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Name of Collaboratory :


Biomedical Informatics Research Network: Function (fBIRN, FIRST BIRN)


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URL :  

Collaboratory Status :

Completed   Start Date : 2002 End Date : 2004 Info Last Updated : Fri, Dec 3 2010 3:00am PST

Primary Collaboratory Function :

  Community Data Systems  

Secondary Collaboratory Functions :


Domain(s) :

  Neurosciences -->Brain Imaging-->Diseases of the brain and the treatment thereof.  

Brief Description of the Collaboratory :


BIRN, the big picture, is a coordinated set of projects in which collaborators share data of brain images to allow them to increase the sample size and diversity for scientific discovery. BIRN-Coordinating Center (BIRN-CC) is the technical and coordinating branch of these efforts, pulling together hardware and software necessary for a scalable network of databases and computational resources. They handle the delivery and set-up of the BIRN-node hardware (called racks) and software, and are developing various intermediate software that allows the disparate databases to be searached, translated and combined, with visualization and statistical software tools. The goal is to allow researchers to investigate the development and treatment of brain diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimers both over time and at a range of scales, from molar to molecular.

FIRST-BIRN (functional imaging research science and technology) focuses on functional imaging, a different set of players than those involved in the Mouse-BIRN and the Morphometry BIRN, although some of the latter overlap.

It is looking at functional imaging with particular emphasis on schizophrenia. Functional imaging produces a moment by moment 3-D movie of the energy pathway inside the brain. Study subjects perform certain tasks while lying inside the bores of MRI machines to see how the brain responses of schizophrenics compare with those of healthy individuals. Each institution will enroll only 20 schizophrenics and 20 individuals without the disease, the combined study group of 400 can produce meaningful information. IN the past, incompatible MRI systems made sharing impossible.


Access to Instruments :


Access to Information Resources :

  The goal is to coordinate distributed databases of neuroimages by setting up access and translation protocols, as well as a Mediator (the smart search engine) who accesses the Metadata source (who collected the image, when, where, with what instrument, patient demographics) and an Atlas (which maps the various regions, whatís next to what, etc.)

The idea is that most researchers now just access their own images, and therefore have a sample size of 10 or so. This would give them access to thousands for a particular demographic/disease, and allow them to ìzoom in and outî to view different scales of images

Access to People as Resources :

  Presumably there are communications across sites for those interested in the same issue, but we don't know a lot about this yet because the data sharing is just getting started.

Informal access as needed both in person and via email and teleconferencing.

Funding Agency or Sponsor :

United States Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)

Notes on Funding Agencies/Sponsors:


Notes on Participants/Organizations:
106 people are listed in their contacts list associated with fBIRN as of June 2003


Communications Technology Used :

  Public and Secure Website & Video Conferencing via a MCU unit. They also utilize face-to-face meetings, email and phone.  

Technical Capabilities :

  Management of technical resources
Security, Access control/login facilities
Data mining
Asynchronous object sharing
Centrally controlled knowledge base, Email/attachments
Asynchronous conversation
Synchronous conversation
Audio, Video, Instant messaging/chat
  Key Articles :  

Ackerman, S. P. (2003). BIRN: Putting heads together in cyberspace NCRR Reporter, 27(4), 5-7.

Buetow, K. H. (2005). Cyberinfrastructure: Empowering a "third way" in biomedical research Science, 308(5723), 821-824.

Foster, I. (2005). Service-oriented science Science, 308(5723), 814-817.


Project-reported performance data :

  Too early to tell.  
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