Dendritic form

Marta Santuccio and Eleftheria Pissadaki in the lab.

Marta Santuccio and Eleftheria Pissadaki discussing the modelling of branching structures, such as in neurons. Image credit: Agnieszka Swiejkowska.

Artist Marta Santuccio is interested in the branching structure of a neuron, the way brain cells extend their dendrites and axons great distances in the brain to communicate with other cells.

Computational neuroscientist Eleftheria Pissadaki talked with Marta about her computer-based modelling of the dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra; a population of cells that dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. While we know these cells die, it is still not certain why they are vulnerable in the disease, and why this occurs in some people and not others.

Dopamine neuron axonal reconstructions.

Dopamine neuron axonal reconstructions. (A) Camera lucida reconstruction of the axon arbourisation (branching) of a substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) dopamine neuron. The total axonal length of the particular neuron is almost 80 cm (Matsuda et al, 2009). (B) An example synthetic reconstruction of the same neuron type implemented in the Neuron simulation environment. The arbourisation emulates all of the known axonal properties reported from Matsuda and colleagues, and also from our lab. The axonal arbourisation of the SNc dopamine neuron in (B) is almost 50 cm.

This type of branching or arbourisation, which often has a biological function, is apparent in many different situations, from river deltas to tree canopies, and Marta wants to explore this in her art.

Dopamine neuron axonal reconstructions are shown to the left. Learn more about the camera lucida technique, have a look at Matsuda et al, 2009, or see the Neuron simulation environment that Eleftheria used by visiting these links.

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  1. [...] to this previous post for more about Marta’s conversations with scientists at the ANU or check out this [...]