The Scientific Challenge

Neuroscientists map the tree-like structure of nerve cells to better understand how networks of neurons assemble into circuits to enable complex behavior. Despite the advent of computer technology that enables mapping in three dimensions, neuronal reconstructions are still largely performed by hand and reconstructing a single cell may take months. The vast majority of axons (the long neuronal projections that transmit information to neighboring cells) and dendrites (the branches on nerve cells that receive information from neighboring cells) must be traced manually.

The lack of powerful – and effective – computational tools to automatically reconstruct neuronal arbors has emerged as a major technical bottleneck in neuroscience research.

This site is a resource for those wishing to engage in the DIADEM (short for Digital Reconstruction of Axonal and Dendritic Morphology) challenge to create algorithmic methods for automated neuronal tracing. The content is related to and expands on the 2009-2010 DIADEM competition. You will find a representative variety of datasets with image stacks, gold standard reconstructions, and an objective metric that can be incorporated into algorithmic development. Additionally, each finalist team for the DIADEM 2009-2010 Competition has made their algorithms available here.

The original DIADEM Competition took place between April 2009 and September 1, 2010. The history and details of the qualifier phase and final tournament are described herein.


The prize was established by the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The DIADEM Conference, held independently of but in conjunction with the final tournament of the DIADEM Challenge, was organized by HHMI and the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, with support provided by The National Institutes of Health.