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Hierarchical classification of fruit fly brain neurons

Well-investigated brain regions mostly have organized structures of arrays, columns or glomeruli, but the rest of the brain -- what we call the "terra incognita" -- appears like tangled spaghetti of neuronal fibers. Such brain regions do have organized architecture, if one can classify diverse component neurons into logical groups. Using the electron microscopy connectome data generated by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus in the States, we are categorizing neurons hierarchically based on their morphological similarity and key characteristics of projection patterns. Using the 3x3x3-meter cubic room of Cave Automatic Virtual Environment with five 3D screens, we virtually expand the fly brain to 10-meter wide and dive into it to examine neuronal architecture from inside the brain. Similar-looking neurons sometimes share similar connectivity, but in other cases connect to rather different neurons. Integrative analysis of morphological and connectivity clustering enables us to segregate neurons into putative functional groups.

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