To select actions based on sensory evidence, animals must create and manipulate representations of stimulus information in memory. Here we report that during accumulation of somatosensory evidence, optogenetic manipulation of cerebellar Purkinje cells reduces the accuracy of subsequent memory-guided decisions and causes mice to downweight prior information. Behavioral deficits are consistent with the addition of noise and leak to the evidence accumulation process. We conclude that the cerebellum can influence the accurate maintenance of working memory.
BACKGROUND: The preparation consisting of a head-fixed mouse on a spherical or cylindrical treadmill offers unique advantages in a variety of experimental contexts. Head fixation provides the mechanical stability necessary for optical and electrophysiological recordings and stimulation. Additionally, it can be combined with virtual environments such as T-mazes, enabling these types of recording during diverse behaviors.
NEW METHOD: In this paper we present a low-cost, easy-to-build acquisition system, along with scalable computational methods to quantitatively measure behavior (locomotion and paws, whiskers, and tail motion patterns) in head-fixed mice locomoting on cylindrical or spherical treadmills.
EXISTING METHODS: Several custom supervised and unsupervised methods have been developed for measuring behavior in mice. However, to date there is no low-cost, turn-key, general-purpose, and scalable system for acquiring and quantifying behavior in mice.
RESULTS: We benchmark our algorithms against ground truth data generated either by manual labeling or by simpler methods of feature extraction. We demonstrate that our algorithms achieve good performance, both in supervised and unsupervised settings.
CONCLUSIONS: We present a low-cost suite of tools for behavioral quantification, which serve as valuable complements to recording and stimulation technologies being developed for the head-fixed mouse preparation.
To make successful evidence-based decisions, the brain must rapidly and accurately transform sensory inputs into specific goal-directed behaviors. Most experimental work on this subject has focused on forebrain mechanisms. Using a novel evidence-accumulation task for mice, we performed recording and perturbation studies of crus I of the lateral posterior cerebellum, which communicates bidirectionally with numerous forebrain regions. Cerebellar inactivation led to a reduction in the fraction of correct trials. Using two-photon fluorescence imaging of calcium, we found that Purkinje cell somatic activity contained choice/evidence-related information. Decision errors were represented by dendritic calcium spikes, which in other contexts are known to drive cerebellar plasticity. We propose that cerebellar circuitry may contribute to computations that support accurate performance in this perceptual decision-making task.
Cognitive and social capacities require postnatal experience, yet the pathways by which experience guides development are unknown. Here we show that the normal development of motor and nonmotor capacities requires cerebellar activity. Using chemogenetic perturbation of molecular layer interneurons to attenuate cerebellar output in mice, we found that activity of posterior regions in juvenile life modulates adult expression of eyeblink conditioning (paravermal lobule VI, crus I), reversal learning (lobule VI), persistive behavior and novelty-seeking (lobule VII), and social preference (crus I/II). Perturbation in adult life altered only a subset of phenotypes. Both adult and juvenile disruption left gait metrics largely unaffected. Contributions to phenotypes increased with the amount of lobule inactivated. Using an anterograde transsynaptic tracer, we found that posterior cerebellum made strong connections with prelimbic, orbitofrontal, and anterior cingulate cortex. These findings provide anatomical substrates for the clinical observation that cerebellar injury increases the risk of autism.
Cerebellar granule cells, which constitute half the brain's neurons, supply Purkinje cells with contextual information necessary for motor learning, but how they encode this information is unknown. Here we show, using two-photon microscopy to track neural activity over multiple days of cerebellum-dependent eyeblink conditioning in mice, that granule cell populations acquire a dense representation of the anticipatory eyelid movement. Initially, granule cells responded to neutral visual and somatosensory stimuli as well as periorbital airpuffs used for training. As learning progressed, two-thirds of monitored granule cells acquired a conditional response whose timing matched or preceded the learned eyelid movements. Granule cell activity covaried trial by trial to form a redundant code. Many granule cells were also active during movements of nearby body structures. Thus, a predictive signal about the upcoming movement is widely available at the input stage of the cerebellar cortex, as required by forward models of cerebellar control.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often associated with cognitive deficits and excessive anxiety. Neuroimaging studies have shown atypical structure and neural connectivity in the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and striatum, regions associated with cognitive function and anxiety regulation. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is involved in many behaviors that are disrupted in ASD, including cognition, anxiety, and social behaviors. Additionally, glial cells, such as astrocytes and microglia, are important for modulating neural connectivity during development, and glial dysfunction has been hypothesized to be a key contributor to the development of ASD. Cells with astroglial characteristics are known to serve as progenitor cells in the developing and adult brain. Here, we examined adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus, as well as astroglia and microglia in the hippocampus, mPFC, and striatum of two models that display autism-like phenotypes, Cntnap2 and Shank3 transgenic mice. We found a substantial decrease in the number of immature neurons and radial glial progenitor cells in the ventral hippocampus of both transgenic models compared with wild-type controls. No consistent differences were detected in the number or size of astrocytes or microglia in any other brain region examined. Future work is needed to explore the functional contribution of adult neurogenesis to autism-related behaviors as well as to temporally characterize glial plasticity as it is associated with ASD.
Sensory integration difficulties have been reported in autism, but their underlying brain-circuit mechanisms are underexplored. Using five autism-related mouse models, Shank3+/ΔC, Mecp2(R308/Y), Cntnap2-/-, L7-Tsc1 (L7/Pcp2(Cre)::Tsc1(flox/+)), and patDp(15q11-13)/+, we report specific perturbations in delay eyeblink conditioning, a form of associative sensory learning requiring cerebellar plasticity. By distinguishing perturbations in the probability and characteristics of learned responses, we found that probability was reduced in Cntnap2-/-, patDp(15q11-13)/+, and L7/Pcp2(Cre)::Tsc1(flox/+), which are associated with Purkinje-cell/deep-nuclear gene expression, along with Shank3+/ΔC. Amplitudes were smaller in L7/Pcp2(Cre)::Tsc1(flox/+) as well as Shank3+/ΔC and Mecp2(R308/Y), which are associated with granule cell pathway expression. Shank3+/ΔC and Mecp2(R308/Y) also showed aberrant response timing and reduced Purkinje-cell dendritic spine density. Overall, our observations are potentially accounted for by defects in instructed learning in the olivocerebellar loop and response representation in the granule cell pathway. Our findings indicate that defects in associative temporal binding of sensory events are widespread in autism mouse models.
A common feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the impairment of motor control and learning, occurring in a majority of children with autism, consistent with perturbation in cerebellar function. Here we report alterations in motor behaviour and cerebellar synaptic plasticity in a mouse model (patDp/+) for the human 15q11-13 duplication, one of the most frequently observed genetic aberrations in autism. These mice show ASD-resembling social behaviour deficits. We find that in patDp/+ mice delay eyeblink conditioning--a form of cerebellum-dependent motor learning--is impaired, and observe deregulation of a putative cellular mechanism for motor learning, long-term depression (LTD) at parallel fibre-Purkinje cell synapses. Moreover, developmental elimination of surplus climbing fibres--a model for activity-dependent synaptic pruning--is impaired. These findings point to deficits in synaptic plasticity and pruning as potential causes for motor problems and abnormal circuit development in autism.
Cerebellar research has focused principally on adult motor function. However, the cerebellum also maintains abundant connections with nonmotor brain regions throughout postnatal life. Here we review evidence that the cerebellum may guide the maturation of remote nonmotor neural circuitry and influence cognitive development, with a focus on its relationship with autism. Specific cerebellar zones influence neocortical substrates for social interaction, and we propose that sensitive-period disruption of such internal brain communication can account for autism's key features.
The climbing fiber input to Purkinje cells acts as a teaching signal by triggering a massive influx of dendritic calcium that marks the occurrence of instructive stimuli during cerebellar learning. Here, we challenge the view that these calcium spikes are all-or-none and only signal whether the instructive stimulus has occurred, without providing parametric information about its features. We imaged ensembles of Purkinje cell dendrites in awake mice and measured their calcium responses to periocular airpuffs that serve as instructive stimuli during cerebellar-dependent eyeblink conditioning. Information about airpuff duration and pressure was encoded probabilistically across repeated trials, and in two additional signals in single trials: the synchrony of calcium spikes in the Purkinje cell population, and the amplitude of the calcium spikes, which was modulated by a non-climbing fiber pathway. These results indicate that calcium-based teaching signals in Purkinje cells contain analog information that encodes the strength of instructive stimuli trial-by-trial.
A major goal of the BRAIN Initiative is the development of technologies to monitor neuronal network activity during active information processing. Toward this goal, genetically encoded calcium indicator proteins have become widely used for reporting activity in preparations ranging from invertebrates to awake mammals. However, slow response times, the narrow sensitivity range of Ca and in some cases, poor signal-to-noise ratio still limit their usefulness. Here, we review recent improvements in the field of neural activity-sensitive probe design with a focus on the GCaMP family of calcium indicator proteins. In this context, we present our newly developed Fast-GCaMPs, which have up to 4-fold accelerated off-responses compared with the next-fastest GCaMP, GCaMP6f. Fast-GCaMPs were designed by destabilizing the association of the hydrophobic pocket of calcium-bound calmodulin with the RS20 binding domain, an intramolecular interaction that protects the green fluorescent protein chromophore. Fast-GCaMP6f-RS06 and Fast-GCaMP6f-RS09 have rapid off-responses in stopped-flow fluorimetry, in neocortical brain slices, and in the intact cerebellum . Fast-GCaMP6f variants should be useful for tracking action potentials closely spaced in time, and for following neural activity in fast-changing compartments, such as axons and dendrites. Finally, we discuss strategies that may allow tracking of a wider range of neuronal firing rates and improve spike detection.
Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent but little is known about their underlying mechanisms. Gap junctions exist in brain regions important for anxiety regulation, such as the ventral hippocampus (vHIP) and mPFC, but their functions in these areas have not been investigated. Using pharmacological blockade of neuronal gap junctions combined with electrophysiological recordings, we found that gap junctions play a role in theta rhythm in the vHIP and mPFC of adult mice. Bilateral infusion of neuronal gap junction blockers into the vHIP decreased anxiety-like behavior on the elevated plus maze and open field. Similar anxiolytic effects were observed with unilateral infusion of these drugs into the vHIP combined with contralateral infusion into the mPFC. No change in anxious behavior was observed with gap junction blockade in the unilateral vHIP alone or in the bilateral dorsal HIP. Since physical exercise is known to reduce anxiety, we examined the effects of long-term running on the expression of the neuronal gap junction protein connexin-36 among inhibitory interneurons and found a reduction in the vHIP. Despite this change, we observed no alteration in theta frequency or power in long-term runners. Collectively, these findings suggest that neuronal gap junctions in the vHIP-mPFC pathway are important for theta rhythm and anxiety regulation under sedentary conditions but that additional mechanisms are likely involved in running-induced reduction in anxiety.
Climbing fibers (CFs) are thought to contribute to cerebellar plasticity and learning by triggering a large influx of dendritic calcium in the postsynaptic Purkinje cell (PC) to signal the occurrence of an unexpected sensory event. However, CFs fire about once per second whether or not an event occurs, raising the question of how sensory-driven signals might be distinguished from a background of ongoing spontaneous activity. Here, we report that in PC dendrites of awake mice, CF-triggered calcium signals are enhanced when the trigger is a sensory event. In addition, we show that a large fraction of the total enhancement in each PC dendrite can be accounted for by an additional boost of calcium provided by sensory activation of a non-CF input. We suggest that sensory stimulation may modulate dendritic voltage and calcium concentration in PCs to increase the strength of plasticity signals during cerebellar learning.
Photoactivatable "caged" neurotransmitters allow optical control of neural tissue with high spatial and temporal precision. However, the development of caged versions of the chief vertebrate inhibitory neurotransmitter, γ-amino butyric acid (GABA), has been limited by the propensity of caged GABAs to interact with GABA receptors. We describe herein the synthesis and application of a practically useful doubly caged GABA analog, termed bis-α-carboxy-2-nitrobenzyl-GABA (bis-CNB-GABA). Uncaging of bis-CNB-GABA evokes inward GABAergic currents in cerebellar molecular layer interneurons with rise times of 2 ms, comparable to flash duration. Response amplitudes depend on the square of flash intensity, as expected for a chemical two-photon uncaging effect. Importantly, prior to uncaging, bis-CNB-GABA is inactive at the GABAA receptor, evoking no changes in holding current in voltage-clamped neurons and showing an IC50 of at least 2.5 mM as measured using spontaneous GABAergic synaptic currents. Bis-CNB-GABA is stable in solution, with an estimated half-life of 98 days in the light. We expect that bis-CNB-GABA will prove to be an effective tool for high-resolution chemical control of brain circuits.
The deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN) convey the final output of the cerebellum and are a major site of activity-dependent plasticity. Here, using patch-clamp recording and two-photon calcium imaging in rat brain slices, we demonstrate that DCN dendrites exhibit three hallmarks of active amplification of electrical signals. First, they produce calcium transients with rise times of tens of milliseconds, comparable in amplitude and duration to calcium spikes in other neurons. Second, calcium signal amplitudes are undiminished along the length of dendrites to the farthest distances from the soma. Third, they can generate calcium signals even in the presence of tetrodotoxin, a sodium channel blocker that abolishes somatic action potential initiation. DCN calcium transients do require the action of T-type calcium channels, a common voltage-gated conductance in excitable dendrites. Dendritic calcium influx was evoked by release from hyperpolarization, peaked within tens of milliseconds, and was observed in both transient- and weak-rebound-firing neurons. In a survey across the DCN, transient-burst rebound firing, which was accompanied by the most rapid calcium flux, was more common in lateral nucleus than in interpositus nucleus and was not seen in medial nucleus. Rebound firing and calcium transients were not present in animals shipped 1-3 days before recording, a condition associated with elevated maternal and pup corticosterone and reduced pup body weight. Rebounds could be restored by the protein kinase C activator phorbol 12-myristate-13-acetate. Thus local calcium-based dendritic excitability supports a stage of presomatic amplification that is under regulation by stress and neuromodulatory influence.
The use of genetically encodable calcium indicator proteins to monitor neuronal activity is hampered by slow response times and a narrow Ca(2+)-sensitive range. Here we identify three performance-limiting features of GCaMP3, a popular genetically encodable calcium indicator protein. First, we find that affinity is regulated by the calmodulin domain's Ca(2+)-chelating residues. Second, we find that off-responses to Ca(2+) are rate-limited by dissociation of the RS20 domain from calmodulin's hydrophobic pocket. Third, we find that on-responses are limited by fast binding to the N-lobe at high Ca(2+) and by slow binding to the C-lobe at lower Ca(2+). We develop Fast-GCaMPs, which have up to 20-fold accelerated off-responses and show that they have a 200-fold range of K(D), allowing coexpression of multiple variants to span an expanded range of Ca(2+) concentrations. Finally, we show that Fast-GCaMPs track natural song in Drosophila auditory neurons and generate rapid responses in mammalian neurons, supporting the utility of our approach.
Recording of identified neuronal network activity using genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) requires labeling that is cell type-specific and bright enough for the detection of functional signals. However, specificity and strong expression are often not achievable using the same promoter. Here we present a combinatorial approach for targeted expression and single-cell-level quantification in which a weak promoter is used to drive trans-amplification under a strong general promoter. We demonstrated this approach using recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) to deliver the sequence of the GECI D3cpv in the mouse cerebellar cortex. Direct expression under the human synapsin promoter (hSYN) led to high levels of expression (50-100 μM) in five interneuron types of the cerebellar cortex but not in Purkinje cells (PCs) (≤10 μM), yielding sufficient contrast to allow functional signals to be recorded from somata and processes in awake animals using two-photon microscopy. When the hSYN promoter was used to drive expression of the tetracycline transactivator (tTA), a second rAAV containing the bidirectional TET promoter (P(tet)bi) could drive strong D3cpv expression in PCs (10-300 μM), enough to allow reliable complex spike detection in the dendritic arbor. An amplified approach should be of use in monitoring neural processing in selected cell types and boosting expression of optogenetic probes. Additionally, we overcome cell toxicity associated with rAAV injection and/or local GECI overexpression by combining the virus injection with systemic pre-injection of hyperosmotic D-mannitol, and by this double the time window for functional imaging.
From personality to neuropsychiatric disorders, individual differences in brain function are known to have a strong heritable component. Here we report that between close relatives, a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders covary strongly with intellectual interests. We surveyed an entire class of high-functioning young adults at an elite university for prospective major, familial incidence of neuropsychiatric disorders, and demographic and attitudinal questions. Students aspiring to technical majors (science/mathematics/engineering) were more likely than other students to report a sibling with an autism spectrum disorder (p = 0.037). Conversely, students interested in the humanities were more likely to report a family member with major depressive disorder (p = 8.8×10(-4)), bipolar disorder (p = 0.027), or substance abuse problems (p = 1.9×10(-6)). A combined PREdisposition for Subject MattEr (PRESUME) score based on these disorders was strongly predictive of subject matter interests (p = 9.6×10(-8)). Our results suggest that shared genetic (and perhaps environmental) factors may both predispose for heritable neuropsychiatric disorders and influence the development of intellectual interests.
Excitatory drive enters the cerebellum via mossy fibers, which activate granule cells, and climbing fibers, which activate Purkinje cell dendrites. Until now, the coordinated regulation of these pathways has gone unmonitored in spatially resolved neuronal ensembles, especially in awake animals. We imaged cerebellar activity using functional two-photon microscopy and extracellular recording in awake mice locomoting on an air-cushioned spherical treadmill. We recorded from putative granule cells, molecular layer interneurons, and Purkinje cell dendrites in zone A of lobule IV/V, representing sensation and movement from trunk and limbs. Locomotion was associated with widespread increased activity in granule cells and interneurons, consistent with an increase in mossy fiber drive. At the same time, dendrites of different Purkinje cells showed increased co-activation, reflecting increased synchrony of climbing fiber activity. In resting animals, aversive stimuli triggered increased activity in granule cells and interneurons, as well as increased Purkinje cell co-activation that was strongest for neighboring dendrites and decreased smoothly as a function of mediolateral distance. In contrast with anesthetized recordings, no 1-10 Hz oscillations in climbing fiber activity were evident. Once locomotion began, responses to external stimuli in all three cell types were strongly suppressed. Thus climbing and mossy fiber representations can shift together within a fraction of a second, reflecting in turn either movement-associated activity or external stimuli.
Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is a neuroinvasive virus of the herpes family that has a broad host range but does not infect higher-order primates. PRV characteristically travels along chains of synaptically connected neurons and has been used extensively for elucidating neural circuits in the peripheral and central nervous system in vivo. The recombinant virus PRV369 is an attenuated retrograde tracer that encodes G-CaMP2, a fluorescent calcium sensor protein that is stable at physiological pH and mammalian temperature. This protocol describes the use of PRV369 to express G-CaMP2 in a neuronal circuit and to monitor its activity in a living animal, specifically in the submandibular ganglia (SMG), the peripheral parasympathetic ganglia that innervate the salivary glands. The procedure describes the delivery of PRV369 to the glands and shows how SMG neurons can then be imaged post-inoculation to explore connectivity and activity.
The study of coordinated activity in neuronal circuits has been challenging without a method to simultaneously report activity and connectivity. Here we present the first use of pseudorabies virus (PRV), which spreads through synaptically connected neurons, to express a fluorescent calcium indicator protein and monitor neuronal activity in a living animal. Fluorescence signals were proportional to action potential number and could reliably detect single action potentials in vitro. With two-photon imaging in vivo, we observed both spontaneous and stimulated activity in neurons of infected murine peripheral autonomic submandibular ganglia (SMG). We optically recorded the SMG response in the salivary circuit to direct electrical stimulation of the presynaptic axons and to physiologically relevant sensory stimulation of the oral cavity. During a time window of 48 hours after inoculation, few spontaneous transients occurred. By 72 hours, we identified more frequent and prolonged spontaneous calcium transients, suggestive of neuronal or tissue responses to infection that influence calcium signaling. Our work establishes in vivo investigation of physiological neuronal circuit activity and subsequent effects of infection with single cell resolution.
Multicellular glial calcium waves may locally regulate neural activity or brain energetics. Here, we report a diffusion-driven astrocytic signal in the normal, intact brain that spans many astrocytic processes in a confined volume without fully encompassing any one cell. By using 2-photon microscopy in rodent cerebellar cortex labeled with fluorescent indicator dyes or the calcium-sensor protein G-CaMP2, we discovered spontaneous calcium waves that filled approximately ellipsoidal domains of Bergmann glia processes. Waves spread in 3 dimensions at a speed of 4-11 microm/s to a diameter of approximately 50 microm, slowed during expansion, and were reversibly blocked by P2 receptor antagonists. Consistent with the hypothesis that ATP acts as a diffusible trigger of calcium release waves, local ejection of ATP triggered P2 receptor-mediated waves that were refractory to repeated activation. Transglial waves represent a means for purinergic signals to act with local specificity to modulate activity or energetics in local neural circuits.
The inferior olive projects climbing fiber axons to cerebellar Purkinje neurons, where they trigger calcium-based dendritic spikes. These responses dynamically shape the immediate spike output of Purkinje cells as well as provide an instructive signal to guide long-term plasticity. Climbing fibers typically fire approximately once a second, and the instructive role is distributed over many such firing events. However, transmission of salient information on an immediate basis needs to occur on a shorter timescale during which a Purkinje cell would typically be activated by a climbing fiber only once. Here we show using in vivo calcium imaging in anesthetized mice and rats that sensory events are rapidly and reliably represented by momentary, simultaneous coactivation of microbands of adjacent Purkinje cells. Microbands were sagittally oriented and spanned up to 100 microm mediolaterally, representing hundreds of Purkinje cells distributed over multiple folia. Spontaneous and sensory-evoked microbands followed boundaries that were close or identical to one another and were desynchronized by olivary injection of the gap junction blocker mefloquine, indicating that excitation to the olive is converted to synchronized firing by electrical coupling. One-time activation of microbands could distinguish a sensory response from spontaneous activity with up to 98% accuracy. Given the anatomy of the olivocerebellar system, microband synchrony may shape the output of neurons in the cerebellar nuclei either via powerful inhibition by Purkinje cells or by direct monosynaptic excitation from the inferior olive.
Like electrical wires, axons carry signals from place to place. However, unlike wires, because of the electrochemical mechanisms for generating and propagating action potentials, the performance of an axon is strongly linked to the costs of its construction and operation. As a consequence, the architecture of brain wiring is biophysically constrained to trade off speed and energetic efficiency against volume. Because the biophysics of axonal conduction is well studied, this tradeoff is amenable to quantitative analysis. In this framework, an examination of axon tract composition can yield insights into neural circuit function in regard to energetics, processing speed, spike timing precision, and average rates of neural activity.
The brains of large mammals have lower rates of metabolism than those of small mammals, but the functional consequences of this scaling are not well understood. An attractive target for analysis is axons, whose size, speed and energy consumption are straightforwardly related. Here we show that from shrews to whales, the composition of white matter shifts from compact, slow-conducting, and energetically expensive unmyelinated axons to large, fast-conducting, and energetically inexpensive myelinated axons. The fastest axons have conduction times of 1-5 ms across the neocortex and <1 ms from the eye to the brain, suggesting that in select sets of communicating fibers, large brains reduce transmission delays and metabolic firing costs at the expense of increased volume. Delays and potential imprecision in cross-brain conduction times are especially great in unmyelinated axons, which may transmit information via firing rate rather than precise spike timing. In neocortex, axon size distributions can account for the scaling of per-volume metabolic rate and suggest a maximum supportable firing rate, averaged across all axons, of 7 +/- 2 Hz. Axon size distributions also account for the scaling of white matter volume with respect to brain size. The heterogeneous white matter composition found in large brains thus reflects a metabolically constrained trade-off that reduces both volume and conduction time.
In vivo multiphoton fluorescence microscopy allows imaging of cellular structures in brain tissue to depths of hundreds of micrometers and, when combined with the use of activity-dependent indicator dyes, opens the possibility of observing intact, functioning neural circuitry. We have developed tools for analyzing in vivo multiphoton data sets to identify responding structures and events in single cells as well as patterns of activity within the neural ensemble. Data were analyzed from populations of cerebellar Purkinje cell dendrites, which generate calcium-based complex action potentials. For image segmentation, active dendrites were identified using a correlation-based method to group covarying pixels. Firing events were extracted from dendritic fluorescence signals with a 95% detection rate and an 8% false-positive rate. Because an event that begins in one movie frame is sometimes not detected until the next frame, detection delays were compensated using a likelihood-based correction procedure. To identify groups of dendrites that tended to fire synchronously, a k-means-based procedure was developed to analyze pairwise correlations across the population. Because repeated runs of k-means often generated dissimilar clusterings, the runs were combined to determine a consensus cluster number and composition. This procedure, termed meta-k-means, gave clusterings as good as individual runs of k-means, was independent of random initial seeding, and allowed the exclusion of outliers. Our methods should be generally useful for analyzing multicellular activity recordings in a variety of brain structures.
Associative long-term depression (LTD) at cerebellar parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapses is sensitive to the temporal order in which the parallel fiber is coactivated with the climbing fiber input, but how order sensitivity is achieved is unknown. Here we show that the cerebellar inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) receptor, whose activation is required for LTD induction, is sensitive in situ to the order of presentation of its coagonists, IP3 and cytoplasmic calcium. By focally photolyzing a novel caged IP3 compound in dendritic spines, we find that pairing IP3 with climbing fiber-mediated calcium entry leads to a large calcium release transient if the climbing fiber is activated up to 100 ms before or up to 500 ms after IP3 uncaging. This asymmetric timing window for coactivation follows the kinetics of calcium removal and IP3 unbinding from the receptor and is not limited by IP3 metabolism. IP3 receptor binding thus acts as an eligibility trace that can drive temporal order-dependent calcium release and LTD induction in Purkinje cells and event order-dependent sensory plasticity in the whole animal.
Biological messengers can be "caged" by adding a single photosensitive group that can be photolyzed by a light flash to achieve spatially and temporally precise biochemical control. Here we report that photolysis of a double-caged form of the second messenger inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) triggers focal calcium release in Purkinje cell somata, dendrites, and spines as measured by two-photon microscopy. In calbindin knock-out Purkinje cells, peak calcium increased with flash energy with higher cooperativity for double-caged IP3 than for conventional single-caged IP3, consistent with a chemical two-photon effect. Spine photolysis of double-caged IP3 led to local calcium release. Uncaging of glycerophosphoryl-myo-inositol 4,5-bisphosphate (gPIP2), a poorly metabolizable IP3 analog, led to less well localized release. Thus, IP3 breakdown is necessary for spine-specificity. IP3- and gPIP2-evoked signals declined from peak with similar, slow time courses, indicating that release lasts hundreds of milliseconds and is terminated not by IP3 degradation but by intrinsic receptor dynamics. Based on measurements of spine-dendrite coupling, IP3-evoked calcium signals are expected to be at least 2.4-fold larger in their spine of origin than in nearby spines, allowing IP3 to act as a synapse-specific second messenger. Unexpectedly, single-caged IP3 led to less release in somata and was ineffective in dendrites and spines. Calcium release using caged gPIP2 was inhibited by the addition of single-caged IP3, suggesting that single-caged IP3 is an antagonist of calcium release. Caging at multiple sites may be an effective general approach to reducing residual receptor interaction.
At individual synapses, post-synaptic responses include a mixture of "successes" and "failures" in which transmitter is released or not released, respectively. Previously we measured synaptic strength at CA3-CA1 synapses averaged over all trials, including both successes and failures, using an induction protocol that allowed us to observe potentiation and depression events as step-like changes. Here we report quantal properties of 15 of the earlier experiments, including 14 potentiation events and eight depression events. In five experiments both potentiation events and depression events were evoked at the same synapse. During potentiation, success rate increased from 0.56 +/- 0.14 (mean +/- SD) to 0.69 +/- 0.12, and during depression, success rate decreased from 0.70 +/- 0.09 to 0.51 +/- 0.10. During potentiation potency increased from 10 +/- 5 to 19 +/- 9 pA, and during depression, potency decreased from 18 +/- 12 to 12 +/- 7 pA. On average, changes in potency accounted for 76% of the change in response size in potentiation events and 60% of the change in depression events. A reduced-assumption spectral analysis method showed evidence for multiple quantal peaks in distributions of post-synaptic current amplitudes. Consistent with the observed changes in potency, estimated quantal size (Q) increased with potentiation and decreased with depression. A change in potency, which is thought to reflect post-synaptic expression mechanisms, was followed within seconds to minutes by a change in success rate, which is thought to reflect pre-synaptic expression mechanisms. Synaptic plasticity events may therefore consist of changes that occur on both sides of a synapse in a temporally coordinated fashion.
Photolysis of caged compounds is a powerful tool for studying subcellular physiological functions. Here we describe protocols for the alignment and calibration of a focal uncaging system. We also report procedures for convenient quantitative calibration of uncaging. Using these methods, we can achieve submicron lateral resolution of photolysis and probe biological function in spines, the smallest signaling compartments of neurons. Initially, the entire alignment procedure takes 4-6 h to perform; periodic fine-tuning of the system takes 1-2 h.
The magnitude and direction of synaptic plasticity can be determined by the precise timing of presynaptic and postsynaptic action potentials on a millisecond timescale. In vivo, however, neural activity has structure on longer timescales. Here we show that plasticity at the CA3-CA1 synapse depends strongly on parameters other than millisecond spike timing. As a result, the notion that a single spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) rule alone can fully describe the mapping between neural activity and synapse strength is invalid. We have begun to explore the influence of additional behaviorally relevant activity parameters on STDP and found conditions under which underlying spike-timing-dependent rules for potentiation and depression can be separated from one another. Potentiation requires postsynaptic burst firing at 5 Hz or higher, a firing pattern that occurs during the theta rhythm. Potentiation is measurable after only tens of presynaptic-before-postsynaptic pairings. Depression requires hundreds of pairings but has less stringent long timescale requirements and broad timing dependence. By varying these parameters, we obtain STDP curves that are long-term potentiation only, bidirectional, or long-term depression only. This expanded description of the CA3-CA1 learning rule reconciles apparent contradictions between spike-timing-dependent plasticity and previous work at CA3-CA1 synapses.
In populations of synapses, overall synaptic strength can undergo either a net strengthening (long-term potentiation) or weakening (long-term depression). These phenomena have distinct induction pathways, but the functional outcome is usually measured as a single lumped quantity. In hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses, we took two approaches to study the activity dependence of each phenomenon in isolation. First, we selectively blocked one process by applying kinase or phosphatase inhibitors known, respectively, to block potentiation or depression. Second, we saturated depression or potentiation and examined the activity dependence of the converse process. The resulting unidirectional learning rules could be recombined to give a well-known bidirectional frequency-dependent learning rule under the assumption that when both pathways are activated kinases dominate, resulting in potentiation. Saturation experiments revealed an additional process in which potentiated synapses can be locked at high strength. Saturability of the components of plasticity implies that the amount of plasticity contributed by each pathway depends on the initial level of strength of the synapses. Variation in the distribution of initial synaptic strengths predicts a form of metaplasticity and can account for differences in learning rules observed under several physiological and genetic manipulations.
Biological information storage events are often rapid transitions between discrete states. In neural systems, the initiation of bidirectional plasticity by all-or-none events may help confer robustness on memory storage. Here, we report that at CA3-CA1 hippocampal synapses, individual potentiation and depression plasticity events are discrete and heterogeneous in nature. Individual synapses began from extreme high and low strength states. Unitary plasticity events were all-or-none and drove synaptic strength between extremes in <1 min. Under naïve conditions, approximately three-fourths of synapses began in a low-strength state. The timing of these unitary events can account for the time course of macroscopic synaptic plasticity.
In vivo two-photon calcium imaging provides the opportunity to monitor activity in multiple components of neural circuitry at once. Here we report the use of bulk-loading of fluorescent calcium indicators to record from axons, dendrites, and neuronal cell bodies in cerebellar cortex in vivo. In cerebellar folium crus IIa of anesthetized rats, we imaged the labeled molecular layer and identified all major cellular structures: Purkinje cells, interneurons, parallel fibers, and Bergmann glia. Using extracellular stimuli we evoked calcium transients corresponding to parallel fiber beam activity. This beam activity triggered prolonged calcium transients in interneurons, consistent with in vitro evidence for synaptic activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors via glutamate spillover. We also observed spontaneous calcium transients in Purkinje cell dendrites that were identified as climbing-fiber-evoked calcium spikes by their size, time course, and sensitivity to AMPA receptor antagonist. Two-photon calcium imaging of bulk-loaded cerebellar cortex is thus well suited to optically monitor synaptic processing in the intact cerebellum.
Light-sensitive 'caged' molecules provide a means of rapidly and noninvasively manipulating biochemical signals with submicron spatial resolution. Here we describe a new optical system for rapid uncaging in arbitrary patterns to emulate complex neural activity. This system uses TeO(2) acousto-optical deflectors to steer an ultraviolet beam rapidly and can uncage at over 20,000 locations per second. The uncaging beam is projected into the focal plane of a two-photon microscope, allowing us to combine patterned uncaging with imaging and electrophysiology. By photolyzing caged neurotransmitter in brain slices we can generate precise, complex activity patterns for dendritic integration. The method can also be used to activate many presynaptic neurons at once. Patterned uncaging opens new vistas in the study of signal integration and plasticity in neuronal circuits and other biological systems.
Cerebellar parallel fibers are among the thinnest known vertebrate axons and represent an extreme anatomical adaptation. Until now a systematic examination of their properties across species has not been carried out. We used transmission electron microscopy and light microscopy to compare parallel fibers in mammals of different brain sizes. From mouse to macaque, the average unmyelinated parallel fiber diameter was 0.2-0.3 microm, consistent with the idea that they are evolutionarily selected for compactness. Average unmyelinated parallel fiber diameter scaled up slightly with brain size, and across species the estimated total conduction time is 5-10 ms. However, these conduction times can vary by milliseconds, and unmyelinated PFs consume large amounts of energy per action potential. These functional disadvantages are overcome in myelinated parallel fibers, which we found in the deep regions nearest the Purkinje cell layer in marmoset, cat and macaque. These axons were 0.4-1.1 microm wide, have expected conduction times of 0.5-1.0 ms, and may convey fast feedforward inhibition via basket cells to Purkinje cells.
Vertebrate brains vary tremendously in size, but differences in form are more subtle. To bring out functional contrasts that are independent of absolute size, we have normalized brain component sizes to whole brain volume. The set of such volume fractions is the cerebrotype of a species. Using this approach in mammals we previously identified specific associations between cerebrotype and behavioral specializations. Among primates, cerebrotypes are linked principally to enlargement of the cerebral cortex and are associated with increases in the complexity of social structure. Here we extend this analysis to include a second major vertebrate group, the birds. In birds the telencephalic volume fraction is strongly correlated with social complexity. This correlation accounts for almost half of the observed variation in telencephalic size, more than any other behavioral specialization examined, including the ability to learn song. A prominent exception to this pattern is owls, which are not social but still have very large forebrains. Interpolating the overall correlation for Archaeopteryx, an ancient bird, suggests that its social complexity was likely to have been on a par with modern domesticated chickens. Telencephalic volume fraction outperforms residuals-based measures of brain size at separating birds by social structure. Telencephalic volume fraction may be an anatomical substrate for social complexity, and perhaps cognitive ability, that can be generalized across a range of vertebrate brains, including dinosaurs.
Although descriptions of form have been a mainstay of comparative neuroanatomy, less well explored is the use of quantitative approaches, especially at the cellular level. In the neocortex, many gross and cellular anatomical measures show striking regularities over a wide range of brain sizes. Here we review our recent efforts to accurately characterize these scaling trends and explain them in functional terms. We focus on the expansion of white matter volume with increasing brain size and the formation of surface folds, in addition to principles of processing speed and energetics that may explain these phenomena. We also consider exceptional cases of neocortical morphology as a means of testing putative functional principles and developmental mechanisms. We illustrate this point by describing several morphological specializations at the cellular level that may constitute functional adaptations. Taken together, these approaches illustrate the benefits of a synthesis between comparative neuroanatomy and biophysics.
Comparison of mammalian brain parts has often focused on differences in absolute size, revealing only a general tendency for all parts to grow together. Attempts to find size-independent effects using body weight as a reference variable obscure size relationships owing to independent variation of body size and give phylogenies of questionable significance. Here we use the brain itself as a size reference to define the cerebrotype, a species-by-species measure of brain composition. With this measure, across many mammalian taxa the cerebellum occupies a constant fraction of the total brain volume (0.13 +/- 0.02), arguing against the hypothesis that the cerebellum acts as a computational engine principally serving the neocortex. Mammalian taxa can be well separated by cerebrotype, thus allowing the use of quantitative neuroanatomical data to test evolutionary relationships. Primate cerebrotypes have progressively shifted and neocortical volume fractions have become successively larger in lemurs and lorises, New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and hominoids, lending support to the idea that primate brain architecture has been driven by directed selection pressure. At the same time, absolute brain size can vary over 100-fold within a taxon, while maintaining a relatively uniform cerebrotype. Brains therefore constitute a scalable architecture.