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Beyond the book: Software automates access to brain atlases

USC computer scientists have found a cheap, quick and copyright-respecting way to turn existing print brain atlases into multimedia resources. The software, now available in an experimental beta version for free download, is a robust and user-friendly interface that works on all the most popular computer operating systems.

"Brain atlases are basic tools for researchers in neural science," says Gully A.P.C. Burns, a specialist in neuroinformatics who works as a research scientist at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, part of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. "Our NeuARt II system will make them much more user-friendly.

The same viewing system, Burns believes, can help neuroscientists store, organize and use data from ongoing experiments.

Burns was part of a team of computer experts and neuroscientists that worked with Larry W. Swanson of the USC Neuroscience Institute, author of the standard printed rat brain atlas, Brain Maps, Structure of the Rat Brain, (Elsevier Academic Press, 1992-2004) to produce the NeuroARt II viewer, following up on years of earlier development. "The entire design of our approach arose from practical methods" from Swanson's lab, according to the paper on the project Burns co-authored, published this month in the online journal BMC Bioinformatics.

The NeuARt approach draws from a wide range of methods of displaying and organize visual information. The challenge is making it easier to consult and compare data about a three-dimensional organ ?a rat, mouse, or human brain ?that is stacked up in hundreds or thousands of cross sectional views.

Now researchers need to open a book to do this, which can slow things down.

"Researchers need to be able to find a given segment immediately, and compare the segment with any other," says Burns. "To do this using a printed volume like Swanson's involved continual back and forth page turning and
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Source:University of Southern California


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