If last decade was the Internet revolution, this decade is quickly becoming the age of big data. And scientists have a new tool at their disposal when looking at the brain. Dubbed ‘Thunder’, it is a single, large workstation that can handle complex data sets that would otherwise be too big to handle.

Most big data sets are worked over by a number of computers, working in tandem to crunch data points. At the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Thunder takes the place of multiple workstations by harnessing the power of distributed computing.

After rapid advancement of technologies to monitor the brain, neuroscientists needed a tool to break down data quickly and efficiently. In a report in the journal Nature Methods, the Institute’s group leaders showed off the computing power of Thunder. Using the tool, they were able to instantly find patterns in high-res imaging of brains in both mice and zebrafish.

In a society based on ‘how fast’, Thunder took just minutes to analyze the brain of a zebrafish. This compares to an hour average time using other distributed computing methods. Researchers also used the tool to monitor every individual brain cell of a zebrafish as it was exposed to visual stimuli.

While the report focused on mice and zebrafish, this tool can just as easily be used on scans of the human brain. Learning more about the processes of the brain could unlock future treatments. Real-time monitoring of the brain for patients undergoing treatments could help the medical community refine current treatments.

Best of all, Thunder can run on a private Amazon cloud computing stack. It’s not all about the latest apps for your iPhone. This shows the promise of cloud computing in the medical field.

Read more of the report at Nature Methods.

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