A major challenge in neuroscience is to understand how universal behaviors, such as sensation, movement, cognition, and emotion, arise from the interactions of specific cells that are present within intricate neural networks in the brain. Dissection of such complex networks has typically relied on disturbing the activity of individual gene products, perturbing neuronal activities pharmacologically, or lesioning specific brain regions, to investigate the network’s response in a behavioral output. Though informative for many kinds of studies, these approaches are not sufficiently fine-tuned for examining the functionality of specific cells or cell classes in a spatially or temporally-restricted context. Recent advances in the field of optogenetics now enable researchers to monitor and manipulate the activity of genetically defined cell populations with the speed and precision uniquely afforded by light. Transgenic mice engineered to express optogenetic tools in a cell type-specific manner offer a powerful approach for examining the role of particular cells in discrete circuits in a defined and reproducible way. Not surprisingly then, recent years have seen substantial efforts directed towards generating transgenic mouse lines that express functionally relevant levels of optogenetic tools. In this chapter, we review the state of these efforts and consider aspects of the current technology that would benefit from additional improvement.
transgenic mice; genetic manipulation; cell type; Cre; channelrhodopsin; halorhodopsin; archaerhodopsin; calcium indicator; voltage sensor
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder for which there is currently no effective neuroprotective therapy. Patients are typically treated with a combination of drug therapies and/or receive deep brain stimulation to combat behavioral symptoms. The ideal candidate therapy would be the one which prevents neurodegeneration in the brain, thereby halting the progression of debilitating disease symptoms. Neurotrophic factors have been in the forefront of PD research, and clinical trials have been initiated using members of the GDNF family of ligands (GFLs). GFLs have been shown to be trophic to ventral mesencephalic cells, thereby making them good candidates for PD research. This paper examines the use of GDNF and neurturin, two members of the GFL, in both animal models of PD and clinical trials.
neurotrophic factors; Parkinson’s disease; glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor family ligands; GDNF; neurturin; gene therapy; clinical trials
Large amplitude slow waves are characteristic for the summary brain activity, recorded as electroencephalogram (EEG) or local field potentials (LFP), during deep stages of sleep and some types of anesthesia. Slow rhythm of the synchronized EEG reflects an alternation of active (depolarized, UP) and silent (hyperpolarized, DOWN) states of neocortical neurons. In neurons, involvement in the generalized slow oscillation results in a long-range synchronization of changes of their membrane potential as well as their firing. Here, we aimed at intracellular analysis of details of this synchronization. We asked which components of neuronal activity exhibit long-range correlations during the synchronized EEG? To answer this question, we made simultaneous intracellular recordings from two to four neocortical neurons in cat neocortex. We studied how correlated is the occurrence of active and silent states, and how correlated are fluctuations of the membrane potential in pairs of neurons located close one to the other or separated by up to 13 mm. We show that strong long-range correlation of the membrane potential was observed only (i) during the slow oscillation but not during periods without the oscillation, (ii) during periods which included transitions between the states but not during within-the-state periods, and (iii) for the low-frequency (<5 Hz) components of membrane potential fluctuations but not for the higher-frequency components (>10 Hz). In contrast to the neurons located several millimeters one from the other, membrane potential fluctuations in neighboring neurons remain strongly correlated during periods without slow oscillation. We conclude that membrane potential correlation in distant neurons is brought about by synchronous transitions between the states, while activity within the states is largely uncorrelated. The lack of the generalized fine-scale synchronization of membrane potential changes in neurons during the active states of slow oscillation may allow individual neurons to selectively engage in short living episodes of correlated activity—a process that may be similar to dynamical formation of neuronal ensembles during activated brain states.
intracellular recording; cat; sleep; synchrony
Breathing, chewing and walking are critical life-sustaining behaviors in mammals that consist essentially of simple rhythmic movements. Breathing movements in particular involve the diaphragm, thorax, and airways but emanate from a network in the lower brain stem. This network can be studied in reduced preparations in vitro and using simplified mathematical models that make testable predictions. An iterative approach that employs both in vitro and in silico models has ruled out canonical mechanisms for respiratory rhythm that involve reciprocal inhibition and pacemaker properties. We present an alternative model in which emergent network properties play the key rhythmogenic role. Specifically, we show evidence that synaptically activated burst-generating conductances – which are only available in the context of network activity – engender robust periodic bursts in respiratory neurons. Because the cellular burst-generating mechanism is linked to network synaptic drive we dub this type of system a group pacemaker.
preBötzinger Complex; pre-Bötzinger Complex; central pattern generator (CPG); metabotropic glutamate receptors; calcium-activated nonspecific cation current; mathematical models; emergent network properties; breathing
Although multisensory integration has been well modeled at the behavioral level, the link between these behavioral models and the underlying neural circuits is still not clear. This gap is even greater for the problem of sensory integration during movement planning and execution. The difficulty lies in applying simple models of sensory integration to the complex computations that are required for movement control and to the large networks of brain areas that perform these computations. Here I review psychophysical, computational, and physiological work on multisensory integration during movement planning, with an emphasis on goal-directed reaching. I argue that sensory transformations must play a central role in any modeling effort. In particular the statistical properties of these transformations factor heavily into the way in which downstream signals are combined. As a result, our models of optimal integration are only expected to apply “locally”, i.e. independently for each brain area. I suggest that local optimality can be reconciled with globally optimal behavior if one views the collection of parietal sensorimotor areas not as a set of task-specific domains, but rather as a palette of complex, sensorimotor representations that are flexibly combined to drive downstream activity and behavior.
Sensory integration; reaching; neurophysiology; parietal cortex; computational models; vision; proprioception
Once the topic of folklore and science fiction, the notion of restoring vision to the blind is now approaching a tractable reality. Technological advances have inspired numerous multidisciplinary groups worldwide to develop visual neuroprosthetic devices that could potentially provide useful vision and improve the quality of life of profoundly blind individuals. While a variety of approaches and designs are being pursued, they all share a common principle of creating visual percepts through the stimulation of visual neural elements using appropriate patterns of electrical stimulation. Human clinical trials are now well underway and initial results have been met with a balance of excitement and cautious optimism. As remaining technical and surgical challenges continue to be solved and clinical trials move forward, we now enter a phase of development that requires careful consideration of a new set of issues. Establishing appropriate patient selection criteria, methods of evaluating long-term performance and effectiveness, and strategies to rehabilitate implanted patients will all need to be considered in order to achieve optimal outcomes and establish these devices as viable therapeutic options.
Brain size, body size, developmental length, life span, costs of raising offspring, behavioral complexity, and social structures are correlated in mammals due to intrinsic life-history requirements. Dissecting variation and direction of causation in this web of relationships often draw attention away from the factors that correlate with basic life parameters. We consider the “social brain hypothesis,” which postulates that overall brain and the isocortex are selectively enlarged to confer social abilities in primates, as an example of this enterprise and pitfalls. We consider patterns of brain scaling, modularity, flexibility of brain organization, the “leverage,” and direction of selection on proposed dimensions. We conclude that the evidence supporting selective changes in isocortex or brain size for the isolated ability to manage social relationships is poor. Strong covariation in size and developmental duration coupled with flexible brains allow organisms to adapt in variable social and ecological environments across the life span and in evolution.
evolution; primate; cortex; social; variation
Cell transplantation is a novel therapeutic strategy to restore visual responses to the degenerate adult neural retina and represents an exciting area of regenerative neurotherapy. So far, it has been shown that transplanted postmitotic photoreceptor precursors are able to functionally integrate into the adult mouse neural retina. In this review, we discuss the differentiation of photoreceptor cells from both adult and embryonic-derived stem cells and their potential for retinal cell transplantation. We also discuss the strategies used to overcome barriers present in the degenerate neural retina and improve retinal cell integration. Finally, we consider the future translation of retinal cell therapy as a therapeutic strategy to treat retinal degeneration.
stem cell; progenitor cell; photoreceptor; retina; transplantation; degeneration
Throughout life, thalamocortical (TC) network alternates between activated states (wake or rapid eye movement sleep) and slow oscillatory state dominating slow-wave sleep. The patterns of neuronal firing are different during these distinct states. I propose that due to relatively regular firing, the activated states preset some steady state synaptic plasticity and that the silent periods of slow-wave sleep contribute to a release from this steady state synaptic plasticity. In this respect, I discuss how states of vigilance affect short-, mid-, and long-term synaptic plasticity, intrinsic neuronal plasticity, as well as homeostatic plasticity. Finally, I suggest that slow oscillation is intrinsic property of cortical network and brain homeostatic mechanisms are tuned to use all forms of plasticity to bring cortical network to the state of slow oscillation. However, prolonged and profound shift from this homeostatic balance could lead to development of paroxysmal hyperexcitability and seizures as in the case of brain trauma.
sleep; wake; oscillations; synaptic transmission; synaptic plasticity; intrinsic plasticity
The electrical activity of the brain does not only reflect the current level of arousal, ongoing behavior or involvement in a specific task, but is also influenced by what kind of activity, and how much sleep and waking occurred before. The best marker of sleep-wake history is the electroencephalogram (EEG) spectral power in slow frequencies (slow-wave activity, 0.5–4 Hz, SWA) during sleep, which is high after extended wakefulness and low after consolidated sleep. While sleep homeostasis has been well characterized in various species and experimental paradigms, the specific mechanisms underlying homeostatic changes in brain activity or their functional significance remain poorly understood. However, several recent studies in humans, rats and computer simulations shed light on the cortical mechanisms underlying sleep regulation. First, it was found that the homeostatic changes in SWA can be fully accounted for by the variations in amplitude and slope of EEG slow waves, which are in turn determined by the efficacy of cortico-cortical connectivity. Specifically, the slopes of sleep slow waves were steeper in early sleep compared to late sleep. Second, the slope of cortical evoked potentials, which is an established marker of synaptic strength, was steeper after waking and decreased after sleep. Furthermore, cortical long-term potentiation (LTP) was partially occluded if it was induced after a period of waking, but it could again be fully expressed after sleep. Finally, multiunit activity recordings during sleep revealed that cortical neurons fired more synchronously after waking, and less so after a period of consolidated sleep. The decline of all these electrophysiological measures - the slopes of slow waves and evoked potentials and neuronal synchrony – during sleep correlated with the decline of the traditional marker of sleep homeostasis, EEG SWA. Taken together, these data suggest that homeostatic changes in sleep EEG are the result of altered neuronal firing and synchrony, which in turn arise from changes in functional neuronal connectivity.
sleep homeostasis; synaptic homeostasis; multiunit activity; neurons; cortex
Slow waves are the most prominent electroencephalographic (EEG) feature of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. During NREM sleep, cortical neurons oscillate approximately once every second between a depolarized upstate, when cortical neurons are actively firing, and a hyperpolarized downstate, when cortical neurons are virtually silent (Steriade et al., 1993a; Destexhe et al., 1999; Steriade et al., 2001). Intracellular recordings indicate that the origins of the slow oscillation are cortical and that cortico-cortical connections are necessary for their synchronization (Steriade et al. 1993b; Amzica and Steriade, 1995; Timofeev and Steriade, 1996; Timofeev et al., 2000). The currents produced by the near-synchronous slow oscillation of large populations of neurons appear on the scalp as EEG slow waves (Amzica and Steriade, 1997).
Despite this cellular understanding, questions remain about the role of specific cortical structures in individual slow waves. Early EEG studies of slow waves in humans were limited by the small number of derivations employed and by the difficulty of relating scalp potentials to underlying brain activity (Brazier 1949; Roth et al 1956). Functional neuroimaging methods offer exceptional spatial resolution but lack the temporal resolution to track individual slow waves (Maquet, 2000; Dang-Vu et al., 2008). Intracranial recordings in patient populations are limited by the availability of medically necessary electrode placements and can be confounded by pathology and medications (Nir et al., 2010; Cash et al., 2009; Wenneberg 2010).
Source modeling of high-density EEG recordings offers a unique opportunity for neuroimaging sleep slow waves. So far, the results have challenged several of the influential topographic observations about slow waves that had persisted since the original EEG recordings of sleep. These recent analyses revealed that individual slow waves are idiosyncratic cortical events and that the negative peak of the EEG slow wave often involves cortical structures not necessarily apparent from the scalp, like the inferior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate, posterior cingulate and precuneus (Murphy et al., 2009). In addition, not only do slow waves travel (Massimini et al., 2004), but they often do so preferentially through the areas comprising the major connectional backbone of the human cortex (Hagmann et al., 2008). In this chapter we will review the cellular, intracranial recording and neuroimaging results concerning EEG slow waves. We will also confront a long held belief about peripherally evoked slow waves, also known as K-complexes, namely that they are modality-independent and do not involve cortical sensory pathways. The analysis included here is the first to directly compare K-complexes evoked with three different stimulation modalities within the same subject on the same night using high-density EEG.
slow oscillation; source modeling; K-complex; neuroimaging; electroencephalography
The past decade of neuroscience research has provided considerable evidence that the adult brain can undergo substantial reorganization following injury. For example, following an ischemic lesion, such as occurs following a stroke, there is a cascade of molecular, genetic, physiological and anatomical events that allows the remaining structures in the brain to reorganize. Often, these events are associated with recovery, suggesting that they contribute to it. Indeed, the term plasticity in stroke research has had a positive connotation historically. But more recently, efforts have been made to differentiate beneficial from detrimental changes. These notions are timely now that neurorehabilitative research is developing novel treatments to modulate, increase, or inhibit plasticity in targeted brain regions. We will review basic principles of plasticity and some of the new and exciting approaches that are currently being investigated to shape plasticity following injury in the central nervous system.
Cortex; Stimulation; Plasticity; Recovery; Rehabilitation; Stroke
Spinal cord injury is a devastating neurological trauma, often resulting in the impairment of bladder, bowel, and sexual function as well as the loss of voluntary control of muscles innervated by spinal cord segments below the lesion site. Research is ongoing into several classes of therapies to restore lost function. These include the encouragement of neural sparing and regeneration of the affected tissue, and the intervention with pharmacological and rehabilitative means to improve function. This review will focus on the application of electrical current in the spinal cord in order to reactivate extant circuitry which coordinates and controls smooth and skeletal muscle below the injury. We first present a brief historical review of intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) focusing on its use for restoring bladder function after spinal cord injury as well as its utilization as a research tool for mapping spinal cord circuits that coordinate movements. We then present a review of our own results related to the use of ISMS for restoring standing and walking movements after spinal cord injury. We discuss the mechanisms of action of ISMS and how they relate to observed functional outcomes in animal models. These include the activation of fibers-in-passage which lead to the transsynaptic spread of activation through the spinal cord and the ability of ISMS to produce fatigue-resistant, weight-bearing movements. We present our thoughts on the clinical potential for ISMS with regard to implantation techniques, stability, and damage induced by mechanical and electrical factors. We conclude by suggesting improvements in materials and techniques that are needed in preparation for a clinical proof-of-principle and review our current attempts to achieve these.
Electrical stimulation; lumbosacral enlargement; locomotor networks; standing; walking; muscle fatigue
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with long-term changes in neurobiology. Brain areas involved in the stress response include the medial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. Neurohormonal systems that act on the brain areas to modulate PTSD symptoms and memory include glucocorticoids and norepinephrine. Dysfunction of these brain areas is responsible for the symptoms of PTSD. Brain imaging studies show that PTSD patients have increased amygdala reactivity during fear acquisition. Other studies show smaller hippocampal volume. A failure of medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate activation with re-experiencing of the trauma is hypothesized to represent a neural correlate of the failure of extinction seen in PTSD. The brain has the capacity for plasticity in the aftermath of traumatic stress. Antidepressant treatments and changes in environment can reverse the effects of stress on hippocampal neurogenesis, and humans with PTSD showed increased hippocampal volume with both paroxetine and phenytoin.
PET; depression; cortisol; glucocorticoids; stress; PTSD
Neuromuscular compartments are subvolumes of muscle that have unique biomechanical actions and can be activated singly or in groups to perform the necessary task. Beside unique biomechanical actions, other evidence that supports the neuromuscular compartmentalization of muscles includes segmental reflexes that preferentially excite motoneurons from the same compartment, proportions of motor unit types that differ among compartments and a central partitioning of motoneurons that innervate each compartment. The current knowledge regarding neuromuscular compartments in representative muscles involved in locomotion, respiration and mastication is presented to compare and contrast these different motor systems. Developmental features of neuromuscular compartment formation in these three motor systems are reviewed to identify when these compartments are formed, their innervation patterns and the process of refinement to achieve the adult phenotype. Finally, the role of androgen modulation of neuromuscular compartment maturation in representative muscles of these motor systems is reviewed and the impact of testosterone on specific myosin heavy chain fiber types is discussed based on recent data. In summary, neuromuscular compartments are pre-patterned output elements in muscle that undergo refinement of compartment boundaries and muscle fiber phenotype during maturation. Further studies are needed to understand how these output elements are selectively controlled during locomotion, respiration and mastication.
In the absence of external stimuli the mammalian brain continues to display a rich variety of spontaneous activity. Such activity is often highly stereotypical, invariably rhythmic and can occur with periodicities ranging from a few milliseconds to several minutes. Recently there has been a particular resurgence of interest in fluctuations in brain activity occurring at <0.1 Hz, commonly referred to as very slow or infra-slow oscillations (ISOs). Whilst this is primarily due to the emergence of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a technique which has revolutionised the study of human brain dynamics it is also a consequence of the application of full band electroencephalography (fbEEG). Despite these technical advances the precise mechanisms which lead to ISOs in the brain remain unclear. In a host of animal studies, one brain region that consistently shows oscillations at <0.1 Hz is the thalamus. Importantly, similar oscillations can also be observed in slices of isolated thalamic relay nuclei maintained in vitro. Here, we discuss the nature and mechanisms of these oscillations, paying particular attention to a potential role for astrocytes in their genesis. We also highlight the relationship between this activity and ongoing local network oscillations in the alpha (α) (~8-13 Hz) band, drawing clear parallels with observations made in vivo. Lastly, we consider the relevance of these thalamic ISOs to the pathological activity that occurs in certain types of epilepsy.
acetylcholine; metabotropic glutamate receptor; EEG; gap junctions; alpha rhythm; epilepsy; adenosine; astrocytes; GIRK channels
Neuronal activity elicits vascular dilation, delivering additional blood and metabolites to the activated region. With increasing neural activity, vessels stretch and may become less compliant. Most functional imaging studies assume that limits to vascular expansion are not normally reached except under pathological conditions, with the possibility that metabolism could outpace supply. However, we previously demonstrated that evoked hemodynamic responses were larger during quiet sleep when compared to both waking and REM sleep, suggesting that high basal activity during wake may elicit blunted evoked hemodynamic responses due to vascular expansion limits. We hypothesized that extended brain activity through sleep deprivation will further dilate blood vessels, and exacerbate the blunted evoked hemodynamic responses observed during wake, and dampen responses in subsequent sleep. We measured evoked electrical and hemodynamic responses from rats using auditory clicks (0.5 s, 10 Hz, 2–13 s random ISIs) for one hour following 2, 4, or 6 hours of sleep deprivation. Time-of-day matched controls were recorded continuously for 7 hours. Within quiet sleep periods following deprivation, ERP amplitude did not differ; however, the evoked vascular response was smaller with longer sleep deprivation periods. These results suggest that prolonged neural activity periods through sleep deprivation may diminish vascular compliance as indicated by the blunted vascular response. Subsequent sleep may allow vessels to relax, restoring their ability to deliver blood. These results also suggest that severe sleep deprivation or chronic sleep disturbances could push the vasculature to critical limits, leading to metabolic deficit and the potential for tissue trauma.
auditory cortex; blood volume; evoked response potential (ERP); hemoglobin; optical; NIRS; quiet sleep
Epileptic seizures cause dynamic, reversible changes in brain function and are often associated with loss of consciousness. Of all seizure types, absence seizures lead to the most selective deficits in consciousness, with relatively little motor or other manifestations. Impaired consciousness in absence seizures is not monolithic, but varies in severity between patients and even between episodes in the same patient. In addition, some aspects of consciousness may be more severely involved than other aspects. The mechanisms for this variability are not known. Here we review the literature on human absence seizures and discuss a hypothesis for why effects on consciousness may be variable. Based on behavioral studies, electrophysiology, and recent neuroimaging and molecular investigations, we propose absence seizures impair focal, not generalized brain functions. Imapired consciousness in absence seizures may be caused by focal disruption of information processing in specific corticothalamic networks, while other networks are spared. Deficits in selective and varying cognitive functions may lead to impairment in different aspects of consciousness. Further investigations of the relationship between behavior and altered network function in absence seizures may improve our understanding of both normal and impaired consciousness.
As the nexus between the nervous system and the skeletomuscular system, motoneurons effect all behaviour. As such, motoneuron activity must be well-regulated so as to generate appropriately timed and graded muscular contractions. Accordingly, motoneurons receive a large number of both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs from various peripheral and central sources. Many of these synaptic contacts arise from spinal interneurons, some of which belong to spinal networks responsible for the generation of locomotor activity. Although the complete definition of these networks remains elusive, it is known that the neural machinery necessary to generate the basic rhythm and pattern of locomotion is contained within the spinal cord. One approach to gaining insights into spinal locomotor networks is to describe those spinal interneurons that directly control the activity of motoneurons, so called “last-order” interneurons. In this review, we briefly survey the different populations of last-order interneurons that have been identified using anatomical, physiological, and genetic methodologies. We discuss the possible roles of these identified last-order interneurons in generating locomotor activity, and in the process, identify particular criteria that may be useful in identifying putative last-order interneurons belonging to spinal locomotor networks.
PMID: 21111202 CAMSID: cams1859
Growing evidence supports the role of TNF-α as a mediator of neurodegeneration in glaucoma. Glial production of TNF-α is increased and its death receptor is up-regulated on retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and optic nerve axons in glaucomatous eyes. This multifunctional cytokine can induce RGC death through receptor-mediated caspase activation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress. Opposing these cell-death promoting signals, binding of TNF receptors can also trigger the activation of survival signals. A critical balance between a variety of intracellular signaling pathways determines the predominant in vivo bioactivity of TNF-α as best exemplified by differential responses of RGCs and glia. In addition to the direct neurotoxicity of TNF-α to RGCs and their axons, potential interplay of TNF-α signaling with other cellular events associated with glaucomatous neurodegeneration may also contribute to secondary neurodegenerative injury. This review focuses on the present evidence supporting the involvement of TNF-α signaling in glaucomatous neurodegeneration and possible treatment targets to provide neuroprotection.
glaucoma; neurodegeneration; retinal ganglion cell; glia; tumor necrosis factor-alpha
This chapter provides an overview of neurosteroids, especially their impact on the brain, sex differences and therapeutic potentials. Neurosteroids are synthesized within the brain and rapidly modulate neuronal excitability. They are classified as pregnane neurosteroids such as allopregnanolone and allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone, and androstane neurosteroids, such as androstanediol and etiocholanone. Neurosteroids such as allopregnanolone are positive allosteric modulators of GABA-A receptors with powerful antiseizure activity in diverse animal models. Neurosteroids increases both synaptic and tonic inhibition. They are endogenous regulators of seizure susceptibility, anxiety and stress. Sulfated neurosteroids such as pregnenolone sulfate, which are negative GABA-Areceptor modulators, are memory-enhancing agents. Sex differences in susceptibility to brain disorders could be due to neurosteroids and sexual dimorphism in specific structures of the human brain. Synthetic neurosteroids that exhibit better bioavailability and efficacy and drugs that enhance neurosteroid synthesis have therapeutic potential in anxiety, epilepsy and other brain disorders. Clinical trials with the synthetic neurosteroid analog ganaxolone in the treatment of epilepsy have been encouraging. Neurosteroidogenic agents that lack benzodiazepine-like side effects show promise in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
Allopregnanolone; androstanediol; deoxycorticosterone; epilepsy; ganaxolone; GABA-A receptor; sex differences; neurosteroid; progesterone; seizure susceptibility; testosterone