Tutorial 7: visualising neurons and networks


In this tutorial we will use some of VERTEX’s visualisation functions to inspect the network that we generate. We’re going to use the same model as in tutorial 5: 6 neuron groups (3 excitatory and 3 inhibitory) arranged into 3 layers (though this time, as we aren’t going to simulate dynamics, we have set SimulationSettings.LFP to false so that VERTEX doesn’t calculate line-source constants during initialisation).

Contents

Model parameters

We have stored the parameters for this model in a Matlab script called tutorial_7_params.m, so first we will load this script:

tutorial_7_params;

Viewing the neuron morphologies

VERTEX includes a function to plot a basic visualisation of the neuron morphologies specified in the neuron parameter structure. This is useful to check if you have made any mistakes when specifying your neuron’s mophology. The function is called viewMorphology(), and we give it as input the neuron structure that we want to plot. So to plot the shape of neurons in group 1, we do:

viewMorphology(NeuronParams(1));

Tutorial 7 neuron group 1 morphology

viewMorphology() returns a figure handle in case you want to access the figure later on:

neuron2Plot = viewMorphology(NeuronParams(2));

Tutorial 7 neuron group 2 morphology

The plots are 3D, so you can spin and rotate them to check the morphology is correct.

Generate the network

Having checked our neuron morphologies, we are ready to generate our network:

[params, connections, electrodes] = ...
  initNetwork(TissueParams, NeuronParams, ConnectionParams, ...
              RecordingSettings, SimulationSettings);

Plotting neuron positions

Now we’ve initialised the model, we want to check that VERTEX has positioned our neuron groups correctly. We can plot the locations of the neurons’ somas using the plotSomaPositions() function:

plotSomaPositions(params.TissueParams);

Tutorial 7 plot of soma positions

This plot isn’t very helpful at all: it’s too dense and we can’t identify neurons in different groups! plotSomaPositions() can take a second input, which is a structure specifying some options for the plot.

N = params.TissueParams.N;
pars.toPlot = N/400:N/400:N;
pars.markers = {'^', 'o', '^', 'o', '^', 'o'};
pars.colors = {'m', 'k', ...
               [.7, 0, .7], [.35, .35, .35], ...
               [.4, 0, .4], [.7, .7, .7]};
pars.figureID = 4;

toPlot lists the IDs of the neurons we want to plot. Here we are going to plot a subset of 400 neurons, covering all the neuron groups. markers tells plotSomaPositions() which marker types to use for each neuron group. We’re going to plot pyramidal cell somas as triangles and interneuron cell somas as circles. colors lists the colours to use to plot the neuron groups in; we have used different colours for each so we can distinguish between them more easily. Finally, figureID sets the figure number. Let’s now call plotSomaPositions() again, this time storing the figure handle it returns:

somaPlot = plotSomaPositions(params.TissueParams, pars);

Tutorial 7 improved soma position plot

This plot reveals that the neuron groups are positioned in their correct layers in the model. It is also a 3D plot so you can rotate and view it from any angle.

Analysing connectivity

Finally we would like to know about the connectivity in the model. VERTEX provides two functions to help with this. The first is getSparseConnectivity(), which returns a sparse matrix listing every neuron’s connections (rows are presynaptic neurons, with each row containing a list of target neuron IDs):

sparseConnectivity = getSparseConnectivity(params, connections);

You can use this sparse matrix to calculate further statistics about the connectivity in the model. However, it can be quite difficult to visualise this data. We therefore also provide the getGroupConnectivity() function. This returns the total number of connections per group, the group convergent connectivity (i.e. how many connections, on average, one neuron in the group receives from all neurons in all other groups) and the group divergent connectivity (i.e. how many connections, on average, one neuron in the group makes to all neurons in all other groups).

getGroupConnectivity() can either be given a sparse connectivity matrix calculated by getSparseConnectivity(), or the raw connection data calculated by initNetwork() (in which case it runs getSparseConnectivity() first). As we have already calculated the sparse connectivity, we will use this as this input:

[total, convergent, divergent] = ...
  getGroupConnectivity(params, sparseConnectivity);

Note that both of these functions will work in both serial and parallel mode.

We can now plot this information however we like; for example as a connectivity heat map:

figure;
imagesc(convergent); % plot convergent connectivity
colormap hot;
colorbar('EastOutside');
set(gcf,'color','w');
set(gca,'FontSize',16);
title('Tutorial 7: convergent connectivity', 'FontSize', 16);
xlabel('Presynaptic groups', 'FontSize', 16);
ylabel('Postsynaptic groups', 'FontSize', 16);

Tutorial 7 group convergent connectivity

If you have experienced any problems when trying to run this tutorial, or if you have any suggestions for improvements, please contact us using the contact form.