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B5: NetCAD: An environment for 3D structural modeling of biological neuronal networks

Stefan RotterB, Markus DiesmannQ, Edgar KörnerD

B = Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience
Q = Riken Brain Science Institute
D = Honda Research Institute Europe GmbH


Scientific background

Current neuroanatomy aims to unravel the wiring principles underlying the synaptic circuits of neuronal networks in the brain, and to elucidate their function. Complex networks are encountered, for example, in the neocortex with both laminar (horizontal) and columnar (vertical) structure, featuring multiple neuron and synapse types in combination with type-specific synaptic couplings. Numerical simulations of the network activity dynamics and the statistical characterization of network structure are key techniques to explore the biological function of such networks, the activity dynamics supported by them, and the impact of certain structural features.


Objectives

The goal of this project is to develop a software toolbox (NetCAD) for design and archiving of biology-oriented neuronal network models. It will greatly enhance our possibilities in exploring large-scale networks with a rich structure. An important feature is its inter-operability with other tools, specialized in statistical analysis or in dynamic simulation of such networks. Specifically, the new tool will support filing, documentation and exchange of large networks for subsequent visualization and structural analysis (e.g. using Python, Matlab® or Mathematica®), as well as for numerical simulations (e.g. using NEST or Neuron).
The new toolbox NetCAD will be platform-independent and open source, freely available to the wide neuroscientific and neurotechnological research community.

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