Data is online at Open Connectome

brainsectionWhen image stacks are acquired for generating connectivity datasets, there is so much information in the micrographs that does not make it into the first manuscript. As these datasets are extremely difficult to acquire, I think it is important that we try and make the data as openly available as possible. This, however, is not an easy task… it requires you to spend quite a bit of time developing a resource… time that could be spent generating more data or writing papers. As such, I am terribly thankful that the folks at openconnecto.me have developed a resource for making easy for people such as myself to host their image data in a useful way. Right now, one of the Continue reading

Journal Club: Connecting a Connectome to Behavior

0yks_X4B3uHScKQYMpmLDzl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVaiQDB_Rd1H6kmuBWtceBJAn obvious goal of connectomics is to use it is a tool for better understanding complex network function. As new data are becoming available it is  not entirely clear what the best methods are for extracting useful information out of connectivity matrices. Part of the problem lies in the fact that while a wiring diagram is necessary for understanding nervous system function, it is hardly sufficient. The painful reality is that in complex systems like networks of neurons, small details of neuron and synapse function can dramatically alter system behavior. A recent Plos Computational Biology paper by Eduardo Izquierdo and Randall Beer at Indiana University makes what I think is a useful contribution to the problem by Continue reading

Jeff Lichtmann TED talk

Jeff Lichtmann just did a TED talk at connetomics at Caltech that is really worth a watch if you are interested in Connectomics. A couple of weeks ago he gave a longer version of the same talk here at the MPI in Tübingen. I think it does a fantastic job of defining why someone would be interested in “Connectomics”, presents an honest depiction of the magnitude of some of the technological problems involved, and, for me at least, leaves you with some hope that we can make big things happen by pursuing this approach. Something that comes across better in person than on YouTube are these amazing reconstructions where they have gone so far as annotate the positions of all of the synaptic vesicles. Strikingly beautiful! Nicely done talk that will get a lot of exposure, and I hope that it inspires more people to be doing this kind of work.

Talk at Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna

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On Wednesday I was at the IMP in vienna to deliver a talk about my recent paper.Manuel Zimmer, my host, put together a great schedule of people to meet with and I had a great time delivering the talk .. the audience was highly engaged and asked a lot of very good questions. I spent the rest of the day having some great discussions with members of top-notch labs Continue reading

Räuberischer Schlund

predatorypressreleaseMuch to my amusement, I found out that the local newspaper, the Schwäbisches Tagblatt, picked up on our press release and published a nice little story. The title “Räubuerischer Schlund” translates to “Predatory Mouth”, referring to  the toothy mouth Pristionchus pacificus uses to puncture its prey. Pretty cool! The image on this post is the same one used in the press release, and shows P. pacificus chomping down on C. elegans. Click HERE for a link to the article. It’s in German, so if you need to you can have a look at it in google translate.

Comparative Connectomics paper is out!

papertitleFinally, after years of blood sweat and tears our comparative connectomics paper has been published. This represents a huge victory for myself and all of the people who have helped me along the way. It is rather humbling to have this work get the kind of exposure it gets by being published in Cell. It is the culmination of years of work, complete with with heart-breaking failures, long grinding hours on the microscope and in front  of the computer, and the occasional adrenaline-inducing discovery. In the paper, we compare a wiring diagram(or connectome) of the pharyngeal nervous system of the nematode Pristionchus pacificus to that of the well-known model organism C. elegans. The data are obtained by Continue reading

Pristionchus pacificus predatory feeding video

One of the things that interests me about the nematode Pristionchus pacificus is that it is capable of taking advantage of many different food sources. Like it’s cousin and well known model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, this nematode can be raised on agar plates seeded with bacteria. Pristionchus can additionally feed on other sources, including other nematodes! These predatory feeding behaviors are quite distinct from bacterial feeding. For instance, Pristionchus has tooth-like denticles in its mouth opening that are highly active during predatory but not bacterial feeding. This increase in the complexity of the P. pacificus
behavioral palette is most interesting when you consider that the nervous systems are composed of a nearly identical set of neurons. So how do you teach an old nervous system to do new tricks? This is one of my primary motivations for comparing networks of synaptic connectivity between these two species.