As the principal architect of BrainMaps.org, starting with its public launch on May 17, 2005, and ending with my (literally) moving onto new vistas in June, 2009, I can say that it has been an exciting and worthwhile journey. The community of active data contributors, curators, and participants that formed around BrainMaps.org was astounding and exceeded expectations, and it is my hope that this spirit of sharing continues; indeed, that it grows.
What has BrainMaps.org taught us?
First, that an internet-accessible image database of over 60 terabytes of submicron-resolution whole-brain data is feasible with todays technologies. More importantly, however, BrainMaps.org has pointed the way towards the future, towards what lies beyond BrainMaps.org.
What does that future look like?
Imagine, if you will, if the BrainMaps image datasets 1) were imaged at higher resolution, say 40 nm instead of 0.46 micron, 2) had thinner sections, say 40 nm instead of 30 microns, and 3) had all images perfectly aligned into a 3D volume. Then it would be possible to track every neural process and connection in the brain. This is not science fiction. This is the Connectomics revolution that is currently becoming a reality, and it promises to transform the face of neuroscience within the coming decade.
With that in mind, my decision to leave the BrainMaps team in order to join the Connectomics revolution should come as no surprise. I am confident that Ted Jones will maintain the BrainMaps.org site, and hopefully, that it will continue to grow. I am also confident that the Connectomics revolution and the mapping of the mouse brain at nanometer resolution, which will allow us to map out its complete connectivity, will provide a revelation about brain structure and function that is much needed in neuroscience today.
I can still be contacted at brainmaps--at--gmail.com and have more information available at http://Connectomes.org.