pic

pic

The big picture

How are neurons connected? What are the fundamental principles of wiring in the brain, i.e. what is the connection code? What are the implications for computation and function? Just as the gene map carries the rules for the structural design of any given organism, it is thought that the map of all circuits in the brain will help unravel its design principles and reveal much about its functioning. A realm of novel techniques has recently emerged allowing the dissection of neural circuits at various levels to ultimately obtain the so-called connectome describing all connections in a given brain area. However, as opposed to the genetic system in which the underlying code is well known since the pioneering work on the structure of DNA, the corresponding connection code remains a mystery. More than a hundred years ago, however, Ramón y Cajal has suggested to interpret construction plans of the brain by observing the morphology of individual neurons. We are now responding to the challenge laid down by Cajal by developing computational tools and mathematical laws to describe this link between structure and function. Morphology is key to understanding both circuits and computation since it reflects the constraints given by both.



pic


Techniques

We developed a computational method which is now called morphological modelling. Assuming optimal wiring in neural circuits we adapted techniques from graph theory to derive morphologies in a reverse engineering approach (Cuntz et al., 2007a; 2008; 2010; 2011; 2012; Cuntz 2012). The resulting synthetic morphologies, apart from withstanding rigorous physiological and anatomical analysis, pass a “Turing test” in which colleagues cannot differentiate the synthetic cells among a set of real cells. See here for more details about the individual projects.
pic

The TREES toolbox

We are committed to sharing our code and data in the spirit of the new field of Neuroinformatics. We developed and maintain the TREES toolbox, a Matlab toolbox to generate, edit, visualize and analyze neuronal structure.




Media outreach
watch a teaser to a video installation in the ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, engl. Center for Art and Media). This movie was projected on a 2.1 x 18.4 meters panorama screen as part of an art exhibition. With review in the frieze magazine, one of the leading magazines of contemporary art and culture.





pic
watch a 15 minute interview by Arvid Leyh on dasgehirn.info (in German) in cooperation with Gehirn & Geist and the Hertie Foundation.











pic
read a German popular science article written by Christiane Gelitz for Gehirn & Geist from the Spektrum der Wissenschaft publishing company.









pic
find our work in the Wellcome Collection.










pic
Our work was chosen to be the subject of the prototype Science Byte documentary program available at PBS funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to popularise work published in PLoS. The film was directed by Michael Schwarz and produced by kikim media.

→   Enjoy!


pic

find also an article in the June 2012 issue of WIRED UK magazine.














pic

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
last updated on 24 October 2014, Hermann Cuntz