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  1. Saira Mortier
  2. Research Program Coordinator
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Washington, Center for Game Science
  1. Zoran Popovic
  2. Researcher
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Washington, Center for Game Science
  1. Jane Roskams
  2. https://www.centreforbrainhealth.ca/roskams-jane
  3. Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. University of British Columbia

Mozak

NSF Awards: 1551063, R01MH116247

2020 (see original presentation & discussion)

Undergraduate, Graduate, Adult learners, Informal / multi-age

Mozak is an online game in which players from any background can come play and contribute to the advancement of neuroscience knowledge. In the game, players reconstruct images of actual neurons. These reconstructions are given to neuroscientists to study, eliminating the need for them to reconstruct neurons themselves, an often labor-intensive and time-consuming task.

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Original Discussion from the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 4, 2020 | 01:47 p.m.

    Welcome!

    Mozak is in its 4th year and has made some incredible advancements. Our community is at the heart of what we do and simply could not do this without them

    My co-presenters and I would love to discuss anything from A(lgorithms) to Z(slices in neuronal datasets). Feel free to post a comment or question. If you want to reach out to me directly, feel free to email smortier@cs.washington.edu.

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 4, 2020 | 01:56 p.m.

    And yes! "Julie", "Colleen" and "Tim" are real Mozak players!!!

  • Icon for: Joanne Stewart

    Joanne Stewart

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 5, 2020 | 08:31 a.m.

    I love citizen science projects! I'm curious--do you know if there are ways that players can "go wrong" when they play? How is that corrected?

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 5, 2020 | 02:22 p.m.

    Yeah! It's actually a big concern for new players that they will "mess up" and end up hurting the data. But we have a consensus algorithm that runs constantly, checking each players' work against all others. This ensures that if one player is way off, that data doesn't make it into the final reconstruction. This is also how points are given in the game. The more a player's trace makes it into "consensus", the more points they get!

     
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    Erica Fields
  • Icon for: Paul Nelson

    Paul Nelson

    Researcher
    May 5, 2020 | 11:09 a.m.

    Cool! Is there a way to decide which projects you are contributing to? Can any ol' neuroscientist submit images for reconstruction?

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 5, 2020 | 02:25 p.m.

    Right now, we are only working with a couple labs to get datasets. However, once we've expanded the platform a bit, we plan on accepting datasets from all over the world. That said, labs that are interested in partnering with us are encouraged to reach out.

  • Icon for: Stephen Alkins

    Stephen Alkins

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 02:44 p.m.

    Thank you Saira for this!  I have done some reconstruction so I definitely know how time-consuming it can be.  This is a great tool to incorporate the public.

    • Have you piloted this in classrooms to be part of a neuroscience/biology unit or class?
    • Do users reconstruct neurons from normal brains versus brains in neurological disorders or other states?
    • Could you say more about the information that users learn throughout their challenges (e.g. different classes of neurons, astrocytes, glial cells, etc.)?  Does their participation in such a task result in acknowledgment on academic papers and/or publications?
    • Do you have results that report engagement from people who have non-STEM backgrounds?

         Thank you for this wonderfully animated presentation.

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 5, 2020 | 03:24 p.m.

    Thank you so much, Stephen! We're really passionate about this work!

     

    Have you piloted this in classrooms to be part of a neuroscience/biology unit or class?

    • We have not yet piloted this in classrooms, apart from a few instances of user-testing. However, that is a phenomenal idea! Who better to get involved than students who are learning about the science.

    Do users reconstruct neurons from normal brains versus brains in neurological disorders or other states?

    • All neurons we currently reconstruct are considered typical (either human or mouse). In the instance of human cells, the datasets come from patients with severe epilepsy who have had sections of brain removed to minimize instances of seizures. During surgery, healthy sections of brain need to be cut away and that's where our lab partners get their datasets.

    Could you say more about the information that users learn throughout their challenges (e.g. different classes of neurons, astrocytes, glial cells, etc.)?  Does their participation in such a task result in acknowledgment on academic papers and/or publications?

    • In challenges, little "video lessons" are laid down on contextually appropriate parts of the neuron. These videos help to teach about neurons and help in reconstruction. For instance, we've a number of videos on axon characteristics. This helps players identify and follow those often elusive neurites and teaches about them simultaneously.
    • Player contribution does indeed lead to acknowledgement in publications! In fact, most recently, the Allen Institute for Brain Science acknowledged Mozak players in their Nature publication. It is our lab's general policy to make players co-authors on papers their data contributes to.

    Do you have results that report engagement from people who have non-STEM backgrounds?

    • Currently, we only have indexed neuroscientists and non-neuroscientists (players self-report upon signing up). However, from discussions with the community, I can anecdotally report that most of our players have a non-STEM background but recognize the importance that science plays in society.
  • Icon for: Rachael Mady

    Rachael Mady

    Graduate Student
    May 5, 2020 | 03:47 p.m.

    Hi Saira and team, that was a wonderful video! I love the animations and the visuals, they are really engaging. After I watched, I started to wonder about what the players are able to do. Are they able to do more than collect data? Do they have the chance to discuss or form a community?

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 5, 2020 | 05:31 p.m.

    Thank you, Rachael! Yes, we have a wonderful community! Apart from contributing to the data, they can also talk using the in-game chat and post in the forums. A couple of our "power players" can even put comments into different challenges to help guide the completion of the reconstruction!! Expanding community features, I feel, is key to the continuing success of this (and similar!) projects.

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 03:16 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting video and project! This reminds me the social constructivism theory that people contribute to the advancement of the knowledge individually as well as a community by interacting with each other. Given Mozak is a game that opens to all types of users from all age levels, I would be interested to see whether the outcome (i.e., contribution or data that make into the final reconstruction) differs by the players’ characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, age level, education level. What are the other factors that are associated with the outcome?

  • Icon for: Zoran Popovic

    Zoran Popovic

    Co-Presenter
    May 7, 2020 | 02:43 p.m.

    in order to maximize the potential and learning from each participant, we continuously try adjust the platform for maximal learning of each individual.  We do not collect the demographic information however, and adjust only to the evidence of individual performance and behavior.

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 06:57 p.m.

    Thanks for the clarification, Zoran.

  • Small default profile

    mo

    May 6, 2020 | 04:29 p.m.

    Hi smortier!  Got a good chuckle.  I like video....it is cute :) This is a cool project you are involved in.  Just to add on to an earlier contributor - maybe this can be used by autistic individuals.  It helps focus one's brain and tune out all the extraneous noises..  Thanks for doing such a great job!   - mo  :D  

     
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    Saira Mortier
  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 6, 2020 | 09:15 p.m.

    Thanks, mo! You are amazing!

  • Icon for: Kristen Procko

    Kristen Procko

    Researcher
    May 6, 2020 | 07:48 p.m.

    Wonderful video—beautiful animation! How large is the Mozak player community currently? 

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 6, 2020 | 09:21 p.m.

    Thank you so much!

    Like most citizen science games, our player community varies greatly from month to month. Right now you can expect that 10-20 individuals will be contributing to the completion of a neuron. About 5 of those are our "power players" who play every challenge!

    The cool thing about this approach is that because it's more than just one neuroscientist sitting behind a computer reconstructing in solitude, there is a system of checks and balances because multiple people are contributing.

  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 08:32 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing about the Mozak project. Do you have an age limit (minimum) for your games? Might middle or high school students be engaged?

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 6, 2020 | 09:28 p.m.

    For anyone under 18, we just ask that their parents look over the "terms of service and consent". This is because we use data collected for research so each person that plays should be aware of that.

    In terms of engagement, our initial playtests were with sixth grade students and they did fantastically! We wanted to ensure that anyone could come, play, and understand the basic concepts. They passed that test with flying colors.

  • Icon for: Vernon Ruffin

    Vernon Ruffin

    Researcher
    May 7, 2020 | 08:16 a.m.

    This is cool. SO tempted to drop what I am doing...

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 7, 2020 | 09:56 p.m.

    What are you working on right now??

  • May 7, 2020 | 10:38 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing the project! I am glad to see this video and have posted the link on our website to get students interested in the field. We need more of these projects.

     
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    Saira Mortier
  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 7, 2020 | 09:57 p.m.

    Thank you so much, Parvaneh! 

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Parvaneh Mohammadian
  • Icon for: Laura Conner

    Laura Conner

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 7, 2020 | 03:24 p.m.

    Cool video!  I really like the way you have made this into a game. Very neat approach to citizen science.

     
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    Saira Mortier
  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 7, 2020 | 10:36 p.m.

    Thank you so much, Laura! Firmly believe that citizen science can truly change humanity for the better.

  • Icon for: Lisa Dierker

    Lisa Dierker

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 7, 2020 | 10:20 p.m.

    Wow. I always have the feeling that we can do so much more with crowd sourcing, but you have really found a wonderful application!  I will definitely share this with students in my psychology courses. 

     
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    Saira Mortier
  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Lead Presenter
    Research Program Coordinator
    May 7, 2020 | 10:38 p.m.

    Thank you, Lisa. I think it's always so inspiring to see how people have gone about solving these difficult problems and how that inspiration grows and spreads.

  • Icon for: John Chikwem

    John Chikwem

    Researcher
    May 12, 2020 | 03:51 p.m.

    I like this project because ordinary people can learn about the brain and its functions without being scientists or biologists.

  • May 12, 2020 | 04:07 p.m.

    I'll have to try this with my graduate students (I'm a physiologist and teach neuroscience).  Lately, I had graduate students contructing circuits with a program called Neuronify. (you can find it on the internet).  Our video has nothing to do with that (it's about an education program at a Public Aquarium), but I thought I would mention it as possibly of some interest to you.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.

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