nat.nblast-package: Neuron similarity, search and clustering tools

Description Similarity and search Clustering Cached scores Calculating scoring matrices Package Options References See Also


Neuron similarity, search and clustering tools

Similarity and search

The main entry point for similarity and search functions is nblast. Traced neurons will normally be converted to the dotprops format for search. When multiple neurons are compared they should be in a neuronlist object.

The current nblast version (2) depends on a scoring matrix. Default matrices trained using Drosophila neurons in the FCWB template brain space are distributed with this package (see smat.fcwb); see Scoring Matrices section below for creating new scoring matrices.

nblast makes use of a more flexible but more complicated function NeuriteBlast which includes several additional options. The function WeightedNNBasedLinesetMatching provides the primitive functionality of finding the nearest neighbour distances and absolute dot products for two sets of segments. Neither of these functions are intended for end use.

Calculating all by all similarity scores is facilitated by the nblast_allbyall function which can take either a neuronlist as input or a character vector naming (a subset) of neurons in a (large) neuronlist. The neuronlist containing the input neurons should be resident in memory i.e. not the neuronlistfh


Once an all by all similarity score matrix is available it can be used as the input to a variety of clustering algorithms. nhclust provides a convenient wrapper for R's hierarchical clustering function hclust. If you wish to use another clustering function, then you can use the sub_dist_mat to convert a raw similarity score matrix into a normalised distance matrix (or R dist object) suitable for clustering. If you need a similarity matrix or want to modify the normalisation then you can use sub_score_mat.

Note tha raw nblast scores are not symmetric (i.e. S(A,B) is not equal to S(B,A)) so before clustering we construct a symmetric similarity/distance matrix 1/2 * ( S(A,B)/S(A,A) + S(B,A)/S(B,B) ). See sub_score_mat's documentation for details.

Cached scores

Although nblast is fast and can be parallelised, it makes sense to cache to disk all by all similarity scores for a group of neurons that will be subject to repeated clustering or other analysis. The matrix can simply be saved to disk and then reloaded using base R functions like save and load. sub_score_mat and sub_dist_mat can be used to extract a subset of scores from this raw score matrix. For large matrices, the bigmemory or ff packages allow matrices to be stored on disk and portions loaded into memory on demand. sub_score_mat and sub_dist_mat work equally well for regular in-memory matrices and these disk-backed matrices.

To give an example, for 16,129 neurons from the dataset, the 260,144,641 comparisons took about 250 hours of compute time (half a day on ~20 cores). When saved to disk as single precision (i.e. 4 bytes per score) ff matrix they occupy just over 1Gb.

Calculating scoring matrices

The nblast algorithm depends on appropriately calibrated scoring matrices. These encapsulate the log odds ratio that a pair of segments come from two structurally related neurons rather than two unrelated neurons, given the observed distance and absolute dot product of the two segments. Scoring matrices can be constructed using the create_scoringmatrix function, supplying a set of matching neurons and a set of non-matching neurons. See the create_scoringmatrix documentation for links to lower-level functions that provide finer control over construction of the scoring matrix.

Package Options

There is one package option nat.nblast.defaultsmat which is NULL by default, but could for example be set to one of the scoring matrices included with the package such as code"smat.fcwb" or to a new user-constructed matrix.


Costa, M., Ostrovsky, A.D., Manton, J.D., Prohaska, S., and Jefferis, G.S.X.E. (2014). NBLAST: Rapid, sensitive comparison of neuronal structure and construction of neuron family databases. Biorxiv preprint. doi: 10.1101/006346.

See Also

nblast, smat.fcwb, nhclust, sub_dist_mat, sub_score_mat, create_scoringmatrix

nat.nblast documentation built on May 29, 2017, 11:35 a.m.