Analysis of dendritic spines morphology: from classical division to types toward alternative approaches

Biophysics and medical physics

This article provides a brief overview of the existing methods and approaches to analyzing the dendritic spines morphology playing an important role in the functioning of synaptic plasticity and memory formation mechanisms. Both various mathematical algorithms that classify spines according to their shape (thin, mushroom and stubby) and emerging alternative approaches have been considered. The reported scientific results point to uniform distribution of the main morphological parameters of dendritic spines; a number of authors cast some doubt on the often used division of spines into types and argue in favor of the existence of a shape continuum. Relying on this, a new approach to an analysis of dendritic spines morphology and to data presentation was advanced. It combines classification with the study of the distribution of dendritic spines by key morphological parameters.