News Release 

Ascoli studying neuronal morphology & connectivity

George Mason University

Giorgio Ascoli, Faculty/Professor, Bioengineering, and his collaborators are working to expand on a project that may shed light on the role of specific neuron types and their interactions in impairments of memory formation and retrieval.

In previous research, Ascoli and his colleagues successfully designed and freely distributed to the community computer software and databases to study the 3D tree-like shape of neurons collected from multiple labeling and visualization techniques, animal species, brain regions, developmental stages, and experimental conditions.

Now, they are continuing their work to achieve three goals.

Their first goal is to augment the power and scope of the NeuroMorpho.org repository of digital tracings by more than doubling the number of shared reconstructions while enhancing the human- and machine-accessible utility by adding 'search similar' and summary reporting functionalities. As part of this step, they will also modernize the information technology infrastructure of this resource to enable unsolicited submissions directly from authors, continuous agile releases, and community crowdsourcing.

From there, the researchers will complete the Hippocampome.org knowledge base by adding synaptic information, including connection probabilities, physiology, and plasticity, and linking them to the existing morphological, physiological, and molecular properties of pre- and post-synaptic neurons. This will enable the implementation of a real-scale spiking neural network model to run predictive simulations of activity dynamics and computational functions.

Finally, the researchers will develop an innovative approach to classify neurons directly from network connectivity, validating it with hippocampal data and deploying it on open-access high-throughput data from model organisms.

The researchers are conducting this research to test hypotheses relating neuronal morphology to molecular and developmental determinants as well as hypotheses related to functional circuits.

Ascoli will receive $1,844,750 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for this project. Funding began in May 2020 and will conclude in late April 2025.

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