Hi, I got back from the Sleep2016 sleep medicine & research conference in Denver this week, and while there I attended a talk about crowdsourcing the analysis of polysomnography data. They wanted to see how people who are not sleep technicians might do compared with actual sleep techs (after some basic tutorials), and also how they compared with existing auto-scoring software. The researcher/speaker was Ben Yetton from UC Riverside, and for this study, they were looking at the recognition of sleep spindles in EEG (electroencephalography) signals. Sleep spindles are a sign of what stage of sleep the subject is in during the test. Spindles are fairly easy to spot, which is why they started with this, but the goal is to expand the analysis into recognizing many different aspects of polysomnography data, and being able to find evidence of REM sleep, obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and other features of the various brain, muscle, and breathing signals collected.
For the study, they used Amazon mturk (description and associated crowdfunding here), but during his talk, he mentioned the possibility of making the data analysis into a game to make it more fun for the “workers.” They found that many of the people who went through the tutorials only followed up with one or two sessions of analysis before leaving the site, and only a few people stayed to analyze the majority of the signals. The researchers thought that if it were more game-like the retention would likely be better, and he highlighted Eyewire specifically in his talk as a crowdsourced science group/site who had done this very successfully and that you are a model for other groups to follow when considering something similar.
I wanted to stand up and yell “FOR SCIENCE!” in the middle of his talk, but thankfully I managed to restrain myself. I did wonder, though, how many other EWers might have been in the audience besides me. It was very exciting and unexpected to hear mention of Eyewire at a sleep conference, and I thought you’d like to know how far-reaching your success is getting, and that researchers in other areas besides neuroscience are taking notice!
Janelle (jfine) - UCSD Dept. of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Physiology and Sleep Research