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Cyberinfrastructure for the digital brain: spatial standards for integrating rodent brain atlases

DOI: 10.3389/fninf.2014.00074

Keywords: digital atlases, atlas infrastructure, spatial data integration, brain coordinate systems, Waxholm Space, atlas services, coordinate transformations

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Biomedical research entails capture and analysis of massive data volumes and new discoveries arise from data-integration and mining. This is only possible if data can be mapped onto a common framework such as the genome for genomic data. In neuroscience, the framework is intrinsically spatial and based on a number of paper atlases. This cannot meet today’s data-intensive analysis and integration challenges. A scalable and extensible software infrastructure that is standards based but open for novel data and resources, is required for integrating information such as signal distributions, gene-expression, neuronal connectivity, electrophysiology, anatomy, and developmental processes. Therefore, the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) initiated the development of a spatial framework for neuroscience data integration with an associated Digital Atlasing Infrastructure (DAI). A prototype implementation of this infrastructure for the rodent brain is reported here. The infrastructure is based on a collection of reference spaces to which data is mapped at the required resolution, such as the Waxholm Space (WHS), a 3D reconstruction of the brain generated using high-resolution, multi-channel microMRI. The core standards of the digital atlasing service-oriented infrastructure include Waxholm Markup Language (WaxML): XML schema expressing a uniform information model for key elements such as coordinate systems, transformations, points of interest (POI)s, labels, and annotations; and Atlas Web Services: interfaces for querying and updating atlas data. The services return WaxML-encoded documents with information about capabilities, spatial reference systems and structures, and execute coordinate transformations and POI-based requests. Key elements of INCF-DAI cyberinfrastructure have been prototyped for both mouse and rat brain atlas sources, including the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas, UCSD Cell-Centered Database, and Edinburgh Mouse Atlas Project.


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