Compared to gene and protein data, which involve relatively simple sequences, the diverse nature of data characterizing brain activity is, well, mind-boggling. Data can range from functional magnetic resonance images of brain structures to action potentials. According to the Society for Neuroscience, more than 70 neuroinformatics databases and tools are in development right now; but most of them gather imaging, rather than action potential, data. A select few, however, gather neurophysiological data about intercellular interactions; one of those is
"The overall goal of
Gardner recently described Neurodatabase. org in an...
EASE OF USE
A chief objective has been to make the database easy to use and functional across a range of computer platforms and datasets. The data are submitted to
A key issue with any database is making the data conform to a set of standards. Gardner and his colleagues make use of an XML-based markup language called BrainML, a data-description standard that allows transmission of data from
"From what I've seen,
SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
The success of
According to Van Essen, a mixed spectrum of attitudes exists towards data sharing. "Some scientists are hesitant to share it beyond the traditional methods," he notes. But for many scientists, the big impediment has been a lack of databases that are both available and reasonably easy to work with. "You don't just want to dump in piles of unmanageable data. But now we have a number of databases that are becoming heavily populated with a rich spectrum of data," Van Essen says.
So far, Jones has seen only one or two examples of the successful use of databases to obtain novel, original findings. Still, he says, the field is getting accustomed to using databases and to the concept of data sharing. "Some older scientists are perhaps resistant, but they will get over it."
- Emma Hitt