Self-Supervised Graph Representation Learning for Neuronal Morphologies

Published: 06 Jul 2023, Last Modified: 06 Jul 2023Accepted by TMLREveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Abstract: Unsupervised graph representation learning has recently gained interest in several application domains such as neuroscience, where modeling the diverse morphology of cell types in the brain is one of the key challenges. It is currently unknown how many excitatory cortical cell types exist and what their defining morphological features are. Here we present GraphDINO, a purely data-driven approach to learn low-dimensional representations of 3D neuronal morphologies from unlabeled large-scale datasets. GraphDINO is a novel transformer-based representation learning method for spatially-embedded graphs. To enable self-supervised learning on transformers, we (1) developed data augmentation strategies for spatially-embedded graphs, (2) adapted the positional encoding and (3) introduced a novel attention mechanism, AC-Attention, which combines attention-based global interaction between nodes and classic graph convolutional processing. We show, in two different species and across multiple brain areas, that this method yields morphological cell type clusterings that are on par with manual feature-based classification by experts, but without using prior knowledge about the structural features of neurons. Moreover, it outperforms previous approaches on quantitative benchmarks predicting expert labels. Our method could potentially enable data-driven discovery of novel morphological features and cell types in large-scale datasets. It is applicable beyond neuroscience in settings where samples in a dataset are graphs and graph-level embeddings are desired.
Submission Length: Regular submission (no more than 12 pages of main content)
Assigned Action Editor: ~Robert_Legenstein1
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Submission Number: 899