You Can Help Science: Play This Video Game to Help Build Models of Neurons

It might not be one of your favorite classic cocktail arcade games, but it’s exciting to play all the same. “Mozak” allows you to have a hand in the scientific mapping of the brain’s neurons. Instead of relaxing in front of the TV at night, try your hand at tracing the shape of a brain neuron instead.

Not only will you find the game soothing with its calm music, you’ll be helping scientists create three-dimensional models of neurons which could someday lead to the development of effective treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Cataloging Neuron Structure Is Important

Dr. Zoran Popovic, a professor at the University of Washington and overseer of the school’s Center for Game Science, developed “Mozak” in collaboration with the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

The central purpose behind the game is to harness human skill to map out the structures of the 87 billion neurons in the human brain. Neurons are plentiful and intricate, but if scientists are able to understand the structure of each, they can better understand why degenerative brain diseases occur. It will help guide the development of effective treatments that one day may be able to curb the damage and preserve brain function.

How the Game Is Helping

“Mozak” is serving two purposes. First, the players are successfully mapping neurons at a drastically higher rate than professional analysts were able to complete on their own. Previously, the Allen Institute was accomplishing 2.33 neural reconstructions a week, but now they’re logging 8.3 reconstructions per week.

Also, as hundreds of people play “Mozak” a day, it’s training computers to do the same. It’s hard for computers to translate the grainy pictures of neurons into 3D models, but as more humans successfully complete the task, it helps computers learn how to accurately form models as well, leading to future automation of the project.

Dedicated Players Are Given Credit

Currently over 200 people play “Mozak” on a daily basis. The most dedicated players will be credited for their work. You can earn points as you complete neurons and move on to the next. There’s also a chat room where you can discuss the challenges of the game with other players. Start building neurons! Science thanks you.