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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2017 Mar;18(3):131-146. doi: 10.1038/nrn.2016.182. Epub 2017 Feb 2.

Micro-connectomics: probing the organization of neuronal networks at the cellular scale.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge CB2 0SZ, UK.
Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, Bio Engineering Laboratory, ETH Zurich, Mattenstrasse 26, Basel CH-4058, Switzerland.
Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Physiological Laboratory, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EG, UK.
ImmunoPsychiatry, Immuno-Inflammation Therapeutic Area Unit, GlaxoSmithKline R&D, Stevenage SG1 2NY, UK.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge Road, Fulbourn, Cambridge CB21 5HH, UK.


Defining the organizational principles of neuronal networks at the cellular scale, or micro-connectomics, is a key challenge of modern neuroscience. In this Review, we focus on graph theoretical parameters of micro-connectome topology, often informed by economical principles that conceptually originated with Ramón y Cajal's conservation laws. First, we summarize results from studies in intact small organisms and in samples from larger nervous systems. We then evaluate the evidence for an economical trade-off between biological cost and functional value in the organization of neuronal networks. Various results suggest that many aspects of neuronal network organization are indeed the outcome of competition between these two fundamental selection pressures.

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