BOINCing PTEN-associated neural circuit pathology

2014 Scientific Innovations Award
Anthony Zador, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Many neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism and schizophrenia, are thought to arise from disruptions in brain wiring. However, the tools for studying brain wiring are limited in resolution and throughput. Dr. Zador and his laboratory have been developing a new method called BO INC (Barcoding of lndividual Neuronal Connections) that converts the problem of neural connectivity, traditionally a problem of microscopy, into a problem of high-throughput DNA sequencing. The advantage of this technique is that DNA sequencing is fast and inexpensive, so BOINC has the potential resolve the full connectivity of a neural circuit at single neuron resolution quickly and cheaply. Here they propose to apply BOINC for the first time to an animal model of disease. Specifically, they propose to assess the fine connectivity in a mouse model of autism. Their approach is readily extendable to other animal models, and may reveal the disruptions in neural circuitry responsible for a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders.