Now it will take neuroscientists just a few minutes or hours to analyze large data sets that would previously take weeks and months. We are entering the age of big data. Even neuroscientists are overwhelmed with the massive quantities of information generated by new technologies for monitoring brain activity. Advanced techniques can directly monitor a brain at work and describe how the brain reacts to various stimuli. The data may offer new insights into the functioning of the brain. But analyzing and interpreting that data was a difficult task, until now.

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Thunder harnesses the power of distributed computing

Neuroscientists have a new tool, dubbed ‘Thunder,’ at their disposal to help them make sense of the larger data sets. Thunder is a library of tools that harnesses the power of distributed computing do crunch big data. It speeds the analysis of data sets that are too big to handle for a single workstation. Thunder distributes the work across multiple computers,

Thunder was developed at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Maryland. Neuroscientists said they used Thunder to quickly find patterns in images of the brains of active zebrafish and mice. These high-resolution images were taken using sheet microscopes and other imaging techniques. The imaging produces terabytes of data.

Thunder helped neuroscientists analyze images of zebrafish brain in minutes

Janelia Research Campus scientists Jeremy Freeman, Misha Ahrens and others said in a report published in the journal Nature Methods that it took them just a few minutes to analyze brain images using Thunder. They also used Thunder to monitor every brain cell of the zebrafish, all within minutes. In contrast, there are lengthy delays associated with the previous methods. Researchers said analyzing neuroscience data with slow computational tools was frustrating.

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Thunder can run on Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s cloud services or on private cluster. It highlights the importance of cloud computing in neuroscience research.