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5 Publications

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    11/13/18 | Analyzing image segmentation for connectomics.
    Plaza SM, Funke J
    Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2018;12:102. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2018.00102

    Automatic image segmentation is critical to scale up electron microscope (EM) connectome reconstruction. To this end, segmentation competitions, such as CREMI and SNEMI, exist to help researchers evaluate segmentation algorithms with the goal of improving them. Because generating ground truth is time-consuming, these competitions often fail to capture the challenges in segmenting larger datasets required in connectomics. More generally, the common metrics for EM image segmentation do not emphasize impact on downstream analysis and are often not very useful for isolating problem areas in the segmentation. For example, they do not capture connectivity information and often over-rate the quality of a segmentation as we demonstrate later. To address these issues, we introduce a novel strategy to enable evaluation of segmentation at large scales both in a supervised setting, where ground truth is available, or an unsupervised setting. To achieve this, we first introduce new metrics more closely aligned with the use of segmentation in downstream analysis and reconstruction. In particular, these include synapse connectivity and completeness metrics that provide both meaningful and intuitive interpretations of segmentation quality as it relates to the preservation of neuron connectivity. Also, we propose measures of segmentation correctness and completeness with respect to the percentage of "orphan" fragments and the concentrations of self-loops formed by segmentation failures, which are helpful in analysis and can be computed without ground truth. The introduction of new metrics intended to be used for practical applications involving large datasets necessitates a scalable software ecosystem, which is a critical contribution of this paper. To this end, we introduce a scalable, flexible software framework that enables integration of several different metrics and provides mechanisms to evaluate and debug differences between segmentations. We also introduce visualization software to help users to consume the various metrics collected. We evaluate our framework on two relatively large public groundtruth datasets providing novel insights on example segmentations.

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    11/13/18 | NeuTu: Software for Collaborative, Large-Scale, Segmentation-Based Connectome Reconstruction.
    Zhao T, Olbris DJ, Yu Y, Plaza SM
    Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2018;12:101. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2018.00101

    Reconstructing a connectome from an EM dataset often requires a large effort of proofreading automatically generated segmentations. While many tools exist to enable tracing or proofreading, recent advances in EM imaging and segmentation quality suggest new strategies and pose unique challenges for tool design to accelerate proofreading. Namely, we now have access to very large multi-TB EM datasets where (1) many segments are largely correct, (2) segments can be very large (several GigaVoxels), and where (3) several proofreaders and scientists are expected to collaborate simultaneously. In this paper, we introduce NeuTu as a solution to efficiently proofread large, high-quality segmentation in a collaborative setting. NeuTu is a client program of our high-performance, scalable image database called DVID so that it can easily be scaled up. Besides common features of typical proofreading software, NeuTu tames unprecedentedly large data with its distinguishing functions, including: (1) low-latency 3D visualization of large mutable segmentations; (2) interactive splitting of very large false merges with highly optimized semi-automatic segmentation; (3) intuitive user operations for investigating or marking interesting points in 3D visualization; (4) visualizing proofreading history of a segmentation; and (5) real-time collaborative proofreading with lock-based concurrency control. These unique features have allowed us to manage the workflow of proofreading a large dataset smoothly without dividing them into subsets as in other segmentation-based tools. Most importantly, NeuTu has enabled some of the largest connectome reconstructions as well as interesting discoveries in the fly brain.

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    11/01/18 | A resource for the antennal lobe provided by the connectome of glomerulus VA1v.
    Horne JA, Langille C, McLin S, Wiederman M, Lu Z, Xu CS, Plaza SM, Scheffer LK, Hess HF, Meinertzhagen IA
    eLife. 2018 Nov 01;7:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.37550

    Using FIB-SEM we report the entire synaptic connectome of glomerulus VA1v of the right antennal lobe in . Within the glomerulus we densely reconstructed all neurons, including hitherto elusive local interneurons. The -positive, sexually dimorphic VA1v included >11,140 presynaptic sites with ~38,050 postsynaptic dendrites. These connected input olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs, 51 ipsilateral, 56 contralateral), output projection neurons (18 PNs), and local interneurons (56 of >150 previously reported LNs). ORNs are predominantly presynaptic and PNs predominantly postsynaptic; newly reported LN circuits are largely an equal mixture and confer extensive synaptic reciprocity, except the newly reported LN2V with input from ORNs and outputs mostly to monoglomerular PNs, however. PNs were more numerous than previously reported from genetic screens, suggesting that the latter failed to reach saturation. We report a matrix of 192 bodies each having 50 connections; these form 88% of the glomerulus' pre/postsynaptic sites.

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    09/26/18 | Synaptic cleft segmentation in non-isotropic volume electron microscopy of the complete Drosophila brain.
    Heinrich L, Funke J, Pape C, Nunez-Iglesias J, Saalfeld S
    Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention – MICCAI 2018. 2018 Sep 26:317-25. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-00934-2_36

    Neural circuit reconstruction at single synapse resolution is increasingly recognized as crucially important to decipher the function of biological nervous systems. Volume electron microscopy in serial transmission or scanning mode has been demonstrated to provide the necessary resolution to segment or trace all neurites and to annotate all synaptic connections. 
    Automatic annotation of synaptic connections has been done successfully in near isotropic electron microscopy of vertebrate model organisms. Results on non-isotropic data in insect models, however, are not yet on par with human annotation. 
    We designed a new 3D-U-Net architecture to optimally represent isotropic fields of view in non-isotropic data. We used regression on a signed distance transform of manually annotated synaptic clefts of the CREMI challenge dataset to train this model and observed significant improvement over the state of the art. 
    We developed open source software for optimized parallel prediction on very large volumetric datasets and applied our model to predict synaptic clefts in a 50 tera-voxels dataset of the complete Drosophila brain. Our model generalizes well to areas far away from where training data was available.

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    05/20/18 | Of what use is connectomics? A personal perspective on the connectome.
    Meinertzhagen IA
    The Journal of Experimental Biology. 2018 May 20;221(Pt 10):. doi: 10.1242/jeb.164954

    The brain is a network of neurons and its biological output is behaviour. This is an exciting age, with a growing acknowledgement that the comprehensive compilation of synaptic circuits densely reconstructed in the brains of model species is now both technologically feasible and a scientifically enabling possibility in neurobiology, much as 30 years ago genomics was in molecular biology and genetics. Implemented by huge advances in electron microscope technology, especially focused ion beam-scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) milling (see Glossary), image capture and alignment, and computer-aided reconstruction of neuron morphologies, enormous progress has been made in the last decade in the detailed knowledge of the actual synaptic circuits formed by real neurons, in various brain regions of the fly It is useful to distinguish synaptic pathways that are major, with 100 or more presynaptic contacts, from those that are minor, with fewer than about 10; most neurites are both presynaptic and postsynaptic, and all synaptic sites have multiple postsynaptic dendrites. Work on has spearheaded these advances because cell numbers are manageable, and neuron classes are morphologically discrete and genetically identifiable, many confirmed by reporters. Recent advances are destined within the next few years to reveal the complete connectome in an adult fly, paralleling advances in the larval brain that offer the same prospect possibly within an even shorter time frame. The final amendment and validation of segmented bodies by human proof-readers remains the most time-consuming step, however. The value of a complete connectome in is that, by targeting to specific neurons transgenes that either silence or activate morphologically identified circuits, and then identifying the resulting behavioural outcome, we can determine the causal mechanism for behaviour from its loss or gain. More importantly, the connectome reveals hitherto unsuspected pathways, leading us to seek novel behaviours for these. Circuit information will eventually be required to understand how differences between brains underlie differences in behaviour, and especially to herald yet more advanced connectomic strategies for the vertebrate brain, with an eventual prospect of understanding cognitive disorders having a connectomic basis. Connectomes also help us to identify common synaptic circuits in different species and thus to reveal an evolutionary progression in candidate pathways.

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