Cracking circuits with connectomes: a reverse neuroethology perspective


Recent advances in electron microscopy and computer-aided tracing capabilities have produced a new kind of Big Data:  Connectomes.  These maps of all the chemical synaptic connections between neurons in a brain are now publicly available for multiple species, including the entire worm nervous system, the fly brain and ventral nerve cord, and a patch of the mouse brain -- and maps in further species are forthcoming.

Connectomes let us see the detailed wiring structure of the brain as never before, but what can these static maps actually tell us about brain computation and function?  I will discuss our lab’s recent work analyzing the fly connectome and using it together with genetic, electrophysiological, and behavioral experiments to understand how sensory signals are converted to behavioral output across the nervous system.  We find that connectomes are critical for understanding neural circuit implementation in the fly, but a wider knowledge of natural fly behaviors is still needed to fully interpret them.

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