The biological factors shaping the synaptic connectivity of neuronal circuits are complex and multifaceted, depending on cell types, functional activity, homeostasis, and more. Mapping brain wiring at the level of both local circuits and across brain-wide projections is a key aspect of understanding how nervous systems develop, learn, process information and generate behaviour. Recent advances in molecular biology, tissue processing, computational methods, and microscopy have enabled a revolution in understanding structural connectivity with cellular and synaptic resolution. Large-scale electron microscopy volumes provide nanometer-scale maps of anatomy and connectivity of whole invertebrate brains and millimetre-scale regions of vertebrate brains, while light-microscopic methods can highlight genetically defined connections and enable brain-wide reconstruction of neurons. Together, these complementary approaches yield powerful insight into the neuroanatomy and connectivity of the nervous system with single-cell resolution.
This course will provide students with a broad introduction to contemporary methods of studying neuronal connectivity with lectures from experts in the field. It also provides practical project-based instruction in experimental methods of circuit tracing and reconstruction with light microscopy (light sheet or 2-photon), as well as the computational analysis of rich electron microscopy connectomes in flies and mice. Students will consider the strengths and limitations of different techniques and how they can be used to address key problems in circuit neuroscience.