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23 Janelia Publications

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    09/03/20 | A connectome of the adult drosophila central brain.
    Xu CS, Januszewski M, Lu Z, Takemura S, Hayworth KJ, Huang G, Shinomiya K, Maitin-Shepard J, Ackerman D, Berg S, Blakely T, Bogovic J, Clements J, Dolafi T, Hubbard P, Kainmueller D, Katz W, Kawase T, Khairy KA, Leavitt L, Li PH, Lindsey L, Neubarth N, Olbris DJ, Otsuna H, Troutman ET, Umayam L, Zhao T, Ito M, Goldammer J, Wolff T, Svirskas R, Schlegel P, Neace ER, Knecht CJ, Alvarado CX, Bailey DA, Ballinger S, Borycz JA, Canino BS
    eLife. 2020 Sep 03:. doi:

    The neural circuits responsible for behavior remain largely unknown. Previous efforts have reconstructed the complete circuits of small animals, with hundreds of neurons, and selected circuits for larger animals. Here we (the FlyEM project at Janelia and collaborators at Google) summarize new methods and present the complete circuitry of a large fraction of the brain of a much more complex animal, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Improved methods include new procedures to prepare, image, align, segment, find synapses, and proofread such large data sets; new methods that define cell types based on connectivity in addition to morphology; and new methods to simplify access to a large and evolving data set. From the resulting data we derive a better definition of computational compartments and their connections; an exhaustive atlas of cell examples and types, many of them novel; detailed circuits for most of the central brain; and exploration of the statistics and structure of different brain compartments, and the brain as a whole. We make the data public, with a web site and resources specifically designed to make it easy to explore, for all levels of expertise from the expert to the merely curious. The public availability of these data, and the simplified means to access it, dramatically reduces the effort needed to answer typical circuit questions, such as the identity of upstream and downstream neural partners, the circuitry of brain regions, and to link the neurons defined by our analysis with genetic reagents that can be used to study their functions.

    Note: In the next few weeks, we will release a series of papers with more involved discussions. One paper will detail the hemibrain reconstruction with more extensive analysis and interpretation made possible by this dense connectome. Another paper will explore the central complex, a brain region involved in navigation, motor control, and sleep. A final paper will present insights from the mushroom body, a center of multimodal associative learning in the fly brain.

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    07/01/19 | Large scale image segmentation with structured loss based deep learning for connectome reconstruction.
    Funke J, Tschopp FD, Grisaitis W, Sheridan A, Singh C, Saalfeld S, Turaga SC
    IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence. 2019 Jul 1;41(7):1669-80. doi: 10.1109/TPAMI.2018.2835450

    We present a method combining affinity prediction with region agglomeration, which improves significantly upon the state of the art of neuron segmentation from electron microscopy (EM) in accuracy and scalability. Our method consists of a 3D U-net, trained to predict affinities between voxels, followed by iterative region agglomeration. We train using a structured loss based on MALIS, encouraging topologically correct segmentations obtained from affinity thresholding. Our extension consists of two parts: First, we present a quasi-linear method to compute the loss gradient, improving over the original quadratic algorithm. Second, we compute the gradient in two separate passes to avoid spurious gradient contributions in early training stages. Our predictions are accurate enough that simple learning-free percentile-based agglomeration outperforms more involved methods used earlier on inferior predictions. We present results on three diverse EM datasets, achieving relative improvements over previous results of 27%, 15%, and 250%. Our findings suggest that a single method can be applied to both nearly isotropic block-face EM data and anisotropic serial sectioned EM data. The runtime of our method scales linearly with the size of the volume and achieves a throughput of ~2.6 seconds per megavoxel, qualifying our method for the processing of very large datasets.

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    05/23/19 | Computational methods for stitching, alignment, and artifact correction of serial section data.
    Saalfeld S
    Methods in Cell Biology;152:261 - 276. doi: 10.1016/bs.mcb.2019.04.007

    Imaging large samples at the resolution offered by electron microscopy is typically achieved by sequentially recording overlapping tiles that are later combined to seamless mosaics. Mosaics of serial sections are aligned to reconstruct three-dimensional volumes. To achieve this, image distortions and artifacts as introduced during sample preparation or imaging need to be removed.

    In this chapter, we will discuss typical sources of artifacts and distortion, and we will learn how to use the open source software TrakEM2 to correct them.

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    03/19/20 | Automatic Detection of Synaptic Partners in a Whole-Brain Drosophila EM Dataset
    Buhmann J, Sheridan A, Gerhard S, Krause R, Nguyen T, Heinrich L, Schlegel P, Lee WA, Wilson R, Saalfeld S, Jefferis G, Bock D, Turaga S, Cook M, Funke J
    bioRxiv. 2020 Mar 19:. doi: 10.1101/2019.12.12.874172

    The study of neural circuits requires the reconstruction of neurons and the identification of synaptic connections between them. To scale the reconstruction to the size of whole-brain datasets, semi-automatic methods are needed to solve those tasks. Here, we present an automatic method for synaptic partner identification in insect brains, which uses convolutional neural networks to identify post-synaptic sites and their pre-synaptic partners. The networks can be trained from human generated point annotations alone and requires only simple post-processing to obtain final predictions. We used our method to extract 244 million putative synaptic partners in the fifty-teravoxel full adult fly brain (FAFB) electron microscopy (EM) dataset and evaluated its accuracy on 146,643 synapses from 702 neurons with a total cable length of 312 mm in four different brain regions. The predicted synaptic connections can be used together with a neuron segmentation to infer a connectivity graph with high accuracy: 96% of edges between connected neurons are correctly classified as weakly connected (less than five synapses) and strongly connected (at least five synapses). Our synaptic partner predictions for the FAFB dataset are publicly available, together with a query library allowing automatic retrieval of up- and downstream neurons.

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    01/18/19 | Cortical column and whole-brain imaging with molecular contrast and nanoscale resolution.
    Gao R, Asano SM, Upadhyayula S, Pisarev I, Milkie DE, Liu T, Singh V, Graves AR, Huynh GH, Zhao Y, Bogovic JA, Colonell J, Ott CM, Zugates CT, Tappan S, Rodriguez A, Mosaliganti KR, Sheu S, Pasolli HA, et al
    Science (New York, N.Y.). 2019 Jan 18;363(6424):eaau8302. doi: 10.1126/science.aau8302

    Optical and electron microscopy have made tremendous inroads toward understanding the complexity of the brain. However, optical microscopy offers insufficient resolution to reveal subcellular details, and electron microscopy lacks the throughput and molecular contrast to visualize specific molecular constituents over millimeter-scale or larger dimensions. We combined expansion microscopy and lattice light-sheet microscopy to image the nanoscale spatial relationships between proteins across the thickness of the mouse cortex or the entire Drosophila brain. These included synaptic proteins at dendritic spines, myelination along axons, and presynaptic densities at dopaminergic neurons in every fly brain region. The technology should enable statistically rich, large-scale studies of neural development, sexual dimorphism, degree of stereotypy, and structural correlations to behavior or neural activity, all with molecular contrast.

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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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    07/25/18 | An unbiased template of the Drosophila brain and ventral nerve cord.
    Bogovic JA, Otsuna H, Heinrich L, Ito M, Jeter J, Meissner GW, Nern A, Colonell J, Malkesman O, Saalfeld S
    bioRxiv. 2018 Jul 25:. doi: 10.1101/376384

    The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an important model organism for neuroscience with a wide array of genetic tools that enable the mapping of individuals neurons and neural subtypes. Brain templates are essential for comparative biological studies because they enable analyzing many individuals in a common reference space. Several central brain templates exist for Drosophila, but every one is either biased, uses sub-optimal tissue preparation, is imaged at low resolution, or does not account for artifacts. No publicly available Drosophila ventral nerve cord template currently exists. In this work, we created high-resolution templates of the Drosophila brain and ventral nerve cord using the best-available technologies for imaging, artifact correction, stitching, and template construction using groupwise registration. We evaluated our central brain template against the four most competitive, publicly available brain templates and demonstrate that ours enables more accurate registration with fewer local deformations in shorter time.

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    07/12/18 | A complete electron microscopy volume of the brain of adult Drosophila melanogaster.
    Zheng Z, Lauritzen JS, Perlman E, Robinson CG, Nichols M, Milkie DE, Torrens O, Price J, Fisher CB, Sharifi N, Calle-Schuler SA, Kmecova L, Ali IJ, Karsh B, Trautman ET, Bogovic JA, Hanslovsky P, Jefferis GS, Kazhdan M, Khairy K
    Cell. 2018 Jul 12;174(3):730-43. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.06.019

    Drosophila melanogaster has a rich repertoire of innate and learned behaviors. Its 100,000-neuron brain is a large but tractable target for comprehensive neural circuit mapping. Only electron microscopy (EM) enables complete, unbiased mapping of synaptic connectivity; however, the fly brain is too large for conventional EM. We developed a custom high-throughput EM platform and imaged the entire brain of an adult female fly at synaptic resolution. To validate the dataset, we traced brain-spanning circuitry involving the mushroom body (MB), which has been extensively studied for its role in learning. All inputs to Kenyon cells (KCs), the intrinsic neurons of the MB, were mapped, revealing a previously unknown cell type, postsynaptic partners of KC dendrites, and unexpected clustering of olfactory projection neurons. These reconstructions show that this freely available EM volume supports mapping of brain-spanning circuits, which will significantly accelerate Drosophila neuroscience..

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    05/24/18 | The candidate multi-cut for cell segmentation.
    Funke J, Zhang C, Pietzsch T, Gonzalez Ballester MA, Saalfeld S
    2018 IEEE 15th International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI 2018). 2017 Jul 04:. doi: 10.1109/ISBI.2018.8363658

    Two successful approaches for the segmentation of biomedical images are (1) the selection of segment candidates from a merge-tree, and (2) the clustering of small superpixels by solving a Multi-Cut problem. In this paper, we introduce a model that unifies both approaches. Our model, the Candidate Multi-Cut (CMC), allows joint selection and clustering of segment candidates from a merge-tree. This way, we overcome the respective limitations of the individual methods: (1) the space of possible segmentations is not constrained to candidates of a merge-tree, and (2) the decision for clustering can be made on candidates larger than superpixels, using features over larger contexts. We solve the optimization problem of selecting and clustering of candidates using an integer linear program. On datasets of 2D light microscopy of cell populations and 3D electron microscopy of neurons, we show that our method generalizes well and generates more accurate segmentations than merge-tree or Multi-Cut methods alone.

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    04/26/18 | Joint deformable registration of large EM image volumes: a matrix solver approach.
    Khairy K, Denisov G, Saalfeld S
    arXiv. 2018 Apr 26:

    Large electron microscopy image datasets for connectomics are typically composed of thousands to millions of partially overlapping two-dimensional images (tiles), which must be registered into a coherent volume prior to further analysis. A common registration strategy is to find matching features between neighboring and overlapping image pairs, followed by a numerical estimation of optimal image deformation using a so-called solver program. 
    Existing solvers are inadequate for large data volumes, and inefficient for small-scale image registration. 
    In this work, an efficient and accurate matrix-based solver method is presented. A linear system is constructed that combines minimization of feature-pair square distances with explicit constraints in a regularization term. In absence of reliable priors for regularization, we show how to construct a rigid-model approximation to use as prior. The linear system is solved using available computer programs, whose performance on typical registration tasks we briefly compare, and to which future scale-up is delegated. Our method is applied to the joint alignment of 2.67 million images, with more than 200 million point-pairs and has been used for successfully aligning the first full adult fruit fly brain.

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