The importance of metadata to assess information content in digital reconstructions of neuronal morphology

Cell Tissue Res. 2015 Apr;360(1):121-7. doi: 10.1007/s00441-014-2103-6. Epub 2015 Feb 5.


Digital reconstructions of axonal and dendritic arbors provide a powerful representation of neuronal morphology in formats amenable to quantitative analysis, computational modeling, and data mining. Reconstructed files, however, require adequate metadata to identify the appropriate animal species, developmental stage, brain region, and neuron type. Moreover, experimental details about tissue processing, neurite visualization and microscopic imaging are essential to assess the information content of digital morphologies. Typical morphological reconstructions only partially capture the underlying biological reality. Tracings are often limited to certain domains (e.g., dendrites and not axons), may be incomplete due to tissue sectioning, imperfect staining, and limited imaging resolution, or can disregard aspects irrelevant to their specific scientific focus (such as branch thickness or depth). Gauging these factors is critical in subsequent data reuse and comparison. NeuroMorpho.Org is a central repository of reconstructions from many laboratories and experimental conditions. Here, we introduce substantial additions to the existing metadata annotation aimed to describe the completeness of the reconstructed neurons in NeuroMorpho.Org. These expanded metadata form a suitable basis for effective description of neuromorphological data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Shape*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / cytology*