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Exploration and visualization of gene expression with neuroanatomy in the adult mouse brain

Christopher Lau, Lydia Ng, Carol Thompson, Sayan Pathak, Leonard Kuan, Allan Jones and Mike Hawrylycz*

Author Affiliations

Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9:153  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-153

Published: 18 March 2008



Spatially mapped large scale gene expression databases enable quantitative comparison of data measurements across genes, anatomy, and phenotype. In most ongoing efforts to study gene expression in the mammalian brain, significant resources are applied to the mapping and visualization of data. This paper describes the implementation and utility of Brain Explorer, a 3D visualization tool for studying in situ hybridization-based (ISH) expression patterns in the Allen Brain Atlas, a genome-wide survey of 21,000 expression patterns in the C57BL\6J adult mouse brain.


Brain Explorer enables users to visualize gene expression data from the C57Bl/6J mouse brain in 3D at a resolution of 100 μm3, allowing co-display of several experiments as well as 179 reference neuro-anatomical structures. Brain Explorer also allows viewing of the original ISH images referenced from any point in a 3D data set. Anatomic and spatial homology searches can be performed from the application to find data sets with expression in specific structures and with similar expression patterns. This latter feature allows for anatomy independent queries and genome wide expression correlation studies.


These tools offer convenient access to detailed expression information in the adult mouse brain and the ability to perform data mining and visualization of gene expression and neuroanatomy in an integrated manner.