$75,000 Prize for Neuronal Circuit Reconstruction

17 04 2009

Want to make $75,000?  Good at algorithm design?  Read on…


Neuroscientists map the tree-like structure of nerve cells to better understand how networks of neurons assemble into circuits to enable complex behavior. Despite the advent of computer technology that enables mapping in three dimensions, neuronal reconstructions are still largely performed by hand and reconstructing a single cell may take months. The vast majority of axons (the long neuronal projections that transmit information to neighboring cells) and dendrites (the branches on nerve cells that receive information from neighboring cells) must be traced manually.

The lack of powerful – and effective – computational tools to automatically reconstruct neuronal arbors has emerged as a major technical bottleneck in neuroscience research.

Organizers of a new competition hope to provide incentives for the development of new computer algorithms to advance the field – including a cash prize of up to $75,000 for the qualifying winner.

The DIADEM Competition – short for Digital Reconstruction of Axonal and Dendritic Morphology – will bring together computational and experimental scientists to test the most promising new approaches against the latest data in a real-world environment.

The competition is open to individuals and teams from the private sector and academic laboratories.

Competitors will have a year to design an algorithm and to test it against the manual gold standard. Up to five finalists will compete in a tournament at the Janelia Farm Research Campus in August 2010.

The prize has been established by the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The National Institutes of Health is providing support for a scientific conference that is independent of – but held in conjunction with – the tournament phase of the DIADEM Challenge.




3 responses

17 04 2009

Is it related to the project of A Better Wiring Guide to the Mammalian Brain supported by HHMI and led by Xiaowei Zhuang?

19 04 2009
Daniel Evanko

I stumbled on your blog when checking out the activity in the blogosphere around the DIADEM Challenge. I’m surprised at how little talk there is. Is this indicative of the small size of the community, the fact that they already know about the competition, or is it something about the blogging community?

BTW, very informative blog.

24 04 2009

The answer to Kent’s question is “No”.
Once you have a fluorescent image of one neuron, let alone many, it is very difficult and time consuming to make a model of this.
Several commercial (=expensive) and academic (=free) methods for tracing exist, but none work very well for more than one neuron.
And none come close to being really automatic.
Automated reconstruction of three-dimensional neuronal morphology from laser scanning microscopy images. Methods 30 (2003) 94–105 is very helpful summary.
I for one hope the Diadem project works! We image hundreds of neurons in living mice and feel overwhelmed by the “data”.

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