, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 391–407 | Cite as

Three-Dimensional Analysis of Spiny Dendrites Using Straightening and Unrolling Transforms

  • Juan Morales
  • Ruth Benavides-Piccione
  • Angel RodríguezEmail author
  • Luis Pastor
  • Rafael Yuste
  • Javier DeFelipe
Original Article


Current understanding of the synaptic organization of the brain depends to a large extent on knowledge about the synaptic inputs to the neurons. Indeed, the dendritic surfaces of pyramidal cells (the most common neuron in the cerebral cortex) are covered by thin protrusions named dendritic spines. These represent the targets of most excitatory synapses in the cerebral cortex and therefore, dendritic spines prove critical in learning, memory and cognition. This paper presents a new method that facilitates the analysis of the 3D structure of spine insertions in dendrites, providing insight on spine distribution patterns. This method is based both on the implementation of straightening and unrolling transformations to move the analysis process to a planar, unfolded arrangement, and on the design of DISPINE, an interactive environment that supports the visual analysis of 3D patterns.


Visual analysis in neuroscience Dendritic spines Irregular and unstructured grids Point-based data 



This work was supported by grants from the following entities: Centre for Networked Biomedical Research into Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBERNED, CB06/05/0066) and the Spanish Ministry of Education, Science and Innovation (grants BFU2006-13395; SAF2009-09394 to Javier DeFelipe; TIN2010-21289 and the Cajal Blue Brain Project, Spanish partner of the Blue Brain Project initiative from EPFL).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Morales
    • 1
  • Ruth Benavides-Piccione
    • 2
    • 3
  • Angel Rodríguez
    • 4
    Email author
  • Luis Pastor
    • 5
  • Rafael Yuste
    • 6
  • Javier DeFelipe
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Cajal Blue Brain ProjectUniversidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)MadridSpain
  2. 2.Laboratorio Cajal de Circuitos Corticales, Centro de Tecnología BiomédicaUniversidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)MadridSpain
  3. 3.Instituto Cajal (CSIC)MadridSpain
  4. 4.Dept. de Arquitectura y Tecnología de Sistemas InformáticosUniversidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)MadridSpain
  5. 5.Dept. de Arquitectura y Tecnología de Computadores y Ciencia de la Computación e Inteligencia ArtificialUniversidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC)MadridSpain
  6. 6.Howard Hughes Medical InstituteColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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