shown in a cube. Players are then invited to correct the image from the artificial intelligence by filling in the gaps. In the game you would try to colour in the complete path of a neuron that has already been partially filled with what you think are missing. This helps the artificial intelligence to make fewer mistakes by learning from players’ correct mapping.

This project has worked very well and the team is now proud because the project has improved their speed of mapping a single mouse brain neuron from two weeks to two days, which is good time saving. Players who consistently map neurons correctly are able to reach the level “Master of the Scythe” at the end of the game. Once you reach this stage, you will be able to manage the global community of players and amend their work to see what is correct and what is incorrect. In the future, after mapping the mouse brain, we could, through this game, map the human brain which would be an excellent achievement.

Imagine if, like those in MIT, we could make our work more appealing through games.We could be more actively engaged in our learning. An example of good application in learning is Hour of Code 2014 in which the Angry Birds game is used to teach us the simple way to code. Another good example is how some typing software uses car racing to help improve the speed of child and adult typing.

If we could somehow transfer this learning to our subjects in school, we would be able to learn at our own pace. We would be able to retain more of the learning we do as individuals and as a group. We would enjoy learning and do well in school and perform well on tests that we have. If we make learning fun, we will have more fun working harder than ever before. In addition, if we have been making mistakes we can learn quickly and easily from the games what our mistakes are and from this response we can change our way of doing things.

If you want to join EyeWire, please click this link - - and you will be able to create your own account and contribute to EyeWire. By joining this online game you will be able to make a huge contribution to the science of mapping our brain and enjoy it at the same time.

Thank you for reading. 

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