Digital reconstructions of neuronal morphology: the role of metadata in neuroscience databases.


  • KASHMALA MAHMOOD Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Intern
  • MUHAMMAD SARDAR Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Intern
  • Carolina Tecuatl Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Mentor
  • Giorgio A. Ascoli Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Mentor



Neuron morphology is an intense area of study in brain science, reflecting the key functional roles of axonal and dendritic arbors in signal propagation and circuit dynamics. NeuroMorpho.Org, a curated inventory of digitally reconstructed neurons and glia, contains tracings from 800 laboratories worldwide, including 480 cell types of 90 species and more than 68 brain regions. These data have been accessed in over 230 nations through over 3.1 million website hits and 31 million downloads. Here, we describe our experience working toward the ongoing 8.2 version of NeuroMorpho.Org and document the 3-step process to make the neural reconstructions publicly accessible: literature evaluation, data processing, and metadata annotation. We worked with 36 archives spanning 9 species, 19 brain regions, and 28 cell types, adding a total of 5800 tracings to the database. Data sharing through NeuroMorpho.Org allows researchers from diverse scientific communities to integrate results from different experiments and ensures preservation, circulation, re-analyses, and modeling of existing data. To date, NeuroMorpho.Org is the largest worldwide collection of open access neuronal and glial morphologies, with the total number of downloadable reconstructions exceeding 150,000. The free availability of this resource greatly expands the potential for new discoveries in neuroscience and neuroinformatics.





College of Engineering and Computing: Department of Bioengineering