The NeuroLex project, supported by the Neuroscience Information Framework project, is a dynamic lexicon of neuroscience terms. Unlike an encyclopedia, a lexicon provides the meaning of a term, and not all there is to know about it.
The NeuroLex is being constructed to help improve the way that neuroscientists communicate about their data, so that information systems like the NIF can find data more easily and provide more powerful means of integrating data that occur across distributed resources. One of the big roadblocks to data integration in neuroscience is the inconsistent use of terminology in databases and other resources like the literature. When we use the same terms to mean different things, we cannot easily ask questions that span across multiple resources. For example, if three databases have information about what genes are expressed in cortex, but they all use different definitions of cerebral cortex, then we cannot compare them easily.
As part of the NIF, we provide a simple search interface to many different sources of neuroscience information and data. To make this search more effective, we are constructing ontologies to help organize neuroscience concepts into category hierarchies, e.g., neuron is a cell. These categories provide the means to perform more effective searches and also to organize and understand the information that is returned. But an important adjunct to this activity is to clearly define all of the terms that we use to describe our data, e.g., anatomical terms, techniques, organism names. Because wikis provide an easy interface for communities to contribute their knowledge, we started the NeuroLex.
The initial entries in the NeuroLex were built from the NIFSTD ontologies to get the project rolling. NIFSTD currently has about 60,000 concepts (includes both classes and synonyms) that span gross anatomy, cells of the nervous system, subcellular structures, diseases, functions and techniques. We need your input to add more content and correct what is there. Feel free to explore the NeuroLex and leave your imprint. You don't need to have an account to get started, but if you'd like your contributions acknowledged, logging in will ensure that your contributions are recognized. We will be monitoring the input into the NeuroLex and incorporating these updates into our formal ontologies, where appropriate. For more about the principles behind the NeuroLex, see How to Contribute to the NeuroLex.