Part-based motor neuron recognition in the Drosophila ventral nerve cord

Xiao Chang, Michael D. Kim, Rachel Stephens, Tiange Qu, Akira Chiba, Gavriil Tsechpenakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We exploit the morphological stereotypy and relative simplicity of the Drosophila nervous system to model the diverse neuronal morphologies of individual motor neurons and understand underlying principles of synaptic connectivity in a motor circuit. In our analysis, we use images depicting single neurons labeled with green fluorescent protein (GFP) and serially imaged with laser scanning confocal microscopy. We model morphology with a novel formulation of Conditional Random Fields, a hierarchical latent-state CRF, to capture the highly varying compartment-based structure of the neurons (soma-axon-dendrites). In the training phase, we follow two approaches: (i) hierarchical learning, where compartment labels are given, and (ii) latent-state learning, where compartment labels are not given in the samples. We demonstrate the accuracy of our approach using wild-type motor neurons in the larval ventral nerve cord. However, our method can also be used for the identification of motor neuron mutations, as well as the automated annotation of the motor circuitry in wild type and mutant animals. Our method is directly applicable to the recognition of compartment-defined structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Apr 15 2014


  • Drosophila
  • Latent-state Conditional Random Fields
  • Motor neuron classification
  • Part-based recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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