Three-dimensional analysis of spiny dendrites using straightening and unrolling transforms

Neuroinformatics. 2012 Oct;10(4):391-407. doi: 10.1007/s12021-012-9153-2.


Current understanding of the synaptic organization of the brain depends to a large extent on knowledge about the synaptic inputs to the neurons. Indeed, the dendritic surfaces of pyramidal cells (the most common neuron in the cerebral cortex) are covered by thin protrusions named dendritic spines. These represent the targets of most excitatory synapses in the cerebral cortex and therefore, dendritic spines prove critical in learning, memory and cognition. This paper presents a new method that facilitates the analysis of the 3D structure of spine insertions in dendrites, providing insight on spine distribution patterns. This method is based both on the implementation of straightening and unrolling transformations to move the analysis process to a planar, unfolded arrangement, and on the design of DISPINE, an interactive environment that supports the visual analysis of 3D patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure*
  • Electronic Data Processing
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*