Barriers to sharing and accessing data from neuroimaging have slowed progress in the field of neuroscience, even as newer technologies offer more promise. Now, scientists from Stanford University are tackling those issues through a new way of organizing brain-imaging data that simplifies data analysis and helps researchers collaborate more effectively – they call it BIDS (Brain Imaging Data Structure).

The easier it becomes to analyze and organize data, said Russell Poldrack, a professor of psychology, the more easily that data can be shared among researchers, leading to more transparency and more progress in understanding the brain.

We’ve been interested for a long time in finding ways to share data between groups. Sharing data is a good thing because it allows different research groups to reuse data and maximizes its potential.
Poldrack, director of the Stanford Center for Reproducible Neuroscience

Thousands of research MRI studies are performed every year generating substantial amounts of data. However, there’s no consensus on how that data should be organized.

Without a common standard, it becomes increasingly difficult for researchers to maximize these valuable data sets. It would be like if thousands of U.S. Census takers gathering demographic information on Americans all over the country sent their survey results back in different languages.

BIDS, the researchers say, solves that problem by providing a uniform standard.

Basically, we constructed this language where all people collecting brain data understand each other.
Chris Gorgolewski

BIDS is essentially a collection of related apps that help handle different aspects of data analysis and storage. Once a new app is tested and deployed it resides in a cloud-based service, where other scientists can download the apps directly for their own use.

The group originally developed BIDS with support from the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility, a global organization dedicated to promoting data sharing among neuroscientists. The Stanford Center for Reproducible Neuroscience has taken the lead in championing BIDS as the standard language for MRI data.

In addition to publishing research about BIDS, the centre has also hosted two annual workshops, each bringing together about 30 researchers and developers from around the world to learn about and build these apps. The lab also received a $1.4 million grant last month from the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative to further the development of BIDS.


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