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Journal Article

Progress towards mammalian whole-brain cellular connectomics


Mikula,  Shawn
Department: Electrons-Photons-Neurons / Denk, MPI of Neurobiology, Max Planck Society;

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Mikula, S. (2016). Progress towards mammalian whole-brain cellular connectomics. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 10: 62. doi:10.3389/fnana.2016.00062.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-14F2-9
Neurons are the fundamental structural units of the nervous system i.e., the Neuron Doctrine as the pioneering work of Santiago Ramon y Cajal in the 1880's clearly demonstrated through careful observation of Golgi-stained neuronal morphologies. However, at that time sample preparation, imaging methods and computational tools were either nonexistent or insufficiently developed to permit the precise mapping of an entire brain with all of its neurons and their connections. Some measure of the "mesoscopic" connectional organization of the mammalian brain has been obtained over the past decade by alignment of sparse subsets of labeled neurons onto a reference atlas or via MRI-based diffusion tensor imaging. Neither method, however, provides data on the complete connectivity of all neurons comprising an individual brain. Fortunately, whole-brain cellular connectomics now appears within reach due to recent advances in whole-brain sample preparation and high-throughput electron microscopy (EM), though substantial obstacles remain with respect to large volume electron microscopic acquisitions and automated neurite reconstructions. This perspective examines the current status and problems associated with generating a mammalian whole-brain cellular connectome and argues that the time is right to launch a concerted connectomic attack on a small mammalian whole-brain.