Automatic discovery of cell types and microcircuitry from neural connectomics

Eric Jonas and Konrad Kording

eLife 2015, Published April 30, 2015. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.04250

Neural connectomics has begun producing massive amounts of data, necessitating new analysis methods to discover the biological and computational structure. It has long been assumed that discovering neuron types and their relation to microcircuitry is crucial to understanding neural function. Here we developed a nonparametric Bayesian technique that identifies neuron types and microcircuitry patterns in connectomics data. It combines the information traditionally used by biologists in a principled and probabilistically-coherent manner, including including connectivity, cell body location and the spatial distribution of synapses. We show that the approach recovers known neuron types in the retina and enables predictions of connectivity, better than simpler algorithms. It also can reveal interesting structure in the nervous system of C. elegans and a historic microprocessor. Our approach extracts structural meaning from connectomics, enabling new approaches of automatically deriving anatomical insights from these emerging datasets.

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