The NeuroScholar Project

The NeuroScholar project is an implementation of a knowledge-engineering approach to neuroscientific theory, based on the peer-reviewed information (i.e., the published literature) and developed in close collaboration with experimentalists. This approach is rigorously defined and is intended to be predictive, so that value for the scientific community may be generated by providing new theories that otherwise would not be available.

The main obstacle facing developers of formal, computational approaches to interpreting the neuroscientific literature is that their subject is both broad and deep. It involves many different subdisciplines ranging from animal behavior and psychology, through cellular anatomy and physiology to studies of molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Study in any given field usually involves a large amount of in-depth information, for example, there are over 500 different brain regions in the rat (Swanson 1998), leading to the estimation that there may be of the order of 25,000 different macroconnections between cell groups in this system (Swanson 1995). No single individual, no matter how great a scholar, can hope to incorporate all available information into his or her thinking without computational support.

This problem may accurately be described as an exercise in knowledge engineering, i.e., organizing facts within the conceptual framework of human interpretation and understanding through prioritization and intuitive deduction. Although these processes cannot be performed computationally, they may be captured and stored in a suitably designed Knowledge-Base Management System (KBMS) that may be used to represent the process of formulation for theoretical work. Additionally, our goal is to provide such a system that fits seamlessly into the working environment of active experimental neuroscientists with the minimal disruption to their existing theoretical paradigm. To that end, we have adopted a practical Knowledge-Engineering-driven approach, using freely-available, widely-used formalisms and components wherever possible.

This is a multidisciplinary research project. Based on our past experience in query customization, we emphasize on the customization issue of NeuroScholar at InfoLAB.




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