Our original Allen Mouse Brain Atlas started with “simple” options for exploration: search for a gene by its name, or by anatomical structure that it might be expressed in; or, search for a brain structure to see its spatial location in a reference map. Over the past 15+ years, we’ve expanded beyond genes, brain anatomy and mouse: our projects and data have grown in quantity, diversity and complexity. Sometimes it can be hard to grasp what all the data is that’s available, and how (or if!) it fits together.
We get a lot of questions from the community regarding how best to maximize knowledge and use of content available on brain-map.org. The simplest explanation is, explore it! A list of all datasets is accessible from the home page header, Atlases and Data. These datasets are created so that most people with some scientific background can self-teach by browsing the portal features, and referring to Technical Documentation (or whitepapers; examples for the Cell Types Database here), as well as research reports that are published in association with many datasets. Most projects have a header section that includes tabs for Technical Documentation, as well as user notes in ‘Help.’ And there’s always here on the Community Forum or ‘Contact’ Us’ webmail options if you get stuck. Our future development plans aspire to integrate more of the data to improve intuitive navigation – stay tuned for that!
Another approach is to view YouTube tutorials that walk you through some of our more mature datasets, available here. Our newer datasets are intended to be self-explanatory (such as the Cell Types Database), and don’t have tutorials – but we do host hands-on training sessions via workshops and demos at conferences such as the Society for Neuroscience. Visit our Training & Events page to learn more about past and future events.
Some of our newest data is so rich and vast that a brief demo or tutorial isn’t sufficient to really dig in. For datasets such as those created in the Allen Brain Observatory, we hold comprehensive workshops to immerse users in the data – which helps others ask questions and discover new insights, and also provides an opportunity for us to test out and optimize data visualization and analysis approaches. Learn more about past or future workshops on the Training & Events page. And the Allen Software Development Toolkit (AllenSDK) provides lots of helpful demos and explanatory documentation for developers.
For the junior scientists out there, we launched basic brain science learning materials that include classroom posters and lesson plans for teachers on our Education page. We’d love to hear your thoughts about these!