Integrated Neuroinformatics Resource for Alcoholism Core:
An enormous amount of data of many different kinds will be generated by INIA and databases and retrieval tools need to be developed to provide, in a user-friendly format, broadly effective access to research information that is collected by the individual investigators of INIA. Access by all investigators to genetic, molecular, cellular, anatomic, physiologic, neural network, and behavioral data will be required to perform successful integrative neuroscience research. Moreover, new methods are needed to facilitate the extraction, analysis and integration of information from these large databases. The Neuroinformatics Core is designing and operating such databases, and developing novel methods to improve the usefulness and integration of the data for provide such databases and access to all investigators. In addition, the Neuroinformatics Core provides tools and data for dissemination and databases to the alcohol community at large. The underlying complexity of computational systems necessary to achieve these goals will be hidden from both internal and external users, who will gain access through an intuitive and constantly updated web site which will seamlessly integrate tools for data entry, modification, search, retrieval and mining. To Access Neuroinformatics Tools CLICK HERE.
Also, the Neuroinformatics core provides services and does research in computational neurobiology, developing new techniques and applying them to systems modeling which integrates data from the molecular to the behavioral levels. The emphasis in this area will be on data mining tools which can link information at many levels, including biomolecular sequence, gene expression arrays, biomolecular pathways, neuronal properties, neuronal circuits and brain atlases (from Gene Array Core and Neuroimaging Core). For example, the overwhelming size from any imaging core experiment will require high-level informatics. These tools will allow for the predictive modeling of alcohol-related phenomena from data at many levels. A second strength of the Neuroinformatics core is the use of information extraction and information retrieval systems from the relevant biomedical literature to provide context for the often overwhelming results of high throughput studies. For example, it is possible that gene expression array experiments may identify hundreds (or even thousands) of genes that are putatively associated with alcohol neuroadaptation in the amygdala (information from Genetics Animal Model Core and Gene Array Core). These information extraction and retrieval tools will mine the entire biomedical literature for known facts about all of these genes, their interactions, and other relevant information, and present it to the investigators in an easily navigable form. Such systems have been extremely effective in cancer studies, but have never been applied in the alcohol research community.
Additionally, we intend to develop computational neurobiology research activities as applied to the functional organization of the brain. Computational neurobiology integrates the disciplines of neurobiology, mathematics, and physics to study the functional organization and operation of the brain. Neural networks mediating alcohol-related phenomena will be hypothesized or empirically established and then modeled to determine, in an iterative process, the organizational principles and mechanisms underlying the targeted phenomena. As neural networks mediating alcohol-related phenomena are hypothesized and empirically established, computational modeling technologies will be applied to create "in silico" models that embody the principles and mechanisms underlying excessive drinking and related phenomena. As the relevant empirical data and computational technology mature, perhaps in years 3-5 and beyond, exploration of this approach will be expanded and additional funding will be sought.