Synapses exhibit several forms of short-term plasticity that play a multitude of computational roles. Short-term depression suppresses neurotransmitter release for hundreds of milliseconds to tens of seconds; facilitation and post-tetanic potentiation lead to synaptic enhancement lasting hundreds of milliseconds to minutes. Recent advances have provided insight into the mechanisms underlying these forms of plasticity. Vesicle depletion and inactivation of release sites and calcium channels contribute to synaptic depression. Mechanisms of short-term enhancement include calcium channel facilitation, local depletion of calcium buffers, increases in the probability of release downstream of calcium influx, altered vesicle pool properties, and increases in quantal size. Moreover, there is a growing appreciation of the heterogeneity of vesicles and release sites and how they can contribute to use-dependent plasticity.
Microglia are increasingly recognized as critical in the pathogenesis of pain hypersensitivity caused by injury to peripheral nerves. The core signalling pathway is through P2X4 purinergic receptors on the microglia which, via the release brain derived neurotrophic factor, cause disinhibition of nociceptive dorsal horn neurons by raising intracellular chloride levels. This disinhibition works in synergy with enhanced excitatory synaptic transmission in the dorsal horn to transform the output of the nociceptive network. There is increased discharge output, unmasking of responses to innocuous peripheral inputs, and spontaneous activity in neurons that otherwise only signal nociception. Together the changes caused by microglia-neuron signalling may account for the main symptoms neuropathic pain in humans.
PMID: 20817512 CAMSID: cams2733
Recent evidence shows that the frequency-specific non-linear properties of auditory nerve and inner hair cell responses to sound, including their sharp frequency tuning, are fully established in the vibration of the basilar membrane. In turn, the sensitivity, frequency selectivity and non-linear properties of basilar membrane responses probably result from an influence of the outer hair cells.
The hippocampus, a structure required for many types of memory, connects to the medial prefrontal cortex, an area that helps direct neuronal information streams during intentional behaviors. Increasing evidence suggests that oscillations regulate communication between these two regions. Theta rhythms may facilitate hippocampal inputs to the medial prefrontal cortex during mnemonic tasks and may also integrate series of functionally relevant gamma-mediated cell assemblies in the medial prefrontal cortex. During slow-wave sleep, temporal coordination of hippocampal sharp wave-ripples and medial prefrontal cortex spindles may be an important component of the process by which memories become hippocampus-independent. Studies using rodent models indicate that oscillatory phase-locking is disturbed in schizophrenia, emphasizing the need for more studies of oscillatory synchrony in the hippocampal–prefrontal network.
Although sensory processing in V1 has been extensively characterized, the role of GABAergic inhibition is still not well understood. Advances in molecular biology have now removed significant barriers to the direct investigation of inhibitory processes in vivo. Recent studies have provided important insights into the influence of GABAergic inhibition on cortical processing at both the single cell level, where inhibition helps to shape cortical receptive fields, and at the network level, where inhibition is critical for generating cortical oscillations and setting network state.
The rapid accumulation of neuroproteomics data in recent years has prompted the emergence of novel antibody-based imaging methods which aim to understand the anatomical and functional context of the multitude of identified proteins. The pioneering field of ultrastructural multiplexed proteomic imaging now includes a number of high resolution methods, such as array tomography, stimulated emission depletion microscopy, stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy and automated transmission electron microscopy, which allow a detailed molecular characterization of individual synapses and subsynaptic structures within brain tissues for the first time. While all of these methods still face considerable limitations, a combined complementary approach building on the respective strengths of each method is possible and will enable fascinating research into the proteomic diversity of the nervous system.
In recent years, interest has grown in the ability to manipulate, in a temporally precise fashion, the electrical activity of specific neurons embedded within densely wired brain circuits, in order to reveal how specific neurons subserve behaviors and neural computations, and to open up new horizons on the clinical treatment of brain disorders. Technologies that enable temporally precise control of electrical activity of specific neurons, and not these neurons ’ neighbors – whose cell bodies or processes might be just tens to hundreds of nanometers away – must involve two components. First, they require as a trigger a transient pulse of energy that supports the temporal precision of the control. Second, they require a molecular sensitizer that can be expressed in specific neurons and which renders those neurons specifically responsive to the triggering energy delivered. Optogenetic tools, such as microbial opsins, can be used to activate or silence neural activity with brief pulses of light. Thermogenetic tools, such as thermosensitive TRP channels, can be used to drive neural activity downstream of increases or decreases in temperature. We here discuss the principles underlying the operation of these two recently developed, but widely used, toolboxes, as well as the directions being taken in the use and improvement of these toolboxes.
Recent advances in non-invasive neuroimaging have enabled the measurement of connections between distant regions in the living human brain, thus opening up a new field of research: Human connectomics. Different imaging modalities allow the mapping of structural connections (axonal fiber tracts) as well as functional connections (correlations in time series), and individual variations in these connections may be related to individual variations in behaviour and cognition. Connectivity analysis has already led to several important advances. Segregated brain regions may be identified by their unique patterns of connectivity, structural and functional connectivity may be compared to elucidate how dynamic interactions arise from the anatomical substrate, and the architecture of large-scale networks connecting sets of brain regions may be analyzed in detail. The combination of structural and functional connectivity has begun to reveal key patterns of human brain organization, such as the existence of distinct modules or sub-networks that become engaged in different cognitive tasks. Collectively, advances in human connectomics open up the possibility of studying how brain connections mediate regional brain function and thence behaviour.
Neuroimaging; Network; Neuroanatomy; Connectome; Diffusion Imaging; fMRI; Resting-State
The development of advanced optical methods has played a key role in propelling progress in neurobiology. Genetically-encoded fluorescent molecules found in nature have enabled labeling of individual neurons to study their physiology and anatomy. Here we discuss the recent use of both native and synthetic optical highlighter proteins to address key problems in neurobiology, including questions relevant to synaptic function, neuroanatomy, and the organization of neural circuits.
Tethering genetically encoded peptide toxins or ligands close to their point of activity at the cell plasma membrane provides a new approach to the study of cell networks and neuronal circuits, as it allows selective targeting of specific cell populations, enhances the working concentration of the ligand or blocker peptide, and permits the engineering of a large variety of t-peptides (e.g., including use of fluorescent markers, viral vectors and point mutation variants). This review describes the development of tethered toxins and peptides derived from the identification of the cell surface nAChR modulator lynx1, the existence of related endogenous cell surface modulators of nAChR and AMPA receptors, and the application of the t-toxin and t-neuropeptide technology to the dissection of neuronal circuits in metazoans.
The new generation of silicon-based multielectrodes comprising hundreds or more electrode contacts offers unprecedented possibilities for simultaneous recordings of spike trains from thousands of neurons. Such data will not only be invaluable for finding out how neural networks in the brain work, but will likely be important also for neural prosthesis applications. This opportunity can only be realized if efficient, accurate and validated methods for automatic spike sorting are provided. In this review we describe some of the challenges that must be met to achieve this goal, and in particular argue for the critical need of realistic model data to be used as ground truth in the validation of spike-sorting algorithms.
The past few decades have seen the field of genetic engineering evolve at a rapid pace, with neuroscientists now equipped with a wide range of tools for the manipulation of an animal's genome in order to study brain function. However, the number of species to which these technologies have been applied, namely the fruit fly, C. elegans, zebrafish and mouse, remains relatively few. This review will discuss the variety of approaches to genetic modification that have been developed in such traditional ‘genetic systems’, and highlight the progress that has been made to translate these technologies to alternative species such as rats, monkeys and birds, where certain neurobiological questions may be better studied.
► Drosophila is a useful model for mapping neuronal circuitry underlying sexual behavior. ► We review studies aimed at identifying the cellular components of courtship neural circuits. ► Mapping function in circuits defines causal relationships between neural activity and behavior. ► Optogenetic and thermogenetic strategies have been pivotal for the identification of command elements capable of eliciting courtship.
The construction of a comprehensive structural, and importantly functional map of the network of elements and connections forming the brain represents the Holy Grail for research groups working in disparate disciplines. Although technical limitations have restricted the mapping of human and mouse ‘connectomes’ to the level of brain regions, a finer degree of functional resolution is attainable in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, due to the armamentarium of genetic tools available for this model organism. Currently, one of the most amenable approaches employed by Drosophila neurobiologists involves mapping neuronal circuitry underlying complex innate behaviors – courtship being a classic paradigm. We discuss recent studies aimed at identifying the cellular components of courtship neural circuits, mapping function in these circuits and defining causal relationships between neural activity and behavior.
The migration of neurons along glial fibers from a germinal zone (GZ) to their final laminar positions is essential for morphogenesis of the developing brain, aberrations in this process are linked to profound neurodevelopmental and cognitive disorders. During this critical morphogenic movement, neurons must navigate complex migration paths, propelling their cell bodies through the dense cellular environment of the developing nervous system to their final destinations. It is not understood how neurons can successfully migrate along their glial guides through the myriad processes and cell bodies of neighboring neurons. Although much progress has been made in understanding the substrates (1–4), guidance mechanisms (5–7), cytoskeletal elements (8–10), and post-translational modifications (11–13) required for neuronal migration, we have yet to elucidate how neurons regulate their cellular interactions and adhesive specificity to follow the appropriate migratory pathways. Here I will examine recent developments in our understanding of the mechanisms controlling neuronal cell adhesion and how these mechanisms interact with crucial neurodevelopmental events, such as GZ exit, migration pathway selection, multipolar-to-radial transition, and final lamination.
neuronal migration; glial-guided migration; endocytosis; Rap1; N-Cadherin; PAR complex
Heritable neurodevelopmental disorders are multifaceted disease conditions encompassing a wide range of symptoms including intellectual disability, cognitive dysfunction, autism and myriad other behavioral impairments. In cases where single, causative genetic defects have been identified, such as Angelman syndrome, Rett syndrome, Neurofibromatosis Type 1 and Fragile X syndrome, the classical Drosophila genetic system has provided fruitful disease models. Recent Drosophila studies have advanced our understanding of UBE3A, MECP2, NF1 and FMR1 function, respectively, in genetic, biochemical, anatomical, physiological and behavioral contexts. Investigations in Drosophila continue to provide the essential mechanistic understanding required to facilitate the conception of rational therapeutic treatments.
Fragile X syndrome; FMRP; Angelman syndrome; UBE3A; Rett syndrome; MeCP2; Neurofibromatosis Type 1; NF1; Drosophila
The precise causal factors for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are not known, however, decades of research have honed in on the cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical (CSTC) circuitry in the brain as a critical pathway involved in obsessions and the intimately linked compulsive-repetitive behaviors. Recent progress in human and mouse genetics have led to the identification of novel candidate susceptibility genes, which in turn have facilitated a more focused approach to unraveling the nature of circuitry dysfunction in OCD. The ability to perform invasive techniques in genetic animal models of OCD will be crucial for rapid advances in this field, and as such we review the most recent developments and highlight the importance of searching out common circuitry defects underlying compulsive-repetitive behaviors.
OCD; glutamate; glutamatergic; basal ganglia; CSTC; fronto-subcortical; synapse; neurotransmission; genetics; Sapap3; Tourette syndrome; trichotillomania; TTM; neuropsychiatric disorder; N-acetylcysteine; NAC; Slc1a1; EAAC1; Hoxb8; Slitrk5; Slitrk1; Shank3; MeCP2; corticostriatal; cortico-striatal; obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder; OCD circuit
Recent findings in the genetics of neurodevelopmental syndromes have ushered in an exciting era of discovery in which substrates of neurologic dysfunction are being identified at the synaptic and microcircuit levels in mouse models of these disorders. We review recent progress in this area, focusing on two examples of mouse models of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): Mecp2 models of Rett syndrome, and a Met-knockout model of non-syndromic forms of autism. In both cases, a dominant theme is changes in synaptic strength, associated with hyper- or hypoconnectivity in specific microcircuits. Alterations in intrinsic neuronal excitability are also found, but do not appear to be as common. The microcircuit-specific nature of synaptic changes observed in these ASD models indicates that it will be necessary to define mechanisms of circuit dysfunction on a case-by-case basis, not only in neocortex but also in brainstem and other subcortical areas. Thus, functional microcircuit analysis is emerging as an important line of investigation, highly complementary to neurogenetic and molecular strategies, and holds promise for generating models of the underlying pathophysiology and for guiding development of novel therapeutic strategies.
Dominant mutation in two DNA/RNA binding proteins, TDP-43 and FUS/TLS, are causes of inherited Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). TDP-43 and FUS/TLS have striking structural and functional similarities, implicating alterations in RNA processing as central in ALS. TDP-43 has binding sites within a third of all mouse and human mRNAs in brain and this binding influences the levels and splicing patterns of at least 20% of those mRNAs. Disease modeling in rodents of the first known cause of inherited ALS – mutation in the ubiquitously expressed superoxide dismutase (SOD1) – has yielded non-cell autonomous fatal motor neuron disease caused by one or more toxic properties acquired by the mutant proteins. In contrast, initial disease modeling for TDP-43 and FUS/TLS has produced highly varied phenotypes. It remains unsettled whether TDP-43 and FUS/TLS mutants provoke disease from a loss of function or gain of toxicity or both. TDP-43 or FUS/TLS misaccumulation seems central not just to ALS (where it is found in almost all instances of disease), but more broadly in neurodegenerative disease, including frontal temporal lobular dementia (FTLD-U) and many examples of Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease. (182 words)
Epilepsy is the third most common brain disorder and affects millions of people. Epilepsy is characterized by the occurrence of spontaneous seizures, i.e., bursts of synchronous firing of large populations of neurons. These are believed to result from abnormal regulation of neuronal excitability that favors hypersynchrony. Among the intrinsic conductances that govern neuronal excitability, the hyperpolarization-activated current (Ih) plays complex and important roles in the fine-tuning of both cellular and network activity. Not surprisingly, dysregulation of Ih and/or of its conducting ion-channels (HCN) has been strongly implicated in various experimental models of epilepsy, as well as in human epilepsy. Here we provide an overview of recent findings on the distinct physiological roles played by Ih in specific contexts, and the cellular mechanisms that underlie these functions, including the subunit make-up of the channels. We further discuss current knowledge of dysregulation of Ih and HCN channels in epilepsy in light of the multifaceted functions of Ih in the brain.
The largest genetic risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) resides at the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) locus, which has three common alleles (ε2, ε3, ε4) that encode three isoforms (apoE2, apoE3, apoE4). The very strong association of the APOE ε4 allele with AD risk and its role in the accumulation of amyloid β and animal models solidify the biological relevance of apoE isoforms but do not provide mechanistic insight. The innate immune response is consistently observed in AD and is a likely contributor to neuronal injury and response to injury. Here we review emerging data showing that apoE isoform regulation of multiple facets of the innate immune response in the brain may alter AD not only through amyloid β-dependent mechanisms, but also through other, amyloid β-independent mechanisms.
Patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders often exhibit a loss of regulation of their biological rhythms which leads to altered sleep/wake cycle, body temperature rhythm and hormonal rhythms. Whereas these symptoms have long been considered to result from the pathology of the underlying disease, increasing evidence now indicates that the circadian system may be more directly involved in the etiology of psychiatric disorders. This emerging view originated with the discovery that the genes involved in the generation of biological rhythms are expressed in many brain structures where clocks function – and perhaps malfunction. It is also due to the interesting phenotypes of clock mutant mice. Here we summarize recent reports showing that alteration of circadian clocks within key brain regions associated with neuropsychiatric disorders may be an underlying cause of the development of mental illness. We discuss how these alterations take place at both systems and molecular levels.
This review is focused on specific circuits of the medial temporal lobe that have become better understood in recent years for their computational properties contributing to episodic memory and to memory impairment associated with aging and other risk for AD. The layer II neurons in the entorhinal cortex and their targets in the dentate gyrus and CA3 region of hippocampus comprise a system that rapidly encodes representations that are distinct from prior memories. Frank neuron loss in the entorhinal cortex is specific for AD, and related structural and functional changes across the network comprised of the entorhinal cortex and the dentate/CA3 regions hold promise for predicting progression on the path to AD.
Obesity is on the rise in all developed countries, and a large part of this epidemic has been attributed to excess caloric intake induced by ever present food cues and the easy availability of energy dense foods in an environment of plenty. Clearly, there are strong homeostatic regulatory mechanisms keeping body weight of many individuals exposed to this environment remarkably stable over their adult life. Other individuals, however, seem to eat not only because of metabolic need, but also because of excessive hedonic drive to make them feel better and relief stress. In the extreme, some individuals exhibit addiction-like behavior towards food, and parallels have been drawn to to drug and alcohol addiction. However, there is an important distinction in that unlike drugs and alcohol, food is a daily necessity. Considerable advances have been made recently in the identification of neural circuits that represent the interface between the metabolic and hedonic drives of eating. We will cover these new findings by focusing first on the capacity of metabolic signals to modulate processing of cognitive and reward functions in cortico-limbic systems (bottom-up) and then on pathways by which the cognitive and emotional brain may override homeostatic regulation (top-down).
Parkinson’s disease (PD), the most common movement disorder, is characterized by age-dependent degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra of the mid-brain. Non-motor symptoms of PD, however, precede the motor features caused by dysfunction of the dopaminergic system, suggesting that PD is a systemic disorder. Mitochondrial dysfunction has long been observed in PD patients and animal models, but the mechanistic link between mitochondrial dysfunction and PD pathogenesis is not well understood. Recent studies have revealed that genes associated with autosomal recessive forms of PD such as PINK1 and Parkin are directly involved in regulating mitochondrial morphology and maintenance, abnormality of which is also observed in the more common, sporadic forms of PD, although the autosomal recessive PDs lack Lewy-body pathology that is characteristic of sporadic PD. These latest findings suggest that at least some forms of PD can be characterized as a mitochondrial disorder. Whether mitochondrial dysfunction represents a unifying pathogenic mechanism of all PD cases remains a major unresolved question.