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3D Reconstruction and Standardization of the Rat Vibrissal Cortex for Precise Registration of Single Neuron Morphology


Helmstaedter,  Moritz
Research Group: Structure of Neocortical Circuits / Helmstaedter, MPI of Neurobiology, Max Planck Society;

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Egger, R., Narayanan, R. T., Helmstaedter, M., de Kock, C. P. J., & Oberlaender, M. (2012). 3D Reconstruction and Standardization of the Rat Vibrissal Cortex for Precise Registration of Single Neuron Morphology. PLoS Computational Biology, 8(12): e1002837. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002837.

Author Summary For studying the neural basis of perception and behavior, it would be ideal to directly monitor sensory-evoked excitation streams within neural circuits, at sub-cellular and millisecond resolution. To do so, reverse engineering approaches of reconstructing circuit anatomy and synaptic wiring have been suggested. The resulting anatomically realistic models may then allow for computer simulations (in silico experiments) of circuit function. A natural starting point for reconstructing neural circuits is a cortical column, which is thought to be an elementary functional unit of sensory cortices. In the vibrissal area of rodent somatosensory cortex, a cytoarchitectonic equivalent, designated as a ‘barrel column’, has been described. By reconstructing the 3D geometry of almost 1,000 barrel columns, we show that the somatotopic layout of the vibrissal cortex is highly preserved across animals. This allows generating a standard cortex and registering neuron morphologies, obtained from different experiments, to their ‘true’ location. Marking a crucial step towards reverse engineering of cortical circuits, the present study will allow estimating synaptic connectivity within an entire cortical area by structural overlap of registered axons and dendrites.