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Mozak turns brain mapping into video game

Mozak video game
Mozak employs citizen scientists and gamers to trace the intricate shapes of neurons, as shown by the purple lines above, and to speed fundamental brain science research. (UW Graphic)

game called Mozak is turning thousands of Internet users into “tracers” who help neuroscientists map out the tangled circuitry of brain cells.

The citizen-science project was created by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science in partnership with the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

Mozak took a share of the spotlight at last October’s White House Science Fair, but the project is just now coming out of beta. In a news release, UW says results gleaned from the game have helped the Allen Institute’s researchers reconstruct neurons 3.6 times faster than previous methods.

Guided by online tutorials, the game’s tracers can produce neuron reconstructions that are 70 to 90 percent complete, compared to the 10 to 20 percent success rate for the most effective computer-generated reconstructions.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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