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Sydney Brenner & Colleagues Produce the First Map of the Functioning Structure of an Entire Brain: the Beginning of Connectomics

Figure 21 (a) Circuitry associated with amphids. (b) Circuitry associated withother sensory receptors in the head.

Figure 21 (a) Circuitry associated with amphids. (b) Circuitry associated withother sensory receptors in the head.

On November 12, 1986 J. G. White, E. Southgate, J. N. Thomson and S[ydney] Brenner published "The Structure of the nervous System of the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans," Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences, 314 (1986) no. 1165, 1-340. The first map of the functioning structure of an entire brain at the cellular level, this 340-page paper, of monograph length with several hundred images, has been called the beginning of connectomics.

"The structure and connectivity of the nervous system of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been deduced from reconstructions of electron micrographs of serial sections. The hermaphrodite nervous system has a total complement of 302 neurons, which are arranged in an essentially invariant structure. Neurons with similar morphologies and connectivities have been grouped together into classes; there are 118 such classes. Neurons have simple morphologies with few, if any, branches. Processes from neurons run in defined positions within bundles of parallel processes, synaptic connections being made en passant. Process bundles are arranged longitudinally and circumferentially and are often adjacent to ridges of hypodermis. Neurons are generally highly locally connected, making synaptic connections with many of their neighbours. Muscle cells have arms that run out to process bundles containing motoneuron axons. Here they receive their synaptic input in defined regions along the surface of the bundles, where motoneuron axons reside. Most of the morphologically identifiable synaptic connections in a typical animal are described. These consist of about 5000 chemical synapses, 2000 neuromuscular junctions and 600 gap junctions" (Abstract).

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