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Characterizing the spatial density functions of neural arbors


Recently, it has been proposed that a universal function describes the way in which all arbors (axons and dendrites) spread their branches over space. Data from fish retinal ganglion cells as well as cortical and hippocampal arbors from mouse, rat, cat, monkey and human provide evidence that all arbor density functions (adfs) can be described by a Gaussian function truncated at approximately two standard deviations. A Gaussian density function implies that there is a minimal set of parameters needed to describe an adf : two or three standard deviations (depending on the dimensionality of the arbor) and an amplitude. However, the parameters needed to completely describe an adf could be further constrained by a scaling law found between the product of the standard deviations and the amplitude of the function. In the following document, I examine the scaling law relationship in order to determine the minimal set of parameters needed to describe an adf. First, I find that the flat, two- dimensional arbors of fish retinal ganglion cells require only two out of the three fundamental parameters to completely describe their density functions. Second, the three-dimensional, volume filling, cortical arbors require four fundamental parameters: three standard deviations and the total length of an arbor (which corresponds to the amplitude of the function). Next, I characterize the shape of arbors in the context of the fundamental parameters. I show that the parameter distributions of the fish retinal ganglion cells are largely homogenous. In general, axons are bigger and less dense than dendrites; however, they are similarly shaped. The parameter distributions of these two arbor types overlap and, therefore, can only be differentiated from one another probabilistically based on their adfs. Despite artifacts in the cortical arbor data, different types of arbors (apical dendrites, non-apical dendrites, and axons) can generally be differentiated based on their adfs. In addition, within arbor type, there is evidence of different neuron classes (such as interneurons and pyramidal cells). How well different types and classes of arbors can be differentiated is quantified using the Random ForestTM supervised learning algorithm

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