F. Ganglberger ,  N. Swoboda ,  L. Frauenstein ,  J. Kaczanowska ,  W. Haubensak ,  K. Bühler (2019)

BrainTrawler: A visual analytics framework for iterative exploration of heterogeneous big brain data

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Computers & Graphics


In recent years, big brain-initiatives and consortia have created vast resources of publicly available brain data that can be used by neuroscientists for their own research experiments. This includes microscale connectivity data—brain-network graphs with billions of edges—and vast spatial gene expression resources—the representation of tens of thousands genes in brain space. Their joint analysis for higher order relations in structural or functional neuroanatomy would enable the genetic dissection of brain networks on a genome-wide scale. Current experimental workflows involve only time-consuming manual aggregation and extensive graph theoretical analysis of data from different sources, which rarely provide spatial context to operate continuously on different scales. In this paper, we propose BrainTrawler, a task-driven, web-based framework that incorporates visual analytics methods to explore heterogeneous neurobiological data. It facilitates spatial indexing to query large-scale voxel-level connectivity data and gene expression collections in real-time. Relating data to the hierarchical structure of common anatomical atlases enables the retrieval on different anatomical levels. Together with intuitive network visualization, iterative visual queries, and quantitative information this allows the genetic dissection of multimodal networks on local/global scales in a spatial context. We demonstrate the relevance of our approach for neuroscience by exploring social-behavior and memory/learning related functional neuroanatomy in mice.





Big data, Networks, Neuroscience, Gene expression, Brain parcellation, Visual queries