NEOBASE: databasing the neocortical microcircuit
Mammals adapt to a rapidly changing world because of the sophisticated perceptual and cognitive function enabled by the neocortex. The neocortex, which has expanded to constitute nearly 80% of the human brain seems to have arisen from repeated duplication of a stereotypical template of neurons and synaptic circuits with subtle specializations in different brain regions and species. Determining the design and function of this microcircuitry is therefore of paramount importance to understanding normal and abnormal higher brain function. Recent advances in recording synaptically-coupled neurons has allowed rapid dissection of the neocortical microcircuitry thus yielding a massive amount of quantitative anatomical, electrical and gene expression data on the neurons and the synaptic circuits that connect the neurons. Due to the availability of the above mentioned data, it has now become imperative to database the neurons of the microcircuit and their synaptic connections. The NEOBASE project, aims to archive the neocortical microcircuit data in a manner that facilitates development of advanced data mining applications, statistical and bioinformatics analyses tools, custom microcircuit builders, and visualization and simulation applications. The database architecture is based on ROOT, a software environment that allows the construction of an object oriented database with numerous relational capabilities. The proposed architecture allows construction of a database that closely mimics the architecture of the real microcircuit, which facilitates the interface with virtually any application, allows for data format evolution, and aims for full interoperability with other databases. NEOBASE will provide an important resource and research tool for studying the microcircuit basis of normal and abnormal neocortical function. The database will be available to local as well as remote users using Grid based tools and technologies.