The flatness of bifurcations in 3D neuronal branching patterns
© van Pelt and Uylings; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
Published: 18 July 2011
The geometry of bifurcations in natural branching systems often reflects optimization constraints during formation, leading to, for instance, a planar arrangement of the branches (segments). The present study aimed at testing whether bifurcations in 3D neuronal branching patterns also follow this general property. A measure for the flatness of bifurcations is the apex angle of the right circular cone enwrapping the bifurcation (cone angle) and earlier applied to dendritic bifurcations . Recently, the cone angle was used by Kim et al.  in an analysis of bifurcations in Purkinje cells and retinal ganglion cells. As the cone angle distributions in these cells resembled those of random bifurcations it was concluded that the observed flatness already naturally emerges from random conditions.
We conclude that 3D bifurcations in rat cortical pyramidal basal dendrites are significantly more flat than random bifurcations. In addition, parent segments are preferentially aligned opposite to the angular bisector of the daughter segments. These findings are in line with findings in tissue culture that neuritic bifurcations are subjected to elastic tensions , minimizing the distances between the nodes comprising the bifurcation.
This work was supported by EU BIO-ICT Project SECO (216593).
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