Beyond classical connectivity: why to take a look at gap junctions and mitochondria

Susanne Schreiber

A central aim of connectomics is to derive function from the structural connectivity in nervous systems. Based on neuronal morphology and connections established by chemical synapses, neural circuits can be reconstructed to enable a better understanding of neural computation. An exclusive focus on this ‘classical’ connectivity, however, is likely to miss out on some essential processes that contribute neuronal dynamics. In this talk, I highlight the importance of two less regarded, yet accessible system components: electrical connections between cells via gap junctions and mitochondria. Specifically, I show how in Drosophila de-synchronized network states required for the control of flight muscles arise from electrical, not chemical connectivity in conjunction with specific cellular dynamics of action-potential generation. Moreover, analysis of the placement of mitochondria in connectomics datasets of the Drosophila visual system suggests associations between mitochondria and those connections that are functionally relevant. Both, gap junctions and mitochondria should hence be given appropriate attention in the analysis of connectomes.

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