Online Game Helps Scientists Map Neuron Connections of the Retina

Sebastian Seung, TED talk alumnus and MIT neuroscientist, reaches out for some unlikely help in mapping the hundreds of millions of neuron connections in our eyes.

With EyeWire, a simple time-wasting online game not that different than Angry Birds or Draw Something, online gamers are tasked with coloring in the neurons as they split and branch through a 3-D image of the brain. The byproduct, of course, is thousands of hours of human interpretation of neuron images by “citizen scientists.”

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“The brain is, in my opinion, the greatest quest of our time. We don’t even know how many types of cells are in the retina, much less the entire brain. We land on Mars, skydive from space and grow organs — yet the most alien territory is so close to home. In the future we intend to augment the research of many labs with our community of citizen neuroscientists and help map the first entire human brain.” – Amy Robinson, Neuroscientist working on the project.

The game is just OK. It fills that need to do something thoughtless for a moment. The tutorial, with six levels, is far too long. However, there is an added sense of satisfaction over other games because you walk away knowing that you just added a tiny piece of information to the collective knowledge of humanity. For some, that’s enough to keep coming back for more.

EyeWire can be played at

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