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30 Janelia Publications

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    10/06/19 | The fly brain atlas.
    Scheffer LK, Meinertzhagen IA
    Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology. 2019 Oct 6;35:637-53. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100818-125444

    The brain's synaptic networks endow an animal with powerfully adaptive biological behavior. Maps of such synaptic circuits densely reconstructed in those model brains, which can be examined and manipulated by genetic means, offer the best prospect for understanding the underlying biological bases of behavior. That prospect is now technologically feasible and a scientifically enabling possibility in neurobiology, much as genomics has been in molecular biology and genetics. In , two major advances are in electron microscopic technology, using focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) milling to capture and align digital images, and in computer-aided reconstruction of neuron morphologies. The last decade has witnessed enormous progress in detailed knowledge of the actual synaptic circuits formed by real neurons. Advances in various brain regions that heralded identification of the motion-sensing circuits in the optic lobe are now extending to other brain regions, with the prospect of encompassing the fly's entire nervous system, both brain and ventral nerve cord. Expected final online publication date for the Volume 35 is October 7, 2019. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.

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    01/09/19 | Comparisons between the ON- and OFF-edge motion pathways in the brain.
    Shinomiya K, Huang G, Lu Z, Parag T, Xu CS, Aniceto R, Ansari N, Cheatham N, Lauchie S, Neace E, Ogundeyi O, Ordish C, Peel D, Shinomiya A, Smith C, Takemura S, Talebi I, Rivlin PK, Nern A, Scheffer LK, Plaza SM, Meinertzhagen IA
    eLife. 2019 Jan 09;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.40025

    Understanding the circuit mechanisms behind motion detection is a long-standing question in visual neuroscience. In , recent synapse-level connectomes in the optic lobe, particularly in ON-pathway (T4) receptive-field circuits, in concert with physiological studies, suggest an increasingly intricate motion model compared with the ubiquitous Hassenstein-Reichardt model, while our knowledge of OFF-pathway (T5) has been incomplete. Here we present a conclusive and comprehensive connectome that for the first time integrates detailed connectivity information for inputs to both T4 and T5 pathways in a single EM dataset covering the entire optic lobe. With novel reconstruction methods using automated synapse prediction suited to such a large connectome, we successfully corroborate previous findings in the T4 pathway and comprehensively identify inputs and receptive fields for T5. While the two pathways are likely evolutionarily linked and indeed exhibit many similarities, we uncover interesting differences and interactions that may underlie their distinct functional properties.

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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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    10/29/18 | Fully-automatic synapse prediction and validation on a large data set.
    Huang GB, Scheffer LK, Plaza SM
    Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2018 Oct 29;12:87

    Extracting a connectome from an electron microscopy (EM) data set requires identification of neurons and determination of synapses between neurons. As manual extraction of this information is very time-consuming, there has been extensive research effort to automatically segment the neurons to help guide and eventually replace manual tracing. Until recently, there has been comparatively less research on automatically detecting the actual synapses between neurons. This discrepancy can, in part, be attributed to several factors: obtaining neuronal shapes is a prerequisite first step in extracting a connectome, manual tracing is much more time-consuming than annotating synapses, and neuronal contact area can be used as a proxy for synapses in determining connections.
    However, recent research has demonstrated that contact area alone is not a sufficient predictor of synaptic connection. Moreover, as segmentation has improved, we have observed that synapse annotation is consuming a more significant fraction of overall reconstruction time. This ratio will only get worse as segmentation improves, gating overall possible speed-up. Therefore, we address this problem by developing algorithms that automatically detect pre-synaptic neurons and their post-synaptic partners. In particular, pre-synaptic structures are detected using a Deep and Wide Multiscale Recursive Network, and post-synaptic partners are detected using a MLP with features conditioned on the local segmentation.
    This work is novel because it requires minimal amount of training, leverages advances in image segmentation directly, and provides a complete solution for polyadic synapse detection. We further introduce novel metrics to evaluate our algorithm on connectomes of meaningful size. These metrics demonstrate that complete automatic prediction can be used to effectively characterize most connectivity correctly.

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    10/15/18 | Analysis tools for large connectomes.
    Scheffer LK
    Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2018;12:85. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2018.00085

    New reconstruction techniques are generating connectomes of unprecedented size. These must be analyzed to generate human comprehensible results. The analyses being used fall into three general categories. The first is interactive tools used during reconstruction, to help guide the effort, look for possible errors, identify potential cell classes, and answer other preliminary questions. The second type of analysis is support for formal documents such as papers and theses. Scientific norms here require that the data be archived and accessible, and the analysis reproducible. In contrast to some other "omic" fields such as genomics, where a few specific analyses dominate usage, connectomics is rapidly evolving and the analyses used are often specific to the connectome being analyzed. These analyses are typically performed in a variety of conventional programming language, such as Matlab, R, Python, or C++, and read the connectomic data either from a file or through database queries, neither of which are standardized. In the short term we see no alternative to the use of specific analyses, so the best that can be done is to publish the analysis code, and the interface by which it reads connectomic data. A similar situation exists for archiving connectome data. Each group independently makes their data available, but there is no standardized format and long-term accessibility is neither enforced nor funded. In the long term, as connectomics becomes more common, a natural evolution would be a central facility for storing and querying connectomic data, playing a role similar to the National Center for Biotechnology Information for genomes. The final form of analysis is the import of connectome data into downstream tools such as neural simulation or machine learning. In this process, there are two main problems that need to be addressed. First, the reconstructed circuits contain huge amounts of detail, which must be intelligently reduced to a form the downstream tools can use. Second, much of the data needed for these downstream operations must be obtained by other methods (such as genetic or optical) and must be merged with the extracted connectome.

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    07/23/18 | Insights from Biology: low power circuits in the fruit fly.
    Scheffer LK
    International Symposium on Low Power Electronics and Design. 2018 Jul 23-25:

    Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are small insects, with correspondingly small power budgets. Despite this, they perform sophisticated neural computations in real time. Careful study of these insects is revealing how some of these circuits work. Insights from these systems might be helpful in designing other low power circuits.

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    08/17/17 | Simulating extracted connectomes.
    Gornet J, Scheffer LK
    bioRxiv. 2017 Aug 17:. doi: 10.1101/177113

    Connectomes derived from volume EM imaging of the brain can generate detailed physical models of every neuron, and simulators such as NEURON or GENESIS are designed to work with such models. In principal, combining these technologies, plus transmitter and channel models, should allow detailed and accurate simulation of real neural circuits. Here we experiment with this combination, using a well-studied system (motion detection in Drosophila. Since simulation requires both the physical geometry (which we have) and the models of the synapses (which are not currently available), we built approximate synapses corresponding to their known and estimated function. Once we did so, we reproduced direction selectivity in T4 cells, one of the main functions of this neural circuit. This verified the basic functionality of both extraction and simulations, and provided a biologically relevant computation we could use in further experiments. We then compared models with different degrees of physical realism, from full detailed models down to models consisting of a single node, to examine the tradeoff of simulation resources required versus accuracy achieved. Our results show that much simpler models may be adequate, at least in the case of medulla neurons in Drosophila. Such models can be easily derived from fully detailed models, and result in simulations that are much smaller, much faster, and accurate enough for many purposes. Biologically, we show that a lumped neuron model reproduces the main motion detector operation, confirming the result of Gruntman, that dendritic compution is not required for this function.

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    07/18/17 | A connectome of a learning and memory center in the adult Drosophila brain.
    Takemura S, Aso Y, Hige T, Wong AM, Lu Z, Xu CS, Rivlin PK, Hess HF, Zhao T, Parag T, Berg S, Huang G, Katz WT, Olbris DJ, Plaza SM, Umayam LA, Aniceto R, Chang L, Lauchie S, et al
    eLife. 2017 Jul 18;6:e26975. doi: 10.7554/eLife.26975

    Understanding memory formation, storage and retrieval requires knowledge of the underlying neuronal circuits. In Drosophila, the mushroom body (MB) is the major site of associative learning. We reconstructed the morphologies and synaptic connections of all 983 neurons within the three functional units, or compartments, that compose the adult MB’s α lobe, using a dataset of isotropic 8-nm voxels collected by focused ion-beam milling scanning electron microscopy. We found that Kenyon cells (KCs), whose sparse activity encodes sensory information, each make multiple en passant synapses to MB output neurons (MBONs) in each compartment. Some MBONs have inputs from all KCs, while others differentially sample sensory modalities. Only six percent of KC>MBON synapses receive a direct synapse from a dopaminergic neuron (DAN). We identified two unanticipated classes of synapses, KC>DAN and DAN>MBON. DAN activation produces a slow depolarization of the MBON in these DAN>MBON synapses and can weaken memory recall.

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    04/22/17 | The comprehensive connectome of a neural substrate for 'ON' motion detection in Drosophila.
    Takemura S, Nern A, Chklovskii DB, Scheffer LK, Rubin GM, Meinertzhagen IA
    eLife. 2017 Apr 22;6:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.24394

    Analysing computations in neural circuits often uses simplified models because the actual neuronal implementation is not known. For example, a problem in vision, how the eye detects image motion, has long been analysed using Hassenstein-Reichardt (HR) detector or Barlow-Levick (BL) models. These both simulate motion detection well, but the exact neuronal circuits undertaking these tasks remain elusive. We reconstructed a comprehensive connectome of the circuits of Drosophila's motion-sensing T4 cells using a novel EM technique. We uncover complex T4 inputs and reveal that putative excitatory inputs cluster at T4's dendrite shafts, while inhibitory inputs localize to the bases. Consistent with our previous study, we reveal that Mi1 and Tm3 cells provide most synaptic contacts onto T4. We are, however, unable to reproduce the spatial offset between these cells reported previously. Our comprehensive connectome reveals complex circuits that include candidate anatomical substrates for both HR and BL types of motion detectors.

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    01/31/17 | Multicut brings automated neurite segmentation closer to human performance.
    Beier T, Pape C, Rahaman N, Prange T, Berg S, Bock DD, Cardona A, Knott GW, Plaza SM, Scheffer LK, Koethe U, Kreshuk A, Hamprecht FA
    Nature Methods. 2017 Jan 31;14(2):101-102. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4151