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1.  Synaptically Activated Burst-Generating Conductances Underlie a Group-Pacemaker Mechanism for Respiratory Rhythm Generation in Mammals 
Progress in Brain Research  2010;187:111-136.
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.
PMCID: PMC3370336  PMID: 21111204
preBötzinger Complex; pre-Bötzinger Complex; central pattern generator (CPG); metabotropic glutamate receptors; calcium-activated nonspecific cation current; mathematical models; emergent network properties; breathing
2.  Sensory integration for reaching: models of optimality in the context of behavior and the underlying neural circuits 
Progress in Brain Research  2011;191:195-209.
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.
PMCID: PMC3361512  PMID: 21741553
Sensory integration; reaching; neurophysiology; parietal cortex; computational models; vision; proprioception
3.  Building the Bionic Eye: An Emerging Reality and Opportunity 
Progress in Brain Research  2011;192:3-15.
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.
PMCID: PMC3326660  PMID: 21763515
4.  Embracing covariation in brain evolution: Large brains, extended development, and flexible primate social systems 
Progress in Brain Research  2012;195:71-87.
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.
PMCID: PMC3327164  PMID: 22230623
evolution; primate; cortex; social; variation
6.  Eye movements in visual search indicate impaired saliency processing in Parkinson's disease 
Progress in Brain Research  2008;171():559-562.
Previous studies have produced contradictory evidence on the nature of the visual search impairment in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Eye movements were measured during multi-target search in nine individuals with mild-to-moderate PD. Subjects were asked to click on a response button whenever they judged they were fixating a target for the first time. Compared to age-matched healthy volunteers, PD patients were impaired at efficient search (detecting “+”s amongst “L”s) but not inefficient search (“T”s amongst “L”s). However, these patients had normal memory for locations as indexed by their rate of re-clicking on previously inspected locations. We suggest that the pattern of gaze for efficient search may reflect impaired saliency processing in PD.
PMCID: PMC2655700  PMID: 18718353
visual search; saccades; Parkinson's disease; saliency
7.  Assessment of neuroprotection in the retina with DARC 
Progress in Brain Research  2008;173():437-450.
Currently, assessment of new drug efficacy in glaucoma relies on conventional perimetry to monitor visual field changes. However, visual field defects cannot be detected until 20–40% of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the key cells implicated in the development of irreversible blindness in glaucoma, have been lost. We have recently developed a new, noninvasive real-time imaging technology, which is named DARC (detection of apoptosing retinal cells), to visualize single RGC undergoing apoptosis, the earliest sign of glaucoma. Utilizing fluorescently labeled annexin 5 and confocal laser scanning ophthalmoscopy, DARC enables evaluation of treatment effectiveness by monitoring RGC apoptosis in the same living eye over time. Using DARC, we have assessed different neuroprotective therapies in glaucoma-related animal models and demonstrated DARC to be a useful tool in screening neuroprotective strategies. DARC will potentially provide a meaningful clinical end point that is based on the direct assessment of the RGC death process, not only being useful in assessing treatment efficacy, but also leading to the early identification of patients with glaucoma. Clinical trials of DARC in glaucoma patients are due to start in 2008.
PMCID: PMC2603274  PMID: 18929126
DARC; RGC apoptosis; glaucoma; neuroprotection; glutamate modulation; targeting Aβ pathway; coenzyme Q10

Results 1-7 (7)