As the racial composition of the population changes, intergroup interactions are increasingly common. To understand how we perceive and categorize race and the attitudes that flow from it, scientists have used brain imaging techniques to examine how social categories of race and ethnicity are processed, evaluated and incorporated in decision-making. We review these findings, focusing on black and white race categories. A network of interacting brain regions is important in the unintentional, implicit expression of racial attitudes and its control. On the basis of the overlap in the neural circuitry of race, emotion and decision-making, we speculate as to how this emerging research might inform how we recognize and respond to variations in race and its influence on unintended race-based attitudes and decisions.
The climbing fiber input to the cerebellum from the inferior olive is thought to act as a teacher whose activity controls the induction of motor learning. We designed training conditions that did not elicit instructive signals in the climbing fibers, but nevertheless induced robust and consistent motor learning in the vestibulo-ocular reflex of rhesus monkeys. Our results indicate that instructive signals in the climbing fibers are not necessary for cerebellum-dependent learning. Instead, instructive signals carried by either the climbing fibers or Purkinje cell simple spikes may be sufficient to induce motor learning, with additive effects occurring when both instructive signals are present during training.
Transient global ischemia in rats induces delayed death of hippocampal CA1 neurons. Early events include caspase activation, cleavage of anti-death Bcl-2 family proteins and large mitochondrial channel activity. However, a causal role of these events in ischemia-induced neuronal death is unclear. Unexpectedly, we found that the Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor ABT-737, which enhances death of tumor cells, protects rats against neuronal death in a clinically relevant model of brain ischemia. Bcl-xL is prominently expressed in adult neurons and can be cleaved by caspases to generate a pro-death fragment ΔN-Bcl-xL. We found that ABT-737 administered before or after ischemia inhibited ΔN-Bcl-xL-induced mitochondrial channel activity and neuronal death. To establish a causal role for ΔN-Bcl-xL, we generated knockin mice expressing caspase-resistant Bcl-xL. The knockin mice exhibit strikingly reduced mitochondrial channel activity and reduced vulnerability to ischemia-induced neuronal death. These findings point to truncated Bcl-xL as a potentially important therapeutic target in ischemic brain injury.
The neural mechanism underlying simple perceptual decision-making in monkeys has been recently conceptualized as an integrative process in which sensory evidence supporting different response options accumulates gradually over time. For example, intraparietal neurons accumulate over time motion information in favour of a specific oculomotor choice. It is unclear, however, whether this mechanism generalizes to more complex decisions based on arbitrary stimulus- response associations. Here, in a task requiring to arbitrarily associate visual stimuli (faces or places) with different actions (eye or hand-pointing movements), we show that activity of effector-specific regions in human posterior parietal cortex reflects the ‘strength’ of the sensory evidence in favour of the preferred response. These regions, which do not respond to sensory stimuli per se, integrate after learning sensory evidence toward the outcome of an arbitrary decision. We conclude that even arbitrary decisions can be mediated by sensory-motor mechanisms completely triggered by contextual stimulus-response associations.
Little is known about the brain-wide correlation of electrophysiological signals. Here we show that spontaneous oscillatory neuronal activity exhibits frequency-specific spatial correlation structure in the human brain. We developed an analysis approach that discounts spurious correlation of signal power caused by the limited spatial resolution of electrophysiological measures. We applied this approach to source estimates of spontaneous neuronal activity reconstructed from magnetoencephalography (MEG). Overall, correlation of power across cortical regions was strongest in the alpha to beta frequency range (8–32 Hz) and correlation patterns depended on the underlying oscillation frequency. Global hubs resided in the medial temporal lobe in the theta frequency range (4–6 Hz), in lateral parietal areas in the alpha to beta frequency range (8–23 Hz), and in sensorimotor areas for higher frequencies (32–45 Hz). Our data suggest that interactions in various large-scale cortical networks may be reflected in frequency specific power-envelope correlations.
During synaptogenesis, macromolecular protein complexes assemble at the pre- and postsynaptic membrane. Extensive literature identifies numerous transmembrane molecules sufficient to induce synapse formation and several intracellular scaffolding molecules responsible for assembling active zones and recruiting synaptic vesicles. However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms coupling membrane receptors to active zone molecules during development. Using C.elegans, we identify an F-actin network present at nascent presynaptic terminals required for presynaptic assembly. We unravel a sequence of events where specificity-determining adhesion molecules define the location of developing synapses and locally assemble F-actin. Next, an adaptor protein NAB-1/Neurabin binds to F-actin and recruits active zone proteins, SYD-1 and SYD-2/Liprin-α by forming a tripartite complex. NAB-1 localizes transiently to synapses during development and is required for presynaptic assembly. Together, we identify a role for the actin cytoskeleton during presynaptic development and characterize a molecular pathway where NAB-1 links synaptic partner recognition to active zone assembly.
Dendrites often adopt complex branched structures. The development and organization of these arbors fundamentally determine the potential input and connectivity of a given neuron. The cell-surface receptors that control dendritic branching remain poorly understood. Here, we show that in Caenorhabditis elegans, a previously uncharacterized transmembrane protein containing extracellular leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domains, which we name DMA-1 (Dendrite-Morphogenesis-Abnormal), promotes dendrite branching and growth. Sustained expression of dma-1 is found only in the elaborately branched sensory neurons PVD and FLP. Genetic analysis showed that loss of dma-1 causes much reduced dendritic arbors while overexpression of dma-1 results in excessive branching. Forced expression of dma-1 in neurons with simple dendrites was sufficient to promote ectopic branching. Animals lacking dma-1 are defective in sensing harsh touch. DMA-1 is the first transmembrane LRR protein to be implicated in dendritic branching and expands the breadth of roles played by LRR receptors in nervous system development.
Sensory systems exhibit mechanisms of neural adaptation, which adjust neuronal activity based on recent stimulus history. In primary visual cortex (V1), in particular, adaptation controls the responsiveness of individual neurons and shifts their visual selectivity. What benefits does adaptation confer to a neuronal population? We measured adaptation in the responses of populations of cat V1 neurons to stimulus ensembles with markedly different statistics of stimulus orientation. We found that adaptation serves two homeostatic goals. First, it maintains equality in the time-averaged responses across the population. Second, it maintains independence in selectivity across the population. Adaptation scales and distorts population activity according to a simple multiplicative rule that depends on neuronal orientation preference and on stimulus orientation. We conclude that adaptation in V1 acts as a mechanism of homeostasis, enforcing a tendency towards equality and independence in neural activity across the population.
High-level cortical systems for spatial navigation, including entorhinal grid cells, critically depend on input from the head direction system. We examined spiking rhythms and modes of synchrony between neurons participating in head direction networks for evidence of internal processing, independent of direct sensory drive, which may be important for grid cell function. We demonstrate that head direction networks of rats are segregated into at least two populations of neurons firing on alternate theta cycles (theta cycle skipping) with fixed synchronous or anti-synchronous relationships. Pairs of anti-synchronous theta cycle skipping neurons exhibited larger differences in head direction tuning with a minimum difference of 40 degrees of head direction. Septal inactivation preserved the head direction signal but eliminated theta cycle skipping of head direction cells and grid cell spatial periodicity. We propose that internal mechanisms underlying cycle skipping in head direction networks may be critical for downstream spatial computation by grid cells.
Impaired GABA–mediated neurotransmission has been implicated in many neurologic diseases including epilepsy, intellectual disability, and psychiatric disorders. Here we report that inhibitory neuron transplantation into the hippocampus of adult mice with confirmed epilepsy at the time of grafting dramatically reduced the occurrence of electrographic seizures and restored behavioral deficits in spatial learning, hyperactivity, and the aggressive response to handling. In the recipient brain, GABA progenitors migrated up to 1500 μm from the injection site, expressed genes and proteins characteristic for interneurons, differentiated into functional inhibitory neurons, and received excitatory synaptic input. In contrast to hippocampus, cell grafts into basolateral amygdala rescued the hyperactivity deficit but did not alter seizure activity or other abnormal behaviors. Our results highlight a critical role for interneurons in epilepsy and suggest that interneuron cell transplantation is a powerful approach to halt seizures and rescue accompanying deficits in severely epileptic mice.
The adult CNS contains an abundant population of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (NG2+ cells) that generate oligodendrocytes and repair myelin, but how these ubiquitous progenitors maintain their density is unknown. Here we generated NG2-mEGFP mice and used in vivo two-photon imaging to study their dynamics in the adult brain. Time-lapse imaging revealed that NG2+ cells in the cortex are highly dynamic; they survey their local environment with motile filopodia, extend growth cones, and continuously migrate. They maintain unique territories through self-avoidance, and NG2+ cell loss through death, differentiation, or ablation triggered rapid migration and proliferation of adjacent cells to restore their density. NG2+ cells recruited to sites of focal CNS injury were similarly replaced by a proliferative burst surrounding the injury site. Thus, homeostatic control of NG2+ cell density through a balance of active growth and self-repulsion ensures that these progenitors are available to replace oligodendrocytes and participate in tissue repair.
Protracted social isolation of adult mice induced behavioral, transcriptional and ultrastructural changes in oligodendrocytes of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and impaired adult myelination. Social re-integration was sufficient to normalize behavioral and transcriptional changes. Short periods of isolation affected chromatin and myelin, but did not induce behavioral changes. Thus, myelinating oligodendrocytes in the adult PFC respond to social interaction with chromatin changes, suggesting that myelination acts as a form of adult plasticity.
Platelet-derived growth factor α receptor (PDGFRA)/NG2–expressing glia are distributed throughout the adult CNS. They are descended from oligodendrocyte precursors (OLPs) in the perinatal CNS, but it is not clear whether they continue to generate myelinating oligodendrocytes or other differentiated cells during normal adult life. We followed the fates of adult OLPs in Pdgfra-creERT2/Rosa26-YFP double-transgenic mice and found that they generated many myelinating oligodendrocytes during adulthood; >20% of all oligodendrocytes in the adult mouse corpus callosum were generated after 7 weeks of age, raising questions about the function of the late-myelinating axons. OLPs also produced some myelinating cells in the cortex, but the majority of adult-born cortical cells did not appear to myelinate. We found no evidence for astrocyte production in gray or white matter. However, small numbers of projection neurons were generated in the forebrain, especially in the piriform cortex, which is the main target of the olfactory bulb.
A new study challenges the idea that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex inhibits drug relapse, by selectively inactivating a subpopulation of neurons in this brain area and showing attenuation of context-induced reinstatement of heroin seeking.
We report the surprising finding that several transposable elements are highly active in Drosophila brain during normal aging. We also show that mutations in Drosophila Argonaute 2 (dAgo2) exhibit exacerbated transposon expression in brain, progressive and age-dependent memory impairment and shortened lifespan. These findings suggest that transposon activation may contribute to age-dependent loss of neuronal function.
Humans exhibit a remarkable degree of resilience in the face of extreme stress, with most resisting the development of neuropsychiatric disorders. Over the past 5 years, there has been increasing interest in the active, adaptive coping mechanisms of resilience; however, in humans, the majority of published work focuses on correlative neuroendocrine markers that are associated with a resilient phenotype. In this review, we highlight a growing literature in rodents that is starting to complement the human work by identifying the active behavioral, neural, molecular, and hormonal basis of resilience. The therapeutic implications of these findings are important and can pave the way for an innovative new approach to drug development for a range of stress–related syndromes.
depression; anxiety; major depressive disorder (MDD); post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); stress disorders; sex differences; stress inoculation; stress mastery; mesolimbic dopamine system; synaptic plasticity; structural plasticity; glutamatergic neurotransmission; hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis; hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axis; cortisol; corticosterone; estrogen; testosterone; progesterone; social defeat stress; chronic unpredictable stress; learned helplessness; early intermittent stress; neuroendocrine; glucocorticoid
Oligodendrocytes associate with axons to establish myelin and provide metabolic support to neurons. In the spinal cord of ALS mice, oligodendrocytes downregulate transporters that transfer glycolytic substrates to neurons and oligodendrocyte progenitors (NG2+ cells) exhibit enhanced proliferation and differentiation, although the cause of these changes in oligodendroglia is unknown. Here we report that there is extensive degeneration of gray matter oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord of ALS mice before disease onset. Although new oligodendrocytes were formed, they failed to mature, resulting in progressive demyelination. Oligodendrocyte dysfunction also is prevalent in human ALS, as gray matter demyelination and reactive changes in NG2+ cells were observed in motor cortex and spinal cord of ALS patients. Selective removal of mutant SOD1 from oligodendroglia substantially delayed disease onset and prolonged survival in ALS mice, suggesting that ALS-linked genes enhance the vulnerability of motor neurons and accelerate disease by directly impairing the function of oligodendrocytes.
Animals can determine the nutritional value of sugar without the influence of taste. Here, we describe a Drosophila mutant that is insensitive to the nutritional value of sugars, but responds only to the concentration (i.e. sweetness). The affected gene encodes a sodium/solute cotransporter-like protein, designated dSLC5A11 (or cupcake), which is structurally similar to mammalian sodium/glucose cotransporters (SGLTs) that transport sugar across the intestinal and renal lumen. However, dSLC5A11 is prominently expressed in 10-13 pairs of R4 neurons of the ellipsoid body (EB) in the brain and functions in these neurons for selecting appropriate foods. We propose that dSLC5A11 and EB R4 neurons carry out a critical signaling function in responding to internal glycemic levels.
We show that a natural behavior, exploration of a novel environment, causes DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in neurons of young adult wildtype mice. DSBs occurred in multiple brain regions, were most abundant in the dentate gyrus, which is involved in spatial learning and memory, and were repaired within 24 hours. Increasing neuronal activity by sensory or optogenetic stimulation increased neuronal DSBs in relevant but not irrelevant networks. Human amyloid precursor protein (hAPP) transgenic mice, which simulate key aspects of Alzheimer's disease, had increased neuronal DSBs at baseline and more severe and prolonged DSBs after exploration. Interventions that suppress aberrant neuronal activity and improve memory in hAPP mice normalized their levels of DSBs. Blocking extrasynaptic NMDA-type glutamate receptors prevented amyloid-β (Aβ)-induced DSBs in neuronal cultures. Thus, transient increases in neuronal DSBs occur as a result of physiological brain activity and Aβ exacerbates DNA damage, most likely by eliciting synaptic dysfunction.
A hallmark of addiction is the loss of control over drug intake, which is seen only in a fraction of those exposed to stimulant drugs like cocaine. The cellular mechanisms underlying vulnerability or resistance to compulsive drug use are still unknown. Here we show that individual variability in the development of highly motivated and perseverative behavior toward cocaine is associated with synaptic plasticity in medium spiny neurons expressing dopamine D2 receptors (D2-MSNs) in the nucleus accumbens of mice. Potentiation of glutamatergic inputs onto indirect pathway D2-MSNs was associated with resilience towards compulsive cocaine seeking. Inhibition of D2-MSNs using a chemicogenetic approach enhanced the motivation to obtain cocaine while optogenetic activation of D2-MSNs suppressed cocaine self-administration. These results indicate that recruitment of D2-MSNs in nucleus accumbens functions to restrain cocaine self-administration and serves as a natural protective mechanism in drug-exposed individuals.
Despite recent studies showing depletion of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) pool accompanied by increased intracellular ROS upon autophagy inhibition, it remains unknown whether autophagy is essential in the maintenance of other stem cells. Moreover, it is unclear whether and how the aberrant ROS increase causes depletion of stem cells. Here, we report that ablation of FIP200, an essential gene for autophagy induction in mammalian cells, results in a progressive loss of neural stem cells (NSCs) pool and impairment in neuronal differentiation specifically in the postnatal brain, but not the embryonic brain, in mice. The defect in maintaining the postnatal NSC pool was caused by p53-dependent apoptotic responses and cell cycle arrest. However, the impaired neuronal differentiation was rescued by anti-oxidant NAC treatment, but not by p53 inactivation. These data reveal a role of FIP200-mediated autophagy in the maintenance and functions of NSCs through regulation of oxidative state.
Autophagy; ROS; conditional knockout; mouse models; neural stem cells
Decision making requires an actor to not only steer behavior towards specific goals, but also determine the optimal vigor of performance. Current research and models have largely focused on the former problem of how actions are directed, while overlooking the latter problem of how they are energized. Here, we designed a self-paced decision-making paradigm that showed that rats' performance vigor globally fluctuates with the net value of their options, suggesting that they maintain long-term estimates of the value of their current state. Lesions of the dorsomedial (DMS), and to a lesser degree, in the ventral striatum (VS) impaired such state-dependent modulation of vigor, rendering vigor to depend more exclusively on the outcomes of immediately preceding trials. The lesions, however, spared choice biases. Neuronal recordings showed that the DMS is enriched with net-value-coding neurons. In sum, the DMS encodes one's net expected return, which drives the general motivation to perform.
Senescence affects the ability to utilize information about the likelihood of rewards for optimal decision-making. In a human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we show that healthy older adults have an abnormal signature of expected value resulting in an incomplete reward prediction error signal in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region receiving rich input projections from substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA) dopaminergic neurons. Structural connectivity between SN/VTA and striatum measured with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was tightly coupled to inter-individual differences in the expression of this expected reward value signal. The dopamine precursor levodopa (L-DOPA) increased the task-based learning rate and task performance in some older adults to a level shown by young adults. Critically this drug-effect was linked to restoration of a canonical neural reward prediction error. Thus we identify a neurochemical signature underlying abnormal reward processing in older adults and show this can be modulated by L-DOPA.
Bipolar cells (BCs) form parallel channels that carry visual signals from the outer to the inner retina. Each BC type is thought to carry a distinct visual message to select types of amacrine cells (ACs) and ganglion cells (GCs). However, the number of GC types exceeds that of BCs providing their input, suggesting that BC signals diversify on transmission to GCs. Here we explored in the salamander retina how signals from individual BCs feed into multiple GCs, and found that each BC could evoke distinct responses among GCs, differing in kinetics, adaptation, and rectification properties. This signal divergence results primarily from interactions with ACs that allow each BC to send distinct signals to its target GCs. Our results indicate that individual BC-GC connections have distinct transfer functions. This expands the number of visual channels in the inner retina and enhances the computational power and feature selectivity of early visual processing.
Recent exome sequencing studies have implicated polymorphic BAF complexes (mammalian SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes) in several human intellectual disabilities and cognitive disorders. However, it is currently unknown how mutations in BAF complexes result in impaired cognitive function. Post mitotic neurons express a neuron specific assembly, nBAF, characterized by the neuron-specific subunit BAF53b. Mice harboring selective genetic manipulations of BAF53b have severe defects in longterm memory and long-lasting forms of hippocampal synaptic plasticity. We rescued memory impairments in BAF53b mutant mice by reintroducing BAF53b in the adult hippocampus, indicating a role for BAF53b beyond neuronal development. The defects in BAF53b mutant mice appear to derive from alterations in gene expression that produce abnormal postsynaptic components, such as spine structure and function, and ultimately lead to deficits in synaptic plasticity. Our studies provide new insight into the role of dominant mutations in subunits of BAF complexes in human intellectual and cognitive disorders.