Brain Circuits, Cell Types and Connectomes
Hongkui Zeng, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA, USA

The brain circuit is an intricately interconnected network of a vast number of neurons with diverse properties. To understand the principles of information processing in the brain circuit, it is essential to have a systematic understanding of the common and unique properties for each of its components – the individual and populations of neurons, to monitor their activities while the brain is processing information, and to have the ability to manipulate these neurons to investigate their functions in the brain circuit. We have been working on developing technologies that will enable the identification, labeling, monitoring and manipulation of different neuronal cell types, and on using a combined molecular, genetic and physiological approach to unravel the diversity and connectivity of the neuronal cell types that compose of neural circuits. One essential step towards this is to gain a comprehensive and detailed understanding of how different types of neurons are connected to each other. The Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas represents the first of such large-scale efforts, in which axonal projections from different regions and different cell types within these regions are systematically mapped throughout the brain to generate a mesoscale connectome. Thousands of standardized datasets are registered into a common 3D reference space, allowing quantitative comparisons and network analyses. A comprehensive, regional specific connectivity matrix has been generated, revealing a variety of network properties such as bilateralism, reciprocity and asymmetry, 3D topography, and convergent/divergent pathways. Our data are consistent with known projections from well-studied areas, but also provide a level of resolution throughout the brain that can reveal novel or previously under-studied connections. Currently ongoing investigation focuses on the contribution of different neuronal cell types to various cortical and subcortical circuits, aiming to reveal underlying rules of circuit organization which constrain information flow through large-scale neuronal networks.

Background Review Article:

Oh, Seung Wook, et al. "A mesoscale connectome of the mouse brain." Nature 508.7495 (2014): 207-214.

Huang ZJ, Zeng H. Genetic approaches to neural circuits in the mouse. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2013 Jul 8;36:183-215. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062012-170307. Epub 2013 May 17.

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