Neurodata Without Borders


NWB logo

Neurodata Without Borders is an alliance of scientists and funders with a shared interest in breaking down the barriers to data sharing in neuroscience. These barriers, many of which are technological, impede the flow of valuable information within the neuroscience community and hinder the pace of scientific discovery. Yet the need for widespread data sharing has never been greater: Large-scale brain research projects, including the BRAIN Initiative in the United States, are producing unprecedented amounts of data, which cannot be analyzed by individual laboratories. Therefore, the full benefits of these data will not be realized until data sharing becomes the norm, rather than the exception.

Neurodata Without Borders was initiated by The Kavli Foundation in 2014 to begin to address this problem. Its first pilot project, Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology, developed a standardized data format for cellular-based neurophysiology data. Additional projects related to human brain imaging and high-performance computing are underway.

Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology

SpikesElectrophysiological data collected from neurons in the mouse visual cortex forms the basis for the Allen Institute's Cell Type Database. The Database uses the Neurodata Without Borders format. (Credit: Allen Institute for Brain Science)

There are standardized file formats that allow us to share digital images and create readable web pages, but few exist for many fields of science, including neuroscience. Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology was established as a one-year pilot project to create a common data format for cellular-based neurophysiology data, overcoming one of the major technical barriers to data sharing. The “NWB” format, a result of focused collaboration between a handful of neuroscientists and software developers, now makes it easier for neuroscientists worldwide to compare and combine large neurophysiology data sets.

The “NWB” data format is used by the Allen Institute for Brain Science to support the Allen Cell Type Database, a catalog of cell types in the mouse brain, and is being adopted by other laboratories around the world. The format is available for download at, along with a variety of data sets and custom tools.

NWB: Neurophysiology is funded by the Allen Institute for Brain Science, GE, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) and The Kavli Foundation. The founding scientific partners are the Buzsáki Group at the New York University School of Medicine, the Meister Group at the California Institute of Technology, the Svoboda Lab at Janelia Research Campus of the HHMI and the Allen Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. is the founding software development partner.


Learn more about the Neurodata Without Borders initiative and sign up for the mailing list at:

Download the NWB: Neurophysiology data format at: