Automatic classification and neurotransmitter prediction of synapses in electron microscopy

TitleAutomatic classification and neurotransmitter prediction of synapses in electron microscopy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsZhang A, Shailja S., Borba C, Miao Y, Goebel M, Ruschel R, Ryan K, Smith W, Manjunath B.S
JournalBiological Imaging
Start Pagee6

This paper presents a deep-learning-based workflow to detect synapses and predict their neurotransmitter type in the primitive chordate Ciona intestinalis (Ciona) electron microscopic (EM) images. Identifying synapses from EM images to build a full map of connections between neurons is a labor-intensive process and requires significant domain expertise. Automation of synapse classification would hasten the generation and analysis of connectomes. Furthermore, inferences concerning neuron type and function from synapse features are in many cases difficult to make. Finding the connection between synapse structure and function is an important step in fully understanding a connectome. Class Activation Maps derived from the convolutional neural network provide insights on important features of synapses based on cell type and function. The main contribution of this work is in the differentiation of synapses by neurotransmitter type through the structural information in their EM images. This enables the prediction of neurotransmitter types for neurons in Ciona, which were previously unknown. The prediction model with code is available on GitHub.