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Front Neural Circuits. 2013 Feb 7;7:13. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2013.00013. eCollection 2013.

Beyond the frontiers of neuronal types.

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Department of Nonlinear Dynamics, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS) Göttingen, Germany ; Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Göttingen, Germany.


Cortical neurons and, particularly, inhibitory interneurons display a large diversity of morphological, synaptic, electrophysiological, and molecular properties, as well as diverse embryonic origins. Various authors have proposed alternative classification schemes that rely on the concomitant observation of several multimodal features. However, a broad variability is generally observed even among cells that are grouped into a same class. Furthermore, the attribution of specific neurons to a single defined class is often difficult, because individual properties vary in a highly graded fashion, suggestive of continua of features between types. Going beyond the description of representative traits of distinct classes, we focus here on the analysis of atypical cells. We introduce a novel paradigm for neuronal type classification, assuming explicitly the existence of a structured continuum of diversity. Our approach, grounded on the theory of fuzzy sets, identifies a small optimal number of model archetypes. At the same time, it quantifies the degree of similarity between these archetypes and each considered neuron. This allows highlighting archetypal cells, which bear a clear similarity to a single model archetype, and edge cells, which manifest a convergence of traits from multiple archetypes.


atypical cells; barrel cortex; fuzzy sets; interneuron diversity; neuronal diversity; petilla terminology; unsupervised clustering

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