Communication, the effective delivery of information, is fundamental to life across all scales and species. Nervous systems (by necessity) may be most specifically adapted among biological tissues for high rate and complexity of information transmitted, and thus, the properties of neural tissue and principles of its organization into circuits may illuminate capabilities and limitations of biological communication. Here, we consider recent developments in tools for studying neural circuits with particular attention to defining neuronal cell types by input and output information streams - i.e., by how they communicate. Complementing approaches that define cell types by virtue of genetic promoter/enhancer properties, this communication-based approach to defining cell types operationally by input/output (I/O) relationships links structure and function, resolves difficulties associated with single-genetic-feature definitions, leverages technology for observing and testing significance of precisely these I/O relationships in intact brains, and maps onto processes through which behavior may be adapted during development, experience, and evolution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)