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Objective Classification of Neocortical Pyramidal Cells

By Lida Kanari, Srikanth Ramaswamy, Ying Shi, Sebastien Morand, Julie Meystre, Rodrigo Perin, Marwan Abdellah, Yun Wang, Kathryn Hess, Henry Markram

Posted 19 Jun 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/349977 (published DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhy339)

A consensus on the number of morphologically different types of pyramidal cells (PCs) in the neocortex has not yet been reached, despite over a century of anatomical studies. This is because of a lack of agreement on the subjective classifications of neuron types, which is based on expert analyses of neuronal morphologies: the shapes of somata, dendrites, and axons. Even for neurons that are visually different to non-experts, there is no common ground to consistently distinguish morphological types. We found that objective classification is possible with methods from algebraic topology, and that the dendritic arbor is sufficient for reliable identification of distinct types of PCs. We also provide a solution for the more challenging problem of whether two similar neurons belong to different types or to a continuum of the same type. Using this scheme, we objectively identify seventeen types of PCs in the rat somatosensory cortex. Our topological classification does not require expert input, is stable, and helps settle the long-standing debate on whether cell-types are discrete or continuous morphological variations of each other.

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