Mason-led research team honored for neuron database

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The George Mason University team behind has been honored for its work by  the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the Office of Data Science Strategy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Ascoli with researchers at computer stations
Mason researcher Giorgio Ascoli with the team at at Mason's Krasnow Institute. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

The team—Giorgio Ascoli, founding director of the Center for Neural Informatics, Structures, and Plasticity and professor of bioscience, along with postdoctoral research fellow Carolina Tecuatl and research assistant professor in Neuroinformatics  Bengt Ljungquist—was one of four to earn the Distinguished Achievement Award from the DataWorks! Prize.

The team’s winning project focused on sharing data in an open-access database of 3D neural reconstructions. The database is continuously updated with contributions from more than 1,000 labs worldwide.

Ascoli created NeuroMorpho.Org in 2006 to store the large amounts of data needed to make computational models of neurons. It has grown from 932 reconstructions to more than 180,000.

The reconstructions have been used to investigate the pathways of Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and memory capacity. They have also been used to investigate the effects of cosmic radiation on astronauts’ central nervous systems.

Ascoli, professor of bioengineering and neuroscience at Mason, accepted the FASEB DataWorks! Prize Distinguished Achievement Award on behalf of his research team for NeuroMorpho.Org.

The prize showcases research teams’ exemplary achievements in biological and biomedical research that were made possible through data sharing and reuse.

The DataWorks! Prize is a partnership between FASEB and NIH to incentivize innovative practices and increase community engagement around data sharing and reuse. The FASEB and NIH announced the awards Feb. 23. The team, which earned $50,000 for their efforts, will present their project at a symposium on April 25.