Neural Connectivity: Search by Regions.

Originally, I designed the openneuronproject.com as a way of searching for neural connectivity of a specific nucleus/location within the brain/periphery. However, after adding complex structures like the hypothalamus and the amygdala to the database, which have around a dozen nuclei each, I realised it was becoming too complicated.
To counter this, I've added a new layer to the database: regions. Thiswill allow users to generate connectivity diagrams by selecting a region, e.g. the hypothalamus, amygdala etc. The nuclei of the region selected will be rendered in the centre of the diagram, showing their cells and connections within the region. Nuclei connected to the region will be shown around the region selected.

An example neural connectivity diagram.

Side-Effects.

This has obviously had some side-effects, mainly with complexity. The diagram is now starting with around 20 nuclei in the case of the brainstem. Then, the connections within the region as well as externally, so there's bound to be some issues. Currently some of the brainstem nuclei are overlapping and the regions can end up very close together. I'm working on making the diagram relative to screen size (more mobile-friendly), so I will hopefully push the nuclei further apart at the same time.

A further side effect is the appearance of the data, currently I cannot lay the nuclei of a region out in a specific pattern. It would be nice if the diagrams represented the neuroanatomy of the region selected. While this is possible, it would require a lot more data and mapping out on my part, which I currently do not have the time for.

Future Plans

To improve the diagrams, my first goal is to render them based on the screen size, so shrinking down cells and nuclei for smaller screens. This should give mobile users a better overview before they zoom on specific areas. Secondly, I think the interactivity could be improved. Being able to highlight multiple cells and links in a pathway rather than just one cell at a time would probably be useful.

However most important is probably to keep improving the database, adding neural connectivity data for new areas. Simplifying the regions and identifying new connections. I would also like to add a menu to search by function, hearing, memory, etc. But this may take a bit longer than the update to regions.