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NeuroNames: an ontology for the BrainInfo portal to neuroscience on the web.

Neuroinformatics | Jan 28, 2012

BrainInfo ( http://braininfo.org ) is a growing portal to neuroscientific information on the Web. It is indexed by NeuroNames, an ontology designed to compensate for ambiguities in neuroanatomical nomenclature. The 20-year old ontology continues to evolve toward the ideal of recognizing all names of neuroanatomical entities and accommodating all structural concepts about which neuroscientists communicate, including multiple concepts of entities for which neuroanatomists have yet to determine the best or 'true' conceptualization. To make the definitions of structural concepts unambiguous and terminologically consistent we created a 'default vocabulary' of unique structure names selected from existing terminology. We selected standard names by criteria designed to maximize practicality for use in verbal communication as well as computerized knowledge management. The ontology of NeuroNames accommodates synonyms and homonyms of the standard terms in many languages. It defines complex structures as models composed of primary structures, which are defined in unambiguous operational terms. NeuroNames currently relates more than 16,000 names in eight languages to some 2,500 neuroanatomical concepts. The ontology is maintained in a relational database with three core tables: Names, Concepts and Models. BrainInfo uses NeuroNames to index information by structure, to interpret users' queries and to clarify terminology on remote web pages. NeuroNames is a resource vocabulary of the NLM's Unified Medical Language System (UMLS, 2011) and the basis for the brain regions component of NIFSTD (NeuroLex, 2011). The current version has been downloaded to hundreds of laboratories for indexing data and linking to BrainInfo, which attracts some 400 visitors/day, downloading 2,000 pages/day.

Pubmed ID: 21789500 RIS Download

Mesh terms: Information Storage and Retrieval | Internet | National Library of Medicine (U.S.) | Neuroanatomy | Neurosciences | Terminology as Topic | Unified Medical Language System | United States | Vocabulary, Controlled

Research resources used in this publication

None found

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Data used in this publication

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Associated grants

  • Agency: NCRR NIH HHS, Id: RR-000166
  • Agency: NLM NIH HHS, Id: R01 LM008247
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: R01 MH069259
  • Agency: NCRR NIH HHS, Id: P51 RR000166
  • Agency: NLM NIH HHS, Id: R01 LM006243-06
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: R01 MH069259-04
  • Agency: NLM NIH HHS, Id: LM-008247
  • Agency: NLM NIH HHS, Id: R01 LM008247-03
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: MH-069259

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This is a list of tools and resources that we have found mentioned in this publication.

Neuroscience Information Framework

Framework for identifying, locating, relating, accessing, integrating, and analyzing information from neuroscience research. Users can search for and add neuroscience-related resources at the NIF portal and receive and RRID to track and cite resources within scientific manuscripts.


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The NIF Standard Ontology (NIFSTD) is a collection of modular ontologies that provides an extensive set of terms and concepts important for the domains of neuroscience and biology, as well as the data and resources relevant for the life sciences. It is a core component of the Neuroscience Information Framework (NIF) project, a semantically enhanced portal for accessing and integrating neuroscience data, tools and information.


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