Two thousand online gamers in 100 countries have helped biologists to draw a 3D image of the tangle of different nerve fibres (shown in different colours) in the retina of mouse eye. Each gamer received a raw 3D image made up of electron microscope scans of a small volume of the retina, and earned points by highlighting speedily and accurately the route individual nerve fibres took, starting at the nerve's hub (coloured blobs). Crowdsourcing the painstaking job saved the researchers years of drudgery and shed light on a 50-year-old mystery about how retinal cells detect the direction of movement. The 3D image revealed an elaborate layout that allows two types of retinal cells, the spoke-hub-shaped starburst amacrine cell and bipolar cells, to collaborate so that a moving image triggers an electric signal exclusively when the motion direction is aligned with the axis of one of the spokes of the cell.
Written by Tristan Farrow
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.