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Searching the In Situ Hybridization (ISH) Data

Gene Search

To search for a specific gene or group of genes, type its gene name, gene sympol, NCBI Accession number, or Entrez Gene ID into the search box. Make sure the Gene radio button is selected and click the "Search" button. You will be offered suggestions to choose from while you type, but you can also search by typing the first three or more letters in its name or symbol and appending an asterisk ( * ) as a wildcard. You can also browse through the genes by clicking on a category.

You can sort the search results or further refine your query using the Advanced Search feature.

Advanced Search

Several additional search criteria can be used to build a query using "Advanced Search."

The following search criteria can be specified in the text box to the right of the categories. If you copy + paste in a list of terms delimited by tabs or carriage returns they will automatically be converted into a list of search criteria separated by the OR operator ( | ).

  • Gene symbol
  • Gene name
  • Entrez gene ID
  • Homologene Group ID
  • Allen Institute image series ID
  • NCBI accession number
  • Probe name

Boolean Syntax

The following special operators can be used to build queries:


Example Search Type

Example Query

AND operator: &


dopamine & receptor

OR operator: |


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NOT operator: !


"dopamine receptor" !DRD3

  • AND, OR and NOT may be used in place of their corresponding operators. They must be upper case.
  • The AND operator (&) is implicit, so spaces between words that are not separated by an operator will be treated like an &.
  • OR (|) has higher operator precedence than AND (&).
  • Parenthesis can be used to group criteria, but nested parenthesis are not supported at this time.
  • The NOT operator (!) is not supported within parenthesis.
  • Enclose search terms in quotation marks to avoid confusion with boolean operators. For example, hyphenated words should be enclosed in quotation marks (i.e. "ATP-binding").

Search Results

Based on your search criteria, a list of experiments will be returned as described in the table below. Search results can be sorted by up to three categories indicated by the drop down menus. Search categories are prioritized from left to right and include all searchable columns. The checkbox labeled "asc" (ascending order)indicates the sorting direction for each column, so when checked, the sort progresses from a to z , or 1 to n, depending on whether the column is alphabetic or numeric. Leaving the box unchecked sorts the column in descending order, that is z to a, or n to 1.



Add the image series to your selections by clicking a checkbox. The selected series can be opened in the Zoom and Pan Image Viewer by clicking, "View Selections"

Gene Symbol

Click the gene symbol to view the experiments associated with it

Gene Name

Full gene name

Tissue Location

Specimen origin


Donor age




Click the Allen Institute specimen ID to view its details


Allen Institute donor ID

Related Data

Click the "Related Data" button to display a list of Allen Brain Atlas resources for the species indicated. Please note that the current project is excluded from the list of suggestions. For example, if a "human" link is displayed while viewing human microarray data, it refers to related ISH data.

Select an image series by clicking the checkbox in the first column, then click the "View Selections" button to view all of your selections' images. Your selections will be maintained until you click "Clear Selections".

ISH - Image Viewing

The Zoom and Pan (ZAP) Image Viewer window allows you to view the images from one or more experiments. Each ZAP viewer consists of a filmstrip of thumbnails - which when selected will bring up the image in the main viewer, tools to navigate the image in the main viewer and a scale bar to determine the approximate size of the area in the main viewer.

To alter your workspace, click on the selections wheel at the top left hand corner of the ZAP Viewer window to select the number of columns (i.e. the number of experiments you can fit across the page).
The size of your viewers will automatically adjust to fit your screen real estate. Selecting one of the references from the Atlas drop down menu will allow you to see an annotated reference atlas along side your experiments. Drag viewers to other positions to rearrange them.

Multiple image series can be opened on the same Web page to enable side-by-side comparisons. You can swap viewers' locations on the page by clicking on the first viewer's title bar and dragging it to the second viewer's location.

The gene symbol or treatment type is displayed in the title bar along with the Allen Institute image series ID. Additional details are displayed across the top of the viewing area, including the donor age, tissue index, and tissue location.

Thumbnails for the entire image series are displayed across the bottom of the viewer in section order. Click a thumbnail to select it for viewing, or use the keyboard to navigate through the set. The current selection is outlined in black.

Scale Bar

Shows the current viewing resolution of the image, in microns. This value dynamically changes as you zoom in/out of the image. You can position the scale bar anywhere on the main image by dragging the scale bar by its ruler.

You can toggle the orientation of the scale bar from horizontal to vertical by clicking on the scale bar text. When you download an image, the scale bar is not included with the image.




Show current image in a full-screen viewer with side by side Nissl comparison

Open a new window to view the image series' details

Select ISH, Nissl, or Expression image type

Move the slider bar to the left to intensify the contrast or color

Side by Side Nissl Viewing

Once you click on the full screen viewer button, you will be taken to a screen with side by side viewers. The left hand viewer shows the ISH image series and the right hand viewer displays the Nissl image series from the same specimen block. Clicking on another ISH image will automatically display its nearest Nissl section. Clicking on an image thumbnail in the Nissl image series will automatically take you to the nearest ISH image. While the "Sync" box is checked the Zoom and Pan functions will affect both ISH and Nissl images.

Keyboard Commands




Advance to the next image in the series


Go back to the previous image


Advance to the last image in the series


Go back to the first image in the series


Zoom in


Zoom out


Zoom in (may need to press shift key)


Zoom out

Expression Mask Colors

The Expression Mask image display highlights those cells that have the highest probability of gene expression using a heat map color scale (from low/blue to high/red).

ISH Specimen Details Page

To reach the Specimen Detail page, click on the image series detail icon, then click on the blue specimen ID link, or click directly on the specimen ID from the original search page.

Specimens are received as variable sized blocks of frozen tissue. Before they are sectioned for ISH experiments they are divided into a number of sub-specimens. Throughout this site, when we refer to a specimen we are actually referring to one of these sub-specimens. See In Situ Hybridization White Paper in Documentation for more details.

Donor/Specimen Metadata

The specimen metadata is described in the table below:




tissue sample pH

RNA Integrity Number

metric indicating RNA integrity from tissue. Ranges from 1 to 10 (degraded to intact RNA)

Postmortem Interval

hours between time of death and time tissue samples frozen


right or left hemisphere tissue origination

Tissue Location

tissue origination in brain

Specimen ID

internal ID


male or female






right, left, or ambidextrous

Disease Categories



yes or no

Donor ID

internal ID

Sectioning Diagram

The sectioning diagram attempts to depict the relationship between the sections taken from a specimen, the position of each section, and the genes for which experiments have been run on those sections. The section number, or "section index" is an indicator of relative depth into the specimen.

To the left of the section diagram is a preview image. As you move your mouse pointer over the section diagram squares, the preview will be updated to show the corresponding image. You can get a larger view of the preview image by clicking your mouse on the section squares to launch an image viewer on a separate page.

Each of the colored squares at the top of the diagram represents one section. By default, the sections are ordered by section index. Colors are mapped to the different genes tested for in each section. The color-to-gene mappings can be found in the rectangular gene symbol map appearing below the set of sections.

Each rectangle in the gene symbol map has the same color as one or more of the section squares, and represents either the genes targeted for ISH, or the particular stain applied to the corresponding section blocks.

Hovering the mouse pointer over the rectangles will highlight the associated section squares for easy identification. Each rectangle is labeled with either a gene symbol or a the abbreviation for the histological stain.

You can click your mouse on the rectangles to go to an Image Summary page, where you can get more information about the section images generated from a particular treatment, and get summary information about gene probes.

Diagram tools

To the right of the Sectioning Diagram titlebar, you will find two diagram display tools, which are described below.

Contrast Slider

Drag this slider to the left or right to adjust the contrast of the preview image. Dragging the slider to the left decreases the contrast, making the image darker; dragging the slider to the right increased the contrast, making the image lighter.

Section Ordering

Click this button to sort the section diagram by gene rather than section index. Click it again to return to the default ordering.

ISH Gene Details Page

This page summarizes the data regarding the selected gene. The main section details its full name, Entrez gene Id, alternate gene symbols, chromosome, organism, links to related data in other projects, and gene categories that have been applied to it. A link below this section allows you to bring up a summary of all of the experiments (image series) for this gene.

ISH Image Series Details Page

Image series details include the Gene Name, Gene Symbol, NCBI Accession number, Primer Pair ID, Probe Orientation, Plane of Section, Treatment, Specimen ID and the number of images. Specimen meta data includes pH, RNA Integrity Number, Postmortem Interval, Hemisphere, Tissue Location, Specimen ID, Sex, Race, Age, Handedness, Disease Categories, Smoker/Non-smoker and Donor ID. Probe information includes the sequence data and probe information.

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