Pyramidal Explorer: An interactive Tool for Exploring the Morpho-Functional Relations of Human Pyramidal Neurons

Neuroanatomy has evolved rapidly in the past few years; various techniques and new procedures have made it possible to examine the nervous system. The Pyramidal Explorer is a new tool that interactively explores and divulges the detailed organization of the microanatomy of pyramidal neurons with functionally correlated models. A certain set of functionalities permit possible regional differences in the pyramidal cells structural design to be discovered by uniting quantitative morphological information about the structure of the cell with applied functional models. One of its main functions is the morpho-functional oriented design, which lets the user navigate inside the 3D dataset, sort and perform Content Based Retrieval operations. The tool was used on a human pyramidal neuron with more than 9000 dendritic spines in apical and basal dendritic trees. The findings were amazing; various unexpected morphological attributes of dendritic spines in certain compartments of the neuron, revealed new aspects of the morpho-functional organization.

There are many software tools present which allow 3D reconstruction and visualization of micro anatomical detail of the neurons from the confocal stacks of images. Like the Imaris software generates and visualizes 3D surfaces of neuronal elements displaying several measurements from the reconstruction. While the pyramidal explorer is capable of importing   features computed from any image segmentation software tool and generating data using standard spreadsheet formats. In addition to being an image segmentation tool like the other software tools, Pyramidal Explorer is interactive exploratory software as well.

The tools will give the neurophysiologists a chance to study and examine the neurons’ morphology in depth. The new tool has made it possible to explore the particular morpho-functional distribution of spines in the cell. It is now possible to find the spines that are dissimilar and alike within the neuron. It is also possible to set a query using the multiple morphological or functional variables and get data about which spines of the neuron present the most similar or dissimilar characteristics to a particular selected spine.

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