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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e24899. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024899. Epub 2011 Oct 21.

Automated detection and segmentation of synaptic contacts in nearly isotropic serial electron microscopy images.

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Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.


We describe a protocol for fully automated detection and segmentation of asymmetric, presumed excitatory, synapses in serial electron microscopy images of the adult mammalian cerebral cortex, taken with the focused ion beam, scanning electron microscope (FIB/SEM). The procedure is based on interactive machine learning and only requires a few labeled synapses for training. The statistical learning is performed on geometrical features of 3D neighborhoods of each voxel and can fully exploit the high z-resolution of the data. On a quantitative validation dataset of 111 synapses in 409 images of 1948×1342 pixels with manual annotations by three independent experts the error rate of the algorithm was found to be comparable to that of the experts (0.92 recall at 0.89 precision). Our software offers a convenient interface for labeling the training data and the possibility to visualize and proofread the results in 3D. The source code, the test dataset and the ground truth annotation are freely available on the website

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