2014 Readings

Feb 3:Ephrin-As and patterned retinal activity act together in the development of topographic maps in the primary visual system.

C. Pfeiffenberger and J. Yamada and D. A. Feldheim

J Neurosci  26  12873--12884  (2006 Dec 13)


The development of topographic maps in the primary visual system is thought to rely on a combination of EphA/ephrin-A interactions and patterned neural activity. Here, we characterize the retinogeniculate and retinocollicular maps of mice mutant for ephrins-A2, -A3, and -A5 (the three ephrin-As expressed in the mouse visual system), mice mutant for the beta2 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (that lack early patterned retinal activity), and mice mutant for both ephrin-As and beta2. We also provide the first comprehensive anatomical description of the topographic connections between the retina and the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. We find that, although ephrin-A2/A3/A5 triple knock-out mice have severe mapping defects in both projections, they do not completely lack topography. Mice lacking beta2-dependent retinal activity have nearly normal topography but fail to refine axonal arbors. Mice mutant for both ephrin-As and beta2 have synergistic mapping defects that result in a near absence of map in the retinocollicular projection; however, the retinogeniculate projection is not as severely disrupted as the retinocollicular projection is in these mutants. These results show that ephrin-As and patterned retinal activity act together to establish topographic maps, and demonstrate that midbrain and forebrain connections have a differential requirement for ephrin-As and patterned retinal activity in topographic map development.

Feb 10: Two mechanisms for transducer adaptation in vertebrate hair cells.

J. R. Holt and D. P. Corey

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A  97  11730--11735  (2000)


Deflection of the hair bundle atop a sensory hair cell modulates the open probability of mechanosensitive ion channels. In response to sustained deflections, hair cells adapt. Two fundamentally distinct models have been proposed to explain transducer adaptation. Both models support the notion that channel open probability is modulated by calcium that enters via the transduction channels. Both also suggest that the primary effect of adaptation is to shift the deflection-response [I(X)] relationship in the direction of the applied stimulus, thus maintaining hair bundle sensitivity. The models differ in several respects. They operate on different time scales: the faster on the order of a few milliseconds or less and the slower on the order of 10 ms or more. The model proposed to explain fast adaptation suggests that calcium enters and binds at or near the transduction channels to stabilize a closed conformation. The model proposed to explain the slower adaptation suggests that adaptation is mediated by an active, force-generating process that regulates the effective stimulus applied to the transduction channels. Here we discuss the evidence in support of each model and consider the possibility that both may function to varying degrees in hair cells of different species and sensory organs.

Feb 17:Quantitative analysis of static strain sensitivity in human mechanoreceptors from hairy skin

B. B. Edin

J Neurophysiol  67  1105-13  (1992)


1. Microelectrode recordings from 15 slowly adapting (SA) cutaneous mechanoreceptor afferents originating in hairy skin were obtained from the radial nerve in humans. 2. Controlled skin stretch was applied to the back of the hand that encompassed the physiological range of skin stretch during movements at the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints. 3. Both SA Group I and II afferents showed exquisite dynamic and static sensitivity to skin stretch. The median static strain sensitivity was 1.0 imp.s-1 per percent skin stretch for SAI units and 1.8 for SAII units. 4. Translated into sensitivity to movements at the MCP joint, both SAI and SAII afferents in the skin of the back of the hand displayed a positional sensitivity that was comparable with that reported for muscle spindle afferents. 5. These data give quantitative support to suggestions that skin receptors in the human hairy skin provide information on nearby joint configurations and therefore may play a specific role in proprioception, kinesthesia, and motor control.

Feb 24:Population coding of interaural time differences in gerbils and barn owls

N. A. Lesica and A. Lingner and B. Grothe

J Neurosci  30  11696-702  (2010)


Interaural time differences (ITDs) are the primary cue for the localization of low-frequency sound sources in the azimuthal plane. For decades, it was assumed that the coding of ITDs in the mammalian brain was similar to that in the avian brain, where information is sparsely distributed across individual neurons, but recent studies have suggested otherwise. In this study, we characterized the representation of ITDs in adult male and female gerbils. First, we performed behavioral experiments to determine the acuity with which gerbils can use ITDs to localize sounds. Next, we used different decoders to infer ITDs from the activity of a population of neurons in central nucleus of the inferior colliculus. These results show that ITDs are not represented in a distributed manner, but rather in the summed activity of the entire population. To contrast these results with those from a population where the representation of ITDs is known to be sparsely distributed, we performed the same analysis on activity from the external nucleus of the inferior colliculus of adult male and female barn owls. Together, our results support the idea that, unlike the avian brain, the mammalian brain represents ITDs in the overall activity of a homogenous population of neurons within each hemisphere.

Mar 3:Incremental training increases the plasticity of the auditory space map in adult barn owls.

B. A. Linkenhoker and E. I. Knudsen

Nature  419  293-6  (2002)


The plasticity in the central nervous system that underlies learning is generally more restricted in adults than in young animals. In one well-studied example, the auditory localization pathway has been shown to be far more limited in its capacity to adjust to abnormal experience in adult than in juvenile barn owls. Plasticity in this pathway has been induced by exposing owls to prismatic spectacles that cause a large, horizontal shift of the visual field. With prisms, juveniles learn new associations between auditory cues, such as interaural time difference (ITD), and locations in visual space, and acquire new neurophysiological maps of ITD in the optic tectum, whereas adults do neither. Here we show that when the prismatic shift is experienced in small increments, maps of ITD in adults do change adaptively. Once established through incremental training, new ITD maps can be reacquired with a single large prismatic shift. Our results show that there is a substantially greater capacity for plasticity in adults than was previously recognized and highlight a principled strategy for tapping this capacity that could be applied in other areas of the adult central nervous system.

Mar 10: The role of visual experience in the development of columns in cat visual cortex.

M. Crair and D. Gillespie and M. Stryker

Science  279  566-70  (1998)


The role of experience in the development of the cerebral cortex has long been controversial. Patterned visual experience in the cat begins when the eyes open about a week after birth. Cortical maps for orientation and ocular dominance in the primary visual cortex of cats were found to be present by 2 weeks. Early pattern vision appeared unimportant because these cortical maps developed identically until nearly 3 weeks of age, whether or not the eyes were open. The naive maps were powerfully dominated by the contralateral eye, and experience was needed for responses to the other eye to become strong, a process unlikely to be strictly Hebbian. With continued visual deprivation, responses to both eyes deteriorated, with a time course parallel to the well-known critical period of cortical plasticity. The basic structure of cortical maps is therefore innate, but experience is essential for specific features of these maps, as well as for maintaining the responsiveness and selectivity of cortical neurons.

Mar 24: A basal ganglia-forebrain circuit in the songbird biases motor output to avoid vocal errors.

A.S. Andalman and M.S. Fee

PNAS 105:12518-12523 (2009) 

A basal ganglia-forebrain circuit i... [Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009] - PubMed - NCBI

In songbirds, as in mammals, basal ganglia-forebrain circuits are necessary for the learning and production of complex motor behaviors; however, the precise role of these circuits remains unknown. It has recently been shown that a basal ganglia-forebrain circuit in the songbird, which projects directly to vocal-motor circuitry, has a premotor function driving exploration necessary for vocal learning. It has also been hypothesized that this circuit, known as the anterior forebrain pathway (AFP), may generate an instructive signal that improves performance in the motor pathway. Here, we show that the output of the AFP directly implements a motor correction that reduces vocal errors. We use disruptive auditory feedback, contingent on song pitch, to induce learned changes in song structure over the course of hours and find that reversible inactivation of the output of the AFP produces an immediate regression of these learned changes. Thus, the AFP is involved in generating an error-reducing bias, which could increase the efficiency of vocal exploration and instruct synaptic changes in the motor pathway. We also find that learned changes in the song generated by the AFP are incorporated into the motor pathway within 1 day. Our observations support a view that basal ganglia-related circuits directly implement behavioral adaptations that minimize errors and subsequently stabilize these adaptations by training premotor cortical areas.

Mar 26: The Hymenopteran Skylight Compass: Matched Filtering and Parallel Coding

R. Wehner

J Exp Biol  146  63-85  (1989)


In deriving compass information from the pattern of polarized light in the sky (celestial e-vector pattern), hymenopteran insects like bees and ants accomplish a truly formidable task. Theoretically, one could solve the task by going back to first principles and using spherical geometry to compute the exact position of the sun from single patches of polarized skylight. The insect, however, does not resort to such computationally demanding solutions. Instead, during its evolutionary history, it has incorporated the fundamental spatial properties of the celestial pattern of polarization in the very periphery of its nervous system, the photoreceptor layer. There, in a specialized part of the retina (POL area), the analyser (microvillar) directions of the photoreceptors are arranged in a way that mimics the e-vector pattern in the sky (matched filtering). When scanning the sky, i.e. sweeping its matched array of analysers across the celestial e-vector pattern, the insect experiences peak responses of summed receptor outputs whenever it is aligned with the symmetry plane of the sky, which includes the solar meridian, the perpendicular from the sun to the horizon. Hence, the insect uses polarized skylight merely as a means of determining the symmetry plane of the polarization pattern, and must resort to other visual subsystems to deal with the remaining aspects of the compass problem (parallel coding). The more general message to be derived from these results is that in small brains sensory coding consists of adapting the peripheral rather than the central networks of the brain to the functional properties of the particular task to be solved. The matched peripheral networks translate the sensory information needed for performing a particular mode of behaviour into a neuronal code that can easily be understood by well-established, unspecialized central circuits. This principle of sensory coding implies that the peripheral parts of the nervous system exhibit higher evolutionary plasticity than the more central ones. Furthermore, it is reminiscent of what one observes at the cellular level of information processing, where the membrane-bound receptor molecules are specialized for particular molecular signals, but the subsequent molecular events are not.

Mar 31: Reactivation of hippocampal ensemble memories during sleep

M. A. Wilson and B. L. McNaughton

Science  265  676-9  (1994)


Simultaneous recordings were made from large ensembles of hippocampal "place cells" in three rats during spatial behavioral tasks and in slow-wave sleep preceding and following these behaviors. Cells that fired together when the animal occupied particular locations in the environment exhibited an increased tendency to fire together during subsequent sleep, in comparison to sleep episodes preceding the behavioral tasks. Cells that were inactive during behavior, or that were active but had non-overlapping spatial firing, did not show this increase. This effect, which declined gradually during each post-behavior sleep session, may result from synaptic modification during waking experience. Information acquired during active behavior is thus re-expressed in hippocampal circuits during sleep, as postulated by some theories of memory consolidation.

Apr 7: Illusory Contours

Y Pan et al.

J Neurosci  32(20)  6760-70  (2012)


The cortical processing of illusory contours provides a unique window for exploring the brain mechanisms underlying visual perception. Previous electrophysiological single-cell recordings demonstrate that a subgroup of cells in macaque V1 and V2 signal the presence of illusory contours, whereas recent human brain imaging studies reveal higher-order visual cortices playing a central role in illusory figure processing. It seems that the processing of illusory contours/figures may engage multiple cortical interactions between hierarchically organized processing stages in the ventral visual pathway of primates. However, it is not yet known in which brain areas illusory contours are represented in the same manner as real contours at both the population and single-cell levels. Here, by combining intrinsic optical imaging in anesthetized rhesus macaques with single-cell recordings in awake ones, we found a complete overlap of orientation domains in visual cortical area V4 for processing real and illusory contours. In contrast, the orientation domains mapped in early visual areas V1 and V2 mainly encoded the local physical stimulus features inducing the subjective perception of global illusory contours. Our results indicate that real and illusory contours are encoded equivalently by the same functional domains in V4, suggesting that V4 is a key cortical locus for integration of local features into global contours.