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Beyond the book: Software automates access to brain atlases

index consulting. Page turning means that researchers can't look at two or three or five images side by side or on top of each other."

Work started on the original NeuARt project ten years ago as part of the USC Human Brain Project (led by Michael Arbib who has appointments in computer science, biomedical engineering, and biological science). A team of computer scientists (Ali Dashti and Jim Stone) worked with Swanson and Thompson to create a preliminary prototype but funding ran out and the project died.

"I was involved in the later stages of that project and felt that it would be a shame just to let the idea die," said Burns, who took the lead in reviving NeuART as a part of a larger development effort he was working in, concerned with knowledge management of the neuroscience literature. Burns asked programmer Wei-Cheng Cheng to develop a prototype under the guidance of Swanson and Thompson guidance. Cheng wound up rebuilding NeuART from the ground up, said Burns.

The revised NeuARt II interface indexes the data in a variety of ways, including spatial maps and alphanumeric information, coming off a single interface. It includes all the information in the printed volumes, in a much more accessible form.

It does so without violating copyright, Burns said. Publishers of the atlases make available to purchasers of the volumes the plates included in the books on CDs, as Adobe Illustrator files.

The NeuART II software works from these CDs, checking copyright and also making sure that the user has a valid copy of Adobe illustrator, and then using a JavaScript program converting the files into a standard vector graphic (SVG) format. The SVG images are stored on the users system and organized using the software, which works on Linux, Windows and Macintosh operating system computers.

The viewer software is open source and free, and can be downloaded from

Source:University of Southern California


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