The pattern of synaptic connections among neurons defines the circuit structure, which constrains the computations that a circuit can perform. The strength of synaptic connections is costly to measure yet important for accurate circuit modeling. It has been shown that synaptic surface area correlates with synaptic strength, yet in the emerging field of connectomics, most studies rely instead on the counts of synaptic contacts between two neurons. Here we quantified the relationship between synaptic count and synaptic area as measured from volume electron microscopy of the larval Drosophila central nervous system. We found that the total synaptic surface area, summed across all synaptic contacts from one presynaptic neuron to a postsynaptic one, can be accurately predicted solely from the number of synaptic contacts, for a variety of neurotransmitters. Our findings support the use of synaptic counts for approximating synaptic strength when modeling neural circuits.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience