Spatial Microstructure and Geometry in the Brain

When: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm
Where: DA 114
Speaker: Will Morrison
Organization: Boston University
Sponsor: Biophysical Group Meeting

The brain is certainly one of the most studied organs in the body. However, one avenue of study has been long neglected. This is the spatial arrangement of neurons, their extended axons, and other cells into structures and patterns containing from tens to thousands of components. These “microstructures” are much smaller than the cortical folds, layers, and areas traditionally studied in anatomy. The data necessary to characterize microstructure has long been experimentally inaccessible, however recent advances in imaging and image processing have made it available.

I will discuss quantification of a classic cortical structure, the mini-column, using analytical techniques adapted from statistical physics. We have been able to relate changes in this long recognized but only recently quantified structure to performance in visual processing tasks. I will then discuss how a simple spatial correlation technique was used to measure the size of astrocyte arborizations – a very difficult measurement using traditional direct imaging. Finally, I will shift from the cortex to the white matter. Here I will discuss the discovery and proof of geometric constraints to axonal growth. This has important implications for axonal guidance during development.

Host: Assistant Professor Meni Wanunu