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BrainGlobe Atlas API: a common interface for neuroanatomical atlases.

J Open Source Softw, 2020 5(54), 2668, doi.org/10.21105/joss.02668

Authors/Editors: Claudi F, Petrucco L, Tyson AL, Branco T, Margrie TW, Portugues R.
Publication Date: 2020

Abstract

Neuroscientists routinely perform experiments aimed at recording or manipulating neural activity, uncovering physiological processes underlying brain function or elucidating aspects of brain anatomy. Understanding how the brain generates behaviour ultimately depends on merging the results of these experiments into a unified picture of brain anatomy and function. Brain atlases are crucial in this endeavour: by outlining the organization of brain regions they provide a reference upon which our understanding of brain function can be anchored. More recently, digital high-resolution 3d atlases have been produced for several model organisms providing an invaluable resource for the research community. Effective use of these atlases depends on the availability of an application programming interface (API) that enables researchers to develop software to access and query atlas data. However, while some atlases come with an API, these are generally specific for individual atlases, and this hinders the development and adoption of open-source neuroanatomy software. The BrainGlobe atlas API (BG-Atlas API) overcomes this problem by providing a common interface for programmers to download and process data across a variety of model organisms. By adopting the BG-Atlas API, software can then be developed agnostic to the atlas, increasing adoption and interoperability of packages in neuroscience and enabling direct integration of different experimental modalities and even comparisons across model organisms.

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