Big Neuron – Towards Big Data in Neuroscience

This year Hanchuan Peng (Allen Institute for Brain Science) began the next phase of the effort called Big Neuron. However, rather than a competition, this time the project would be a collaboration.

The key idea is to create a single platform on which all algorithms can be run, compared, and their results combined to form reconstructions better than any one could achieve alone.

Neuronal Morphology Background

Morphology is the study of the physical shape of things for the purposes of understanding the processes involved in forming an object and/or the purpose/function of the object. We know that neurons are involved in converting environmental stimuli into electrochemical signals, processing that information, producing consciousness, and enabling behavior. Through studies of morphology, often in conjunction with electrophysiology, gene and protein expression, and other properties of neurons, neuroscientists have learned much about what specifically neurons do and how their various individual functions contribute to more emergent phenomena vital to brain function. The first chapter of my dissertation (and the book chapter “Measuring and Modeling Morphology: How Dendrites Take Shape“, of Springer textbook Computational Systems Neurobiology) discusses many of the relationships between morphology, function, and other neuronal properties, along with the major approaches (old and new) used in making the discoveries.

After discussing the relevance of morphology in neuroscience, the chapter begins with an description of morphological metrics and the relationships between morphological and electrophysiological features. An review of molecular pathways involved in neuronal development and plasticity follows. Having provided the context of molecular pathways and electrophysiological function, the chapter describes a diverse set of studies using simulations at various levels of …

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