Classification of neocortical interneurons using affinity propagation
Santana Hermida, Roberto
McGarry, Laura M.
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Frontiers in Neural Circuits 7 : (2013) // Article N. 185
In spite of over a century of research on cortical circuits, it is still unknown how many classes of cortical neurons exist. Neuronal classification has been a difficult problem because it is unclear what a neuronal cell class actually is and what are the best characteristics are to define them. Recently, unsupervised classifications using cluster analysis based on morphological, physiological or molecular characteristics, when applied to selected datasets, have provided quantitative and unbiased identification of distinct neuronal subtypes. However, better and more robust classification methods are needed for increasingly complex and larger datasets. We explored the use of affinity propagation, a recently developed unsupervised classification algorithm imported from machine learning, which gives a representative example or exemplar for each cluster. As a case study, we applied affinity propagation to a test dataset of 337 interneurons belonging to four subtypes, previously identified based on morphological and physiological characteristics. We found that affinity propagation correctly classified most of the neurons in a blind, non-supervised manner. In fact, using a combined anatomical/physiological dataset, our algorithm differentiated parvalbumin from somatostatin interneurons in 49 out of 50 cases. Affinity propagation could therefore be used in future studies to validly classify neurons, as a first step to help reverse engineer neural circuits.