Tao Hu, Anthony Leonardo, Dmitri Chklovskii
One of the central problems in neuroscience is reconstructing synaptic connectivity in neural circuits. Synapses onto a neuron can be probed by sequentially stimulating potentially pre-synaptic neurons while monitoring the membrane voltage of the post-synaptic neuron. Reconstructing a large neural circuit using such a “brute force” approach is rather time-consuming and inefficient because the connectivity in neural circuits is sparse. Instead, we propose to measure a post-synaptic neuron’s voltage while stimulating simultaneously multiple randomly chosen potentially pre-synaptic neurons. To extract the weights of individual synaptic connections we apply a decoding algorithm recently developed for compressive sensing. Compared to the brute force approach, our method promises significant time savings that grow with the size of the circuit. We use computer simulations to find optimal stimulation parameters and explore the feasibility of our reconstruction method under realistic experimental conditions including noise and non-linear synaptic integration. Multiple-neuron stimulation allows reconstructing synaptic connectivity just from the spiking activity of post-synaptic neurons, even when sub-threshold voltage is unavailable. By using calcium indicators, voltage-sensitive dyes, or multi-electrode arrays one could monitor activity of multiple post-synaptic neurons simultaneously, thus mapping their synaptic inputs in parallel, potentially reconstructing a complete neural circuit.