San Francisco, CA--Just as computer scientists developed standards to deliver digital content across the globe to your laptop, neuroscientists are working to break down barriers in data sharing. Neurodata Without Borders (NWB) is an alliance organized around a common mission: make precious brain recordings from individual labs standardized, sharable and open-sourced. By promoting collaboration, NWB has the potential to massively accelerate our understanding of normal brain functions--and when they go wrong.
Novela Neurotech, a startup accelerating the development of digital therapies for neurological and psychiatric disorders, is proud to announce a collaboration with brain research expert Loren Frank, PhD at the UCSF Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, in promoting and converting data to the newest NWB format, NWB2.0.
The need for widespread data sharing has never been greater across the globe. With multiple large-scale brain research projects in action, including the US BRAIN Initiative, the EU-based Human Brain Project, and the global International Brain Initiative, neuroscience is producing an unprecedented amount of data that cannot be effectively shared and analyzed by individual labs. NWB2.0 provides a means to share precious neurophysiological data in a way that allows scientists to reap the full benefits, potentially uncovering insights into troubling and difficult brain disorders including epilepsy, major depression, addiction, chronic pain and autism.
Data sharing among neuroscientists remains the exception, rather than the norm. "By promoting NWB2.0, we hope to encourage collaboration within the neuroscientific community, and accelerate the translation from basic research into effective neurological and psychiatric disorder treatments for patients desperately in need," says Ray Iskander, CEO of Novela Neurotech.
"The brain is an enormously complex organ. To truly understand the neurobiological workings that support cognition, emotion and creativity, as well as relieve the staggering global burden of disability from neurological and psychiatric disorders, we need to have a way to adequately share data to enable collaboration. We are very happy to work with Novela Neurotech and the Neurodata Without Borders alliance to reduce data silos in neuroscience, and in turn, promote better understanding of the brain and its massive computational and storage capacities," says Dr. Frank.
A Hidden Neuro-code
The brain's "base code" is hidden within its electrical activity patterns. By cracking the neural code, scientists hope to understand the mechanisms behind cognitive functions, decipher how they go wrong, and develop new treatments--such as "smart" neural interfaces--to target difficult neurological illnesses, including addiction, chronic pain and depression.
Decoding brain activity relies on massive amounts of neurophysiological data, or the electrical signal neurons generate as they communicate with one another. As neuroscience enters an ever-increasingly collaborative "big data" era, the ability to standardize and share these data across labs, countries and continents becomes ever more pressing.
In 2014, a coalition of research institutions including the Kavli Foundation initiated NWB to begin addressing this problem. The first pilot, dubbed NWB:Neurophysiology (NWB:N) standardized format for electrical data gathered from individual neurons; additional projects, including human brain imaging and high-performance computing, are underway. Today, NWB:N is gaining momentum among high-profile institutions, including the Allen Institute for Brain Science based in Seattle, Washington and the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) for open and FAIR neuroscience based in Stockholm, Sweden. In October of 2019, NWB:N was selected for an R&D100 Award by the R&D World magazine.
Fundamentally, NWB:N enables collaboration from complex neurophysiological experiments--sharing, reuse, reproduction--across multiple teams and projects. It represents an entire software ecosystem to accelerate the pace of neuroscientific discovery.
"By helping neuroscientists convert existing data into the latest NWB2.0 format, Novela hopes to foster a new era in neurodata sharing and collaboration," says Iskander. Insights from these common, shared data, available for mining, will promote our understanding of the brain's electrical communication, and develop novel effective treatments for neurological disorders. Novela is leading a new era of brain stimulation-based neurological treatments called Dynamiceuticals, tailored to the electrical brain dynamics of each person's brain.
"Dr. Loren Frank is an expert in both NWB and his lab is leading research in how the brain learns, remembers and decides. We are extremely excited to work with his team, to support their collaboration with other research teams in order to improve our understanding of the brain and accelerate the development of new effective brain treatments" says Iskander.
For more information about NWB:N, visit nwb.org. For additional details about Novela's participation in NWB2.0, please contact our press team.
About Novela Neurotech
Novela Neurotech, based in Alameda, CA, has been on the forefront of accelerating brain stimulation research. Spun off from Waterloo University in Canada, Novela is developing a full brain stimulation platform NeurekaTM, which includes a smart hardware neural interface and a cloud-based software analysis suite, to aid researchers in developing new treatments.
HHMI is a non-profit scientific research organization with the mission to advance basic biomedical research and science education for the benefit of humanity. More information can be found at hhmi.org.
About the Kavli Foundation
The Kavli Foundation supports the advancement of science and the increase of public understanding and support for scientists and their work. For more information please visit kavlifoundation.org
Press Contact at Novela Neurotech
For more information about the collaboration, please contact Dr. Shelly Fan, Media & University Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org