From calcium imaging to graph topology

Ann S. Blevins, Dani S. Bassett, Ethan K. Scott, Gilles C. Vanwalleghem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Systems neuroscience is facing an ever-growing mountain of data. Recent advances in protein engineering and microscopy have together led to a paradigm shift in neuroscience; using fluorescence, we can now image the activity of every neuron through the whole brain of behaving animals. Even in larger organisms, the number of neurons that we can record simultaneously is increasing exponentially with time. This increase in the dimensionality of the data is being met with an explosion of computational and mathematical methods, each using disparate terminology, distinct approaches, and diverse mathematical concepts. Here we collect, organize, and explain multiple data analysis techniques that have been, or could be, applied to whole-brain imaging, using larval zebrafish as an example model. We begin with methods such as linear regression that are designed to detect relations between two variables. Next, we progress through network science and applied topological methods, which focus on the patterns of relations among many variables. Finally, we highlight the potential of generative models that could provide testable hypotheses on wiring rules and network progression through time, or disease progression. While we use examples of imaging from larval zebrafish, these approaches are suitable for any population-scale neural network modeling, and indeed, to applications beyond systems neuroscience. Computational approaches from network science and applied topology are not limited to larval zebrafish, or even to systems neuroscience, and we therefore conclude with a discussion of how such methods can be applied to diverse problems across the biological sciences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNetwork Neuroscience
Pages (from-to)1125-1147
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Calcium imaging
  • Graph theory
  • Systems neuroscience
  • Topology
  • Zebrafish


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