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Virtual Finger Takes Scientists Through 3D Landscapes

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CDA1 and CDA2 for generating a 3D curve using one computer-mouse stroke painted in the 2D projection of a 3D image of a dragonfly thoracic ganglion neuron.

Virtual Finger software permits scientists to use the flat surface of their computer screens to navigate 3D images of biological structures.

Credit: Nature

Scientists will be able to use the flat surface of their computer screens to navigate three-dimensional (3D) images of biological structures thanks to new technology developed by Hanchuan Peng at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

Called the Virtual Finger, the software is designed to make 3D imaging studies orders of magnitude more efficient, saving time, money, and resources.

Scientists will be able to reach into 3D images of small objects such as single cells to access the information they need more quickly and intuitively. "The software allows us to navigate large amounts of biological data in the same way that Google Earth allows you to navigate the world," Peng says. He notes the technique is particularly helpful with the advent of big data. "When you move your cursor along the flat screen of your computer, our software recognizes whether you are pointing to an object that is near, far, or somewhere in between, and allows you to analyze it in depth without having to sift through many two-dimensional images to reach it," Peng says.

He believes the technology has the potential to revolutionize biological experiments and data analysis techniques, even beyond neuroscience.

Allen Institute researchers are using Virtual Finger to enhance detection of spikes from individual cells, and to better simulate the morphological structures of neurons.

From The Engineer (United Kingdom)
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