You are on page 1of 4

ADVERTISEMENT

Subscription Center
Sign In | Register

Subscribe to Print + Digital


Subscribe to Digital

SearchScientificAmerican.com

Give a Gift
Buy the Latest Issue

Subscribe

News & Features

Topics

Blogs

Videos & Podcasts

Mind Scientific American Volume 313, Issue 3 Forum

Education
::

Citizen Science

Email ::

Print

SA Magazine

SA Mind

Books

SA en espaol

More from Scientific American

Why Neuroscience Needs Hackers


Brain researchers are overwhelmed with data. Hackers can help
ByDanielGoodwin | Aug18,2015

Therewasatimewhenneuroscientists
couldonlydreamofhavingsuchaproblem.
Nowthefantasyhascometrue,andtheyare
strugglingtosolveit.Brilliantnew
exploratorydevicesareoverwhelmingthe
fieldwithanavalancheofrawdataabout
thenervoussystem'sinnerworkings.The
troubleisthatevenstartingtomakesense
ofthisbonanzaofinformationhasbecomea
superhumanchallenge.
Justabouteverybranchofscienceisfacing
asimilardisruption.Aslaboratorybench
researchmigratesintothedigitalrealm,

ADVERTISEMENT

WesleyBedrosian

programmingisbecominganindispensablepartoftheprocess.Atthesametime,
previouslydependablesourcesoffinancialsupportaredryingup.Theresulthasbeen
apainfulscarcityofjobsandgrantswhich,inturn,isimpellingfartoomanygifted
researcherstofocusontheirnarrowareasofspecializationratherthaninvestingtime
andenergyintoacquiringnew,computerageskills.Infieldswheredatagrowthis
especiallyoutofcontrol,suchasneuroscience,thedemandforcomputerexpertiseis
growingasquicklyastheinformationitself.
Scienceurgentlyneedshackershackersintheoriginal,TechModelRailroadClubof
theMassachusettsInstituteofTechnologysenseoftheword.Theirengineeringand
designskillswillbeuseful,butwhatismostdesirableisthetruehacker's
resourcefulness,curiosityandappetiteforfreshchallenges.Particularlyinafieldlike
neuroscience,helperscouldbeinvaluableinexploringthedauntingwildernessof
newlyrevealedneuralnetworks.
Afewpioneersareleadingtheway.OneisH.SebastianSeung,aprofessoratthe
NeuroscienceInstituteandinthedepartmentofcomputerscienceatPrinceton
University.Afewyearsagoheandhiscollaboratorssetouttomaptheretina'sneural
connections.Astheycollectedanoverwhelmingmassofelectronmicroscopydata,the
questionwashowtheywouldevermanagetointerpretitall.Seung'sfamiliaritywith
stateoftheartcomputingtoldhimthatnoartificialintelligencealgorithmin
existencecouldpossiblyhandlethetaskalone.

Follow Us:

SEE ALSO:

Health:ResearchersSeekCancerCluesfromPetDogs|Sustainability:HowModern

Most Popular

AgricultureCanSavetheGorillasofVirunga|Tech:AreWeontheCuspofWarin

WhenGrasshoppersGo
Biblical:SerotoninCauses
LocuststoSwarm

Space?|TheSciences:TheMysteryoftheCat'sInnerEyelid

Thesolutionthenalmostunheardofinlabsciencewastoenlistthousandsof
humanvolunteersalongsideastateoftheartAIandharnesstheircollective
brainpower.OnDecember10,2012,Seungandhisteamlaunchedtheonlinegame

TheMilkyWay'sMissing
Mass:PartiallyFound

EyeWire,inwhichplayersscorepointsbyhelpingtoimproveaneuralmap.Abouta
yearandahalflaterthegame'screatorspublishedtheirfirstdiscoveriesinNature,
togetherwithanotesharingcovetedcoauthorcreditwiththe2,183playerswhohad
reachedthegame'stopranksandmadethepaperpossible.(ScientificAmericanis

TheWorldReallyCouldGo
Nuclear

partofSpringerNature.)
Hackersarefindingtheirownroutesintoneuroscience.Inlate2013Brooklyn,N.Y.
baseddesignersJoelMurphyandConorRussomannointroducedOpenBCI,anopen
sourcebraincomputerinterfacebasicallyahomebrewedelectroencephalographic

HowBigIsScience?

device.KitsandplansareavailablefromtheirWebsiteforjustafractionofastandard
EEG'scost,andbyallaccountsitworksjustaswellasthebigbudgetmodels.Their
twomonthlongKickstartercampaignsoldnearly1,000unitsandcaughttheattention

VolkswagenUsesSoftware
toFoolEPAPollutionTests

ofacademicresearchlabs.It'sjustanotherexampleofhowtraditionalbarriersare
crumblingbetweeninstitutionalscienceandindividualswithnewideas.Infact,some
labshavebegunpostingresearchchallengeswithcashprizesoncrowdsourcingsites
suchasKaggleandInnoCentive.Thesedaysifaresearchentitychoosesnottoexplore
suchcollaborativeapproaches,itisindangerofbeingleftbehind.

Solve Innovation Challenges


Thesoftwaredesigncommunityhasdemonstratedoverthepast20yearsthatmassive
onlinecollaborationscanworkwonders.Todaythephysicalsciencesareonly
beginningtodiscoverthatpotential.Establishedscientistswoulddowelltorecognize
thattruehackersaremotivatedbychallengeandhonestprideinseeingwhattheycan
do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)


DanielGoodwinisadoctoralresearcherintheSyntheticNeurobiologyGroupatthe
MassachusettsInstituteofTechnology.Thispiecewaswrittenwhilehewasaresearch
scientistattheSimonsCenterforDataAnalysisinNewYorkCity.
Thisarticlewasoriginallypublishedwiththetitle"NeuroscienceNeedsHackers."

PortableRoofDamageDetection

Deadline: Nov 10 2015


Reward: $75,000 USD
The Seeker desires a technology that can detect seen
and unseen anomalies, such as hail damage, on
asphalt shingle roofs. The technology
TheSUDEPInstituteChallenge:Preventing
EpilepsySeizures
Deadline: Oct 13 2015
Reward: $30,000 USD
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the
leading cause of death in young adults who have
epilepsy and poorly controlled seizur
More Challenges

Buy this digital issue or subscribe to access other articles from the September 2015 publication.

Powered By:

Already have an account? Sign In


Digital Issue
$5.99

Digital Issue + Subscription


$39.99

Add To Cart

Subscribe

You May Also Like

ADVERTISEMENT

Latest from SA Blog Network


SexuallyDeceptiveOrchidSeeksSpecialty
Pollinator
Extinction Countdown | 3 hours ago

ScientificAmericanBringsSponsorship,Cool
Demosto2015GoogleScienceFair
@ScientificAmerican | 3 hours ago

TeensWhoWonGoogleScienceFairTooka
LeapofImagination
Budding Scientist | 19 hours ago

Darwin'sEncounterwithaChileanEarthquake
Rosetta Stones | 19 hours ago

Scientific American
Single Issue

Your Inner Genius

Scientific American
Archive Single Issue

The Quest for the


Periodic Table

YourFavoriteCandidateSpeaksSimplistically.
That'sOK.ForNow.
PsySociety | 22 hours ago

Share this Article:

News From Our Partners

InClashwithPope'sClimateCall,U.S.Church

Recommended For You

LeasesDrillingRights

BrainStimulationinChildrenSpursHopeand
Concern

1.
Why There Will Never Be Another Einstein a month
ago blogs.scientificamerican.com ScientificAmerican.com More
Science

"Supermoon"EclipseOffersRisk,Rewardfor
NASAMoonProbe

HowWillAmericanCatholicsRespondtoPope's
MessageonClimateChange?

ADVERTISEMENT

2.
Battle of Gallipoli: A
Strategic View, 1915 4 months ago blogs.scientificamerican.com
ScientificAmerican.com
Comments
Oldest - Newest

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit


a comment.

ADVERTISEMENT

Science Jobs of the Week


Research Associate HCIF Bioinformatician
University of Bristol

Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental medicine and


Epidemiology
University of Gothenburg (GU)

Bioinformatician
John Innes Centre (JIC)

More jobs from Naturejobs.com

2015 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.


All Rights Reserved.
YES! Send me a free issue of Scientific
American with no obligation to continue
the subscription. If I like it, I will be billed
for the one-year subscription.

Subscribe Now

Advertise

About Scientific American

Subscribe

Special Ad Sections

Press Room

Renew Your Print Subscription

SA Custom Media and


Partnerships

Site Map

Print Subscriber Customer


Service

Science Jobs
Partner Network
International Editions
Travel

Terms of Use
Privacy Policy
Use of Cookies

Buy Back Issues


FAQs
Contact Us