The Biomedical Informatics Research Network is wide breadth project sponsored by the American National Institutes of Health (NIH) to promote the use of modern telecommunication for data exchange and collaboration in brain research.
The project is attempting to buid a database and network infrastructure in which neuroscientists will post, query, and analyze raw data, processed data, and the results of the analysis.
The project is divided into parts, which analyze mouse brain data and human brain data, respectively. In this phase of the project, the data are essentially anatomical, while in a future phase we foresee the introduction of functional data. One important source of raw data, both for the mouse and the human brains are magnetic resonance images (MRI), which provide dense volumetric information of the density of the brain or (in the case of functional MRI), of the brain activity. In the case of the brain mouse, these data are supplemented with images of slices of brains and other histological measure.
One important technical problem that we are facing in BIRN is that of managing these volumetric data, processing them (possibly using tools available only remotely), storing the results of the analyses, and making them available to all the institutions participating in the project.
This paper describes the problems posed by the BIRN project, the importance of image data in these activities, and the challenges they pose. We will describe the shared environment that we are creating, and the facilities for storing, querying, remotely processing, and sharing the image data that constitute the bulk of the brain data that scientists are producing.