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50 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: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.21.911859

    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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    03/23/20 | Recurrent architecture for adaptive regulation of learning in the insect brain.
    Eschbach C, Fushiki A, Winding M, Schneider-Mizell CM, Shao M, Arruda R, Eichler K, Valdes-Aleman J, Ohyama T, Thum AS, Gerber B, Fetter RD, Truman JW, Litwin-Kumar A, Cardona A, Zlatic M, Cardona A, Zlatic M
    Nature Neuroscience. 2020 Mar 23;23(4):544-55. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0607-9

    Dopaminergic neurons (DANs) drive learning across the animal kingdom, but the upstream circuits that regulate their activity and thereby learning remain poorly understood. We provide a synaptic-resolution connectome of the circuitry upstream of all DANs in a learning center, the mushroom body of Drosophila larva. We discover afferent sensory pathways and a large population of neurons that provide feedback from mushroom body output neurons and link distinct memory systems (aversive and appetitive). We combine this with functional studies of DANs and their presynaptic partners and with comprehensive circuit modeling. We find that DANs compare convergent feedback from aversive and appetitive systems, which enables the computation of integrated predictions that may improve future learning. Computational modeling reveals that the discovered feedback motifs increase model flexibility and performance on learning tasks. Our study provides the most detailed view to date of biological circuit motifs that support associative learning.

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    10/11/19 | The organization of the second optic chiasm of the optic lobe.
    Shinomiya K, Horne JA, McLin S, Wiederman M, Nern A, Plaza SM, Meinertzhagen IA
    Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2019 Oct 11;13:65. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2019.00065

    Visual pathways from the compound eye of an insect relay to four neuropils, successively the lamina, medulla, lobula, and lobula plate in the underlying optic lobe. Among these neuropils, the medulla, lobula, and lobula plate are interconnected by the complex second optic chiasm, through which the anteroposterior axis undergoes an inversion between the medulla and lobula. Given their complex structure, the projection patterns through the second optic chiasm have so far lacked critical analysis. By densely reconstructing axon trajectories using a volumetric scanning electron microscopy (SEM) technique, we reveal the three-dimensional structure of the second optic chiasm of , which comprises interleaving bundles and sheets of axons insulated from each other by glial sheaths. These axon bundles invert their horizontal sequence in passing between the medulla and lobula. Axons connecting the medulla and lobula plate are also bundled together with them but do not decussate the sequence of their horizontal positions. They interleave with sheets of projection neuron axons between the lobula and lobula plate, which also lack decussations. We estimate that approximately 19,500 cells per hemisphere, about two thirds of the optic lobe neurons, contribute to the second chiasm, most being Tm cells, with an estimated additional 2,780 T4 and T5 cells each. The chiasm mostly comprises axons and cell body fibers, but also a few synaptic elements. Based on our anatomical findings, we propose that a chiasmal structure between the neuropils is potentially advantageous for processing complex visual information in parallel. The EM reconstruction shows not only the structure of the chiasm in the adult brain, the previously unreported main topic of our study, but also suggest that the projection patterns of the neurons comprising the chiasm may be determined by the proliferation centers from which the neurons develop. Such a complex wiring pattern could, we suggest, only have arisen in several evolutionary steps.

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    02/05/19 | DVID: Distributed versioned image-oriented dataservice.
    Katz WT, Plaza SM
    Frontiers in Neural Circuits. 2019 Feb 05;13(5):. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2019.00005

    Open-source software development has skyrocketed in part due to community tools like github.com, which allows publication of code as well as the ability to create branches and push accepted modifications back to the original repository. As the number and size of EM-based datasets increases, the connectomics community faces similar issues when we publish snapshot data corresponding to a publication. Ideally, there would be a mechanism where remote collaborators could modify branches of the data and then flexibly reintegrate results via moderated acceptance of changes. The DVID system provides a web-based connectomics API and the first steps toward such a distributed versioning approach to EM-based connectomics datasets. Through its use as the central data resource for Janelia's FlyEM team, we have integrated the concepts of distributed versioning into reconstruction workflows, allowing support for proofreader training and segmentation experiments through branched, versioned data. DVID also supports persistence to a variety of storage systems from high-speed local SSDs to cloud-based object stores, which allows its deployment on laptops as well as large servers. The tailoring of the backend storage to each type of connectomics data leads to efficient storage and fast queries. DVID is freely available as open-source software with an increasing number of supported storage options.

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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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    11/13/18 | 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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