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Previous anatomical work in primates has suggested that only corticospinal axons originating in caudal primary motor cortex ("new M1") and area 3a make monosynaptic cortico-motoneuronal connections with limb motoneurons. By contrast, the more rostral "old M1" is proposed to control motoneurons disynaptically via spinal interneurons. In six macaque monkeys, we examined the effects from focal stimulation within old and new M1 and area 3a on 135 antidromically identified motoneurons projecting to the upper limb. EPSPs with segmental latency shorter than 1.2 ms were classified as definitively monosynaptic; these were seen only after stimulation within new M1 or at the new M1/3a border (incidence 6.6% and 1.3%, respectively; total n = 27). However, most responses had longer latencies. Using measures of the response facilitation after a second stimulus compared with the first, and the reduction in response latency after a third stimulus compared with the first, we classified these late responses as likely mediated by either long-latency monosynaptic (n = 108) or non-monosynaptic linkages (n = 108). Both old and new M1 generated putative long-latency monosynaptic and non-monosynaptic effects; the majority of responses from area 3a were non-monosynaptic. Both types of responses from new M1 had significantly greater amplitude than those from old M1. We suggest that slowly conducting corticospinal fibers from old M1 generate weak late monosynaptic effects in motoneurons. These may represent a stage in control of primate motoneurons by the cortex intermediate between disynaptic output via an interposed interneuron seen in nonprimates and the fast direct monosynaptic connections present in new M1. The corticospinal tract in Old World primates makes monosynaptic connections to motoneurons; previous anatomical work suggests that these connections come only from corticospinal tract (CST) neurons in the subdivision of primary motor cortex within the central sulcus ("new M1") and area 3a. Here, we show using electrophysiology that cortico-motoneuronal connections from fast conducting CST fibers are indeed made exclusively from new M1 and its border with 3a. However, we also show that all parts of M1 and 3a have cortico-motoneuronal connections over more slowly conducting CST axons, as well as exert disynaptic effects on motoneurons via interposed interneurons. Differences between old and new M1 are thus more subtle than previously thought.
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Genetic ablation of cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) has been linked to increased neuronal excitability and synaptic activity in the hippocampus. We have previously shown that synaptic activity in hippocampi of PrP-null mice is increased due to enhanced N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) function. Here, we focused on the effect of PRNP gene knock-out (KO) on intrinsic neuronal excitability, and in particular, the underlying ionic mechanism in hippocampal neurons cultured from P0 mouse pups. We found that the absence of PrP(C) profoundly affected the firing properties of cultured hippocampal neurons in the presence of synaptic blockers. The membrane impedance was greater in PrP-null neurons, and this difference was abolished by the hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channel blocker ZD7288 (100 μM). HCN channel activity appeared to be functionally regulated by PrP(C). The amplitude of voltage sag, a characteristic of activating HCN channel current (I h), was decreased in null mice. Moreover, I h peak current was reduced, along with a hyperpolarizing shift in activation gating and slower kinetics. However, neither HCN1 nor HCN2 formed a biochemical complex with PrP(C). These results suggest that the absence of PrP downregulates the activity of HCN channels through activation of a cell signaling pathway rather than through direct interactions. This in turn contributes to an increase in membrane impedance to potentiate neuronal excitability.
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After the discovery of grid cells, which are an essential component to understand how the mammalian brain encodes spatial information, three main classes of computational models were proposed in order to explain their working principles. Amongst them, the one based on continuous attractor networks (CAN), is promising in terms of biological plausibility and suitable for robotic applications. However, in its current formulation, it is unable to reproduce important electrophysiological findings and cannot be used to perform path integration for long periods of time. In fact, in absence of an appropriate resetting mechanism, the accumulation of errors over time due to the noise intrinsic in velocity estimation and neural computation prevents CAN models to reproduce stable spatial grid patterns. In this paper, we propose an extension of the CAN model using Hebbian plasticity to anchor grid cell activity to environmental landmarks. To validate our approach we used as input to the neural simulations both artificial data and real data recorded from a robotic setup. The additional neural mechanism can not only anchor grid patterns to external sensory cues but also recall grid patterns generated in previously explored environments. These results might be instrumental for next generation bio-inspired robotic navigation algorithms that take advantage of neural computation in order to cope with complex and dynamic environments.
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A subset of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) neurons was previously identified in the hippocampus with unknown function. Here we demonstrate that hippocampal CRH neurons represent a novel subtype of interneurons in the hippocampus, exhibiting unique morphology, electrophysiological properties, molecular markers, and connectivity. This subset of hippocampal CRH neurons in the mouse reside in the CA1 pyramidal cell layer and tract tracing studies using AAV-Flex-ChR2-tdTomato reveal dense back-projections of these neurons onto principal neurons in the CA3 region of the hippocampus. These hippocampal CRH neurons express both GABA and GAD67 and using in vitro optogenetic techniques, we demonstrate that these neurons make functional connections and release GABA onto CA3 principal neurons. The location, morphology, and importantly the functional connectivity of these neurons demonstrate that hippocampal CRH neurons represent a unique subtype of hippocampal interneurons. The connectivity of these neurons has significant implications for hippocampal function.
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Mechanisms regulating lateral diffusion and positioning of glutamate receptors within the postsynaptic density (PSD) determine excitatory synaptic strength. Scaffold proteins in the PSD are abundant receptor binding partners, yet electron microscopy suggests that the PSD is highly crowded, potentially restricting the diffusion of receptors regardless of binding. However, the contribution of macromolecular crowding to receptor retention remains poorly understood. We combined experimental and computational approaches to test the effect of synaptic crowding on receptor movement and positioning in Sprague Dawley rat hippocampal neurons. We modeled AMPA receptor diffusion in synapses where the distribution of scaffold proteins was determined from photoactivated localization microscopy experiments, and receptor-scaffold association and dissociation rates were adjusted to fit single-molecule tracking and fluorescence recovery measurements. Simulations predicted that variation of receptor size strongly influences the fractional synaptic area the receptor may traverse, and the proportion that may exchange in and out of the synapse. To test the model experimentally, we designed a set of novel transmembrane (TM) probes. A single-pass TM protein with one PDZ binding motif concentrated in the synapse as do AMPARs yet was more mobile there than the much larger AMPAR. Furthermore, either the single binding motif or an increase in cytoplasmic bulk through addition of a single GFP slowed synaptic movement of a small TM protein. These results suggest that both crowding and binding limit escape of AMPARs from the synapse. Moreover, tight protein packing within the PSD may modulate the synaptic dwell time of many TM proteins important for synaptic function. Small alterations to the distribution within synapses of key transmembrane proteins, such as receptors, can dramatically change synaptic strength. Indeed, many diseases are thought to unbalance neural circuit function in this manner. Processes that regulate this in healthy synapses are unclear, however. By combining computer simulations with imaging methods that examined protein dynamics at multiple scales in space and time, we showed that both steric effects and protein-protein binding each regulate the mobility of receptors in the synapse. Our findings extend our knowledge of the synapse as a crowded environment that counteracts molecular diffusion, and support the idea that both molecular collisions and biochemical binding can be involved in the regulation of neural circuit performance.
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Sensory coding has long been discussed in terms of a dichotomy between spike timing and rate coding. However, recent studies found that in primate mechanoperception and other sensory systems, spike rates and timing of cell populations complement each other. They simultaneously carry information about different stimulus properties in a multiplexed way. Here, we present evidence for multiplexed encoding of tactile skin stimulation in the tiny population of leech mechanoreceptors, consisting of only 10 cells of two types with overlapping receptive fields. Each mechanoreceptor neuron of the leech varies spike count and response latency to both touch intensity and location, leading to ambiguous responses to different stimuli. Nevertheless, three different stimulus estimation techniques consistently reveal that the neuronal population allows reliable decoding of both stimulus properties. For the two mechanoreceptor types, the transient responses of T (touch) cells and the sustained responses of P (pressure) cells, the relative timing of the first spikes of two mechanoreceptors encodes stimulus location, whereas summed spike counts represent touch intensity. Differences between the cell types become evident in responses to combined stimulus properties. The best estimation performance for stimulus location is obtained from the relative first spike timing of the faster and temporally more precise T cells. Simultaneously, the sustained responses of P cells indicate touch intensity by summed spike counts and stimulus duration by the duration of spike responses. The striking similarities of these results with previous findings on primate mechanosensory afferents suggest multiplexed population coding as a general principle of somatosensation. Multiplexing, the simultaneous encoding of different stimulus properties by distinct neuronal response features, has recently been suggested as a mechanism used in several sensory systems, including primate somatosensation. While a rigorous experimental verification of the multiplexing hypothesis is difficult to accomplish in a complex vertebrate system, it is feasible for a small population of individually characterized leech neurons. Monitoring the responses of all four mechanoreceptors innervating a patch of skin revealed striking similarities between touch encoding in the primate and the leech: summed spike counts represent stimulus intensity, whereas relative timing of first spikes encodes stimulus location. These findings suggest that multiplexed population coding is a general mechanism of touch encoding common to species as different as man and worm.
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Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons are controlled by 17β-estradiol (E2) contributing to the steroid feedback regulation of the reproductive axis. In rodents, E2 exerts a negative feedback effect upon GnRH neurons throughout the estrus-diestrus phase of the ovarian cycle. The present study was undertaken to reveal the role of estrogen receptor subtypes in the mediation of the E2 signal and elucidate the downstream molecular machinery of suppression. The effect of E2 administration at low physiological concentration (10 pM) on GnRH neurons in acute brain slices obtained from metestrous GnRH-green fluorescent protein (GFP) mice was studied under paradigms of blocking or activating estrogen receptor subtypes and interfering with retrograde 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) signaling. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings revealed that E2 significantly diminished the frequency of spontaneous postsynaptic currents (sPSCs) in GnRH neurons (49.62 ± 7.6%) which effect was abolished by application of the estrogen receptor (ER) α/β blocker Faslodex (1 μM). Pretreatment of the brain slices with cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) inverse agonist AM251 (1 μM) and intracellularly applied endocannabinoid synthesis blocker THL (10 μM) significantly attenuated the effect of E2 on the sPSCs. E2 remained effective in the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX) indicating a direct action of E2 on GnRH cells. The ERβ specific agonist DPN (10 pM) also significantly decreased the frequency of miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs) in GnRH neurons. In addition, the suppressive effect of E2 was completely blocked by the selective ERβ antagonist PHTPP (1 μM) indicating that ERβ is required for the observed rapid effect of the E2. In contrast, the ERα agonist PPT (10 pM) or the membrane-associated G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPR30) agonist G1 (10 pM) had no significant effect on the frequency of mPSCs in these neurons. AM251 and tetrahydrolipstatin (THL) significantly abolished the effect of E2 whereas AM251 eliminated the action of DPN on the mPSCs. These data suggest the involvement of the retrograde endocannabinoid mechanism in the rapid direct effect of E2. These results collectively indicate that estrogen receptor beta and 2-AG/CB1 signaling mechanisms are coupled and play an important role in the mediation of the negative estradiol feedback on GnRH neurons in acute slice preparation obtained from intact, metestrous mice.
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In the adult mammalian cortex, a small fraction of spines are created and eliminated every day, and the resultant synaptic connection structure is highly nonrandom, even in local circuits. However, it remains unknown whether a particular synaptic connection structure is functionally advantageous in local circuits, and why creation and elimination of synaptic connections is necessary in addition to rich synaptic weight plasticity. To answer these questions, we studied an inference task model through theoretical and numerical analyses. We demonstrate that a robustly beneficial network structure naturally emerges by combining Hebbian-type synaptic weight plasticity and wiring plasticity. Especially in a sparsely connected network, wiring plasticity achieves reliable computation by enabling efficient information transmission. Furthermore, the proposed rule reproduces experimental observed correlation between spine dynamics and task performance.
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Pain is an emotion and neuropathic pain symptoms are modulated by supraspinal structures such as the amygdala. If the central nucleus of the amygdala is often named as the "nociceptive amygdala", little is known on the role of the basolateral amygdala. Here, we monitored the mechanical nociceptive thresholds in a mouse model of neuropathic pain and infused modulators of the glutamate/GABAergic transmission in the BLA via chronically-implanted cannulas. First, we found that NMDA-type glutamate receptor antagonist (MK-801) exerted a potent anti-allodynic effect whereas a transient allodynia was induced after perfusion of bicuculline, a GABAA receptor antagonist. Potentiating GABAA receptor function using diazepam (DZP) or etifoxine (EFX, a nonbenzodiazepine anxiolytic) fully but transiently alleviated mechanical allodynia. Interestingly, the anti-allodynic effect of EFX disappeared in animals incapable of producing 3alpha-steroids. DZP had a similar effect but of shorter duration. As indicated by patch-clamp recordings of BLA neurons, these effects were mediated by a potentiation of GABAA R-mediated synaptic transmission. Together with a presynaptic elevation of miniature IPSC frequency, the duration and amplitude of GABAA mIPSCs was also increased (postsynaptic effect). The analgesic contribution of endogenous neurosteroid seemed to be exclusively postsynaptic. This study highlights the importance of BLA and of the local inhibitory/excitatory neuronal network activity while setting the mechanical nociceptive threshold. Furthermore, it appears that promoting inhibition in this specific nucleus could fully alleviate pain symptoms. Therefore BLA could be a novel interesting target to develop pharmacological or non pharmacological therapies This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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In many regions of the vertebrate brain, microcircuits generate local recurrent activity that aids in the processing and encoding of incoming afferent inputs. Local recurrent activity can amplify, filter, and temporally and spatially parse out incoming input. Determining how these microcircuits function is of great interest because it provides glimpses into fundamental processes underlying brain computation. Within the Xenopus tadpole optic tectum, deep layer neurons display robust recurrent activity. Although the development and plasticity of this local recurrent activity has been well described, the underlying microcircuitry is not well understood. Here, using a whole brain preparation that allows for whole cell recording from neurons of the superficial tectal layers, we identified a physiologically distinct population of excitatory neurons that are gap junctionally coupled and through this coupling gate local recurrent network activity. Our findings provide a novel role for neuronal coupling among excitatory interneurons in the temporal processing of visual stimuli.
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