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Cambridge Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Workshop on Connectomics - Report

The Connectomics workshop, organised by Dr Mikail Rubinov (pictured right), was held on 8 September 2015, and immediately preceded the International Cambridge Neuroscience symposium on Imaging the Nervous System. The aim of the workshop was to foster interactions between investigators in Cambridge distributed across University Departments and MRC Research Institutes, who reconstruct and analyze the structure and function of neural circuits across spatial organisms and scales, using a variety of imaging and analysis techniques. The workshop was an opportunity to bring these Cambridge investigators together to discuss and contrast distinct and common aims and challenges of their work. The format of the workshop was an afternoon of eight short talks by PIs or senior postdocs, with subsequent further informal discussion at the Anchor pub. We had a diverse audience of about 80 registered attendees from more than 15 departments and institutes across Cambridge. Of these, the MRC LMB, and Departments of Psychiatry, Zoology, and Clinical Neurosciences collectively contributed about half of all registrants.

The talks began with an overview by Ed Bullmore (Psychiatry) of the evidence for common connectomic organizational principles across organisms and scales. The talks subsequently proceeded to focus on organisms of increasing complexity, from the nematode C elegans to the human. Bill Schafer (MRC LMB) described a multilayer connectome characterization of synaptic and extrasynaptic connectome of C elegans. Greg Jefferis (MRC LMB) presented novel computational tools to quantify neuronal anatomy in electron microscopy reconstructions of Drosophila and beyond, and Liria Masuda-Nakagawa (Department of Genetics) described a connectomic approach to reconstruct circuit mechanisms for odor discrimination, also in Drosophila. A break between sessions was a chance for lively informal discussions, including on the meaning of connectomics per se. We were lucky to have Olaf Sporns (Indiana University) in the audience to provide insights on this important question.

The second session began with Simon Laughlin's (Department of Zoology) description of the fit between quantified synaptic numbers and estimated gains in neural efficiency in flies. The remaining three talks focused on mammalian brains, with an initial description by Marco Tripodi (MRC LMB) of recordings of neural networks governing targeted head movements in mice. This was followed by talks on functional connectivity, by John Apergis Schoute (Department of Pharmacology) on the role of orexin/hypocretin in maintaining wakefulnells through modulation of sleep-wake systems, and by Linda Geerligs (MRC CBU) on whole-brain network organizational changes in human functional connectivity associated with healthy ageing. The formal part of the workshop was followed by a trip to the Anchor pub, where ongoing discussion ensued in a more informal atmosphere. All in all the workshop successfully brought together researchers who may not regularly communicate with each other, but who may nonetheless pursue broadly similar lines of investigation in diverse organisms and scales.

Posted on 27/10/2015

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