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Modeling Brain Circuitry using Scales Ranging from Micrometer to Nanometer

Final Report Summary - MICRONANO (Modeling Brain Circuitry using Scales Ranging from Micrometer to Nanometer)

If we are ever to unravel the mysteries of brain function at its most fundamental level, we will need a precise understanding of how its component neurons connect to each other. Electron Microscopes (EM) can now provide the nanometer resolution that is needed to image synapses, and therefore connections, while Light Microscopes (LM) see at the micrometer resolution required to model the 3D structure of the dendritic network. Since both the topology and the connection strength are integral parts of the brain's wiring diagram, being able to combine these two modalities is critically important.

In fact, these microscopes now routinely produce high-resolution imagery in such large quantities that the bottleneck becomes automated processing and interpretation, which is needed for such data to be exploited to its full potential. In the course of this project, we have developed Computer Vision techniques to address this need. They include delineating dendritic arbors from LM imagery, segmenting organelles from EM, and combining the two into a consistent representation.

These algorithms are now being used in several laboratories both at EPFL and other institutions and promise to play a crucial role in helping to unravel the mysteries of the brain in several ongoing projects. This work will be pursued beyond the end of the project thanks to the collaborations it has fostered.