Cortical microcircuitry: Can we predict function from structure?
Neuroscientists have sought to explain diseases like schizophrenia and autism in terms of abnormal development of cortical microcircuitry. Before leaping to high level functional conclusions from low level anatomy, it may be a good idea to ask what low level functions can even be inferred from structure. A new perspective paper in Science titled, ” Neuronal Birth to Cortical Circuitry,” takes stock of new techniques for tracing the development of some of the more colorful players on the cerebral roster. Chief among them are the enigmatic “chandelier cells” that can usurp control over the output of nearly all the pyramidal cells in their vicinity. Chandelier synapses are able to outcompete all comers to command the most highly coveted real estate in all the cortex—the axon initial segment. The ability to electrically patch onto targeted subtypes of developing cortical cells, while imaging the effects of their activity on the surrounding network now offers the opportunity to directly map microscale anatomy to function. Where sterile electron micrographs (EM) previously only hinted at the dynamic storm continually unfolding at every synapse, researchers might now begin to expand the limited notion of static cortical “circuits” under the enlightened understanding that development processes in the brain might slow down, but they never really end. (via Cortical microcircuitry: Can we predict function from structure?)