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Tracking development of connectivity in the human brain: axons and dendrites.

      Abstract

      The Neuron Doctrine laid the foundation for our current thinking about the structural and functional organization of the human brain. With the basic units of the nervous system – neurons – being physically separate, their connectivity relies on the conduction of action potentials in axons and their transmission across the synaptic cleft to the other neurons’ dendrites. Here, I first review available ex vivo data about the cellular composition of the human cerebral cortex, focusing on axons and dendrites, to conceptualize biological sources of signals detected in vivo with magnetic resonance imaging. To bridge the gap between ex vivo and in vivo observations, I then explain the basic principles of virtual histology, an approach that integrates spatially cell- or process-specific transcriptomic data with magnetic resonance signals to facilitate their neurobiological interpretation. Finally, I provide an overview of the initial insights gained in this manner in studies of brain development and maturation, both in health and disease.

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