Dept.: Professor, Departments Biological Structure, Medical Education and Biomedical Informatics, Computer Science and Engineering
My primary neuroscience-related interest is neuroinformatics, that is, the representation, management, sharing, visualization and utilization of neuroscience data and knowledge. This field has arisen largely as a result of the national Human Brain Project (HBP), which was initiated by neuroscientists at NIH and elsewhere because of the recognition that, with over 25,000 abstracts presented at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, it has become impossible for any individual to keep up with more than a small subset of the available information about the brain, yet it is perhaps only by integrating large amounts of information that a holistic view of brain function will emerge.
Within our group, which is called the Structural Informatics Group (http://sig.biostr.washington.edu) because of our belief that structure is a rational foundation for organizing biomedical information, our neuroinformatics work is currently done in collaboration with neuroscientists David Corina and George Ojemann, and more recently with Gwen Garden and Rick Morrison. For each of these groups we are or will be building web-based software tools to manage complex, heterogeneous and often voluminous local lab data, and to link these local information systems together in distributed large-scale information networks. In so doing we encounter many informatics research issues in image and signal processing, databases, visualization, knowledge representation, simulation, and system design. These issues arise as we try to deal with the complex and ever-changing nature of neuroscience data, the difficulties in relating data from different labs, the need to interconnect data with computational models and data mining tools, and the need to provide seamless and easy-to-use web interfaces for neuroscientist users. Our approach to these problems is inspired by the nervous system itself: build local information systems, and then gradually link them together over the Internet into ever-larger networks of interacting information. As we gradually build these networks we are continually interested in working with neuroscientists who have an interest in these types of informatics problems, and who can work with us to either develop or apply informatics solutions to their own domains.