Wiring optimization in cortical circuits

Neuron. 2002 Apr 25;34(3):341-7. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00679-7.


Wiring a brain presents a formidable problem because neural circuits require an enormous number of fast and durable connections. We propose that evolution was likely to have optimized neural circuits to minimize conduction delays in axons, passive cable attenuation in dendrites, and the length of "wire" used to construct circuits, and to have maximized the density of synapses. Here we ask the question: "What fraction of the volume should be taken up by axons and dendrites (i.e., wire) when these variables are at their optimal values?" The biophysical properties of axons and dendrites dictate that wire should occupy 3/5 of the volume in an optimally wired gray matter. We have measured the fraction of the volume occupied by each cellular component and find that the volume of wire is close to the predicted optimal value.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Mathematics
  • Mice
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*