The basal ganglia are a collection of interconnected, subcortical circuits found in the brain of all vertebrates that are critical for transforming activity in the cerebral cortex into directed behavior. Over the past several decades research on the basal ganglia has revealed that these subcortical nuclei are critical for motor learning, habit formation and the selection of actions based on desirable outcomes. However, it is important to note that while the basal ganglia provide an interface between cortical areas and a number of subcortical motor areas they operate in parallel with a number of other circuits that likewise modulate and/or mediate interactions between the cortex and motor effector systems. For a review of the anatomy of the rodent basal ganglia one can consult our chapter, The Basal Ganglia, in the forthcoming book The Rat Nervous System (4th edition).
While much progress was made over the last several decades describing the anatomy of the basal ganglia a number of pressing questions remain. We approach these questions from a normative perspective in the sense that we first ask what features the circuit ought to have given the computations it has been proposed to perform. We next ask whether the circuit does, indeed, have those properties and how those properties are implemented by the biophysics and connectivity of constituent neurons. Finally, our long term goal is always to evaluate whether the key architectural features of the circuit that we identify are indeed necessary or sufficient for behavior.
A representative project is our recent study: The inhibitory microcircuit of the substantia nigra provides feedback gain control for basal ganglia output. As illustrated in this project we use patch clamp electrophsiology, extracellular recording, two photon microscopy, and functional circuit mapping to study the functional architecture of basal ganglia circuits. In collaboration with other labs at Janelia Farm Research Campus we are developing molecular, genetic, optical, and chemical tools to characterize the integrative properties of neuronal circuits and precisely perturb their function during behavior.
Our long term goal is to understand how individual neurons determine the dynamics of neural activity that underly reinforcement learning. Currently, we are focusing on the development of techniques to make dense extracellular and intracellular electrophysiological recordings from awake, behaving mice. In collaboration with several groups at Janelia Farm we are drawing upon the expertise of the Instrument Design & Fabrication group to design and build custom electronics, electrodes and recording systems. We hope to contribute to a toolkit for electrophysiological recordings that will benefit the larger neuroscience community.
Compared to the dorsal hippocampus, relatively few studies have characterized neuronal responses in the ventral hippocampus. In particular, it is unclear whether and how cells in the ventral region represent space and/or respond to contextual changes. We recorded from dorsal and ventral CA1 neurons in freely moving mice exposed to manipulations of visuospatial and olfactory contexts. We found that ventral cells respond to alterations of the visuospatial environment such as exposure to novel local cues, cue rotations, and contextual expansion in similar ways to dorsal cells, with the exception of cue rotations. Furthermore, we found that ventral cells responded to odors much more strongly than dorsal cells, particularly to odors of high valence. Similar to earlier studies recording from the ventral hippocampus in CA3, we also found increased scaling of place cell field size along the longitudinal hippocampal axis. Although the increase in place field size observed toward the ventral pole has previously been taken to suggest a decrease in spatial information coded by ventral place cells, we hypothesized that a change in spatial scaling could instead signal a shift in representational coding that preserves the resolution of spatial information. To explore this possibility, we examined population activity using principal component analysis (PCA) and neural location reconstruction techniques. Our results suggest that ventral populations encode a distributed representation of space, and that the resolution of spatial information at the population level is comparable to that of dorsal populations of similar size. Finally, through the use of neural network modeling, we suggest that the redundancy in spatial representation along the longitudinal hippocampal axis may allow the hippocampus to overcome the conflict between memory interference and generalization inherent in neural network memory. Our results suggest that ventral population activity is well suited for generalization across locations and contexts. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
A number of recent studies have provided compelling demonstrations that both mice and rats can be trained to perform a variety of behavioral tasks while restrained by mechanical elements mounted to the skull. The independent development of this technique by a number of laboratories has led to diverse solutions. We found that these solutions often used expensive materials and impeded future development and modification in the absence of engineering support. In order to address these issues, here we report on the development of a flexible single hardware design for electrophysiology and imaging both in brain tissue in vitro. Our hardware facilitates the rapid conversion of a single preparation between physiology and imaging system and the conversion of a given system between preparations. In addition, our use of rapid prototyping machines ("3D printers") allows for the deployment of new designs within a day. Here, we present specifications for design and manufacturing as well as some data from our lab demonstrating the suitability of the design for physiology in behaving animals and imaging in vitro and in vivo.
Dysfunction of the basal ganglia produces severe deficits in the timing, initiation, and vigor of movement. These diverse impairments suggest a control system gone awry. In engineered systems feedback is critical for control. By contrast, models of the basal ganglia highlight feedforward circuitry and ignore intrinsic feedback circuits. Here we show that feedback via axon collaterals of substantia nigra projection neurons control the gain of the basal ganglia output. Through a combination of physiology, optogenetics, anatomy and circuit mapping we elaborate a general circuit mechanism for gain control in a microcircuit lacking interneurons. Our data suggest that diverse tonic firing rates, weak unitary connections and a spatially diffuse collateral circuit with distinct topography and kinetics from feedforward input is sufficient to implement divisive feedback inhibition. The importance of feedback for engineered systems implies that the intranigral microcircuit, despite its absence from canonical models, could be essential to basal ganglia function.
Animals learn both whether and when a reward will occur. Neural models of timing posit that animals learn the mean time until reward perturbed by a fixed relative uncertainty. Nonetheless, animals can learn to perform actions for reward even in highly variable natural environments. Optimal inference in the presence of variable information requires probabilistic models, yet it is unclear whether animals can infer such models for reward timing. Here, we develop a behavioral paradigm in which optimal performance required knowledge of the distribution from which reward delays were chosen. We found that mice were able to accurately adjust their behavior to the SD of the reward delay distribution. Importantly, mice were able to flexibly adjust the amount of prior information used for inference according to the moment-by-moment demands of the task. The ability to infer probabilistic models for timing may allow mice to adapt to complex and dynamic natural environments.
Midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons are thought to guide learning via phasic elevations of firing in response to reward predicting stimuli. The mechanism for these signals remains unclear. Using extracellular recording during associative learning, we found that inhibitory neurons in the ventral midbrain of mice responded to salient auditory stimuli with a burst of activity that occurred before the onset of the phasic response of DA neurons. This population of inhibitory neurons exhibited enhanced responses during extinction and was anticorrelated with the phasic response of simultaneously recorded DA neurons. Optogenetic stimulation revealed that this population was, in part, derived from inhibitory projection neurons of the substantia nigra that provide a robust monosynaptic inhibition of DA neurons. Thus, our results elaborate on the dynamic upstream circuits that shape the phasic activity of DA neurons and suggest that the inhibitory microcircuit of the midbrain is critical for new learning in extinction.
The basal ganglia play a critical role in the regulation of voluntary action in vertebrates. Our understanding of the function of the basal ganglia relies heavily upon anatomical information, but continued progress will require an understanding of the specific functional roles played by diverse cell types and their connectivity. An increasing number of mouse lines allow extensive identification, characterization, and manipulation of specified cell types in the basal ganglia. Despite the promise of genetically modified mice for elucidating the functional roles of diverse cell types, there is relatively little anatomical data obtained directly in the mouse. Here we have characterized the retrograde labeling obtained from a series of tracer injections throughout the dorsal striatum of adult mice. We found systematic variations in input along both the medial-lateral and anterior-posterior neuraxes in close agreement with canonical features of basal ganglia anatomy in the rat. In addition to the canonical features we have provided experimental support for the importance of non-canonical inputs to the striatum from the raphe nuclei and the amygdala. To look for organization at a finer scale we have analyzed the correlation structure of labeling intensity across our entire dataset. Using this analysis we found substantial local heterogeneity within the large-scale order. From this analysis we conclude that individual striatal sites receive varied combinations of cortical and thalamic input from multiple functional areas, consistent with some earlier studies in the rat that have suggested the presence of a combinatorial map.
Prior Publications (11)
The transformation of synaptic input into patterns of spike output is a fundamental operation that is determined by the particular complement of ion channels that a neuron expresses. Although it is well established that individual ion channel proteins make stochastic transitions between conducting and non-conducting states, most models of synaptic integration are deterministic, and relatively little is known about the functional consequences of interactions between stochastically gating ion channels. Here, we show that a model of stellate neurons from layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex implemented with either stochastic or deterministically gating ion channels can reproduce the resting membrane properties of stellate neurons, but only the stochastic version of the model can fully account for perithreshold membrane potential fluctuations and clustered patterns of spike output that are recorded from stellate neurons during depolarized states. We demonstrate that the stochastic model implements an example of a general mechanism for patterning of neuronal output through activity-dependent changes in the probability of spike firing. Unlike deterministic mechanisms that generate spike patterns through slow changes in the state of model parameters, this general stochastic mechanism does not require retention of information beyond the duration of a single spike and its associated afterhyperpolarization. Instead, clustered patterns of spikes emerge in the stochastic model of stellate neurons as a result of a transient increase in firing probability driven by activation of HCN channels during recovery from the spike afterhyperpolarization. Using this model, we infer conditions in which stochastic ion channel gating may influence firing patterns in vivo and predict consequences of modifications of HCN channel function for in vivo firing patterns.
HCN1 channels control resting and active integrative properties of stellate cells from layer II of the entorhinal cortexThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2007
M. F. Nolan, J. T. Dudman, P. D. Dodson, and B. Santoro The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 27:12440-51 (2007)
Whereas recent studies have elucidated principles for representation of information within the entorhinal cortex, less is known about the molecular basis for information processing by entorhinal neurons. The HCN1 gene encodes ion channels that mediate hyperpolarization-activated currents (I(h)) that control synaptic integration and influence several forms of learning and memory. We asked whether hyperpolarization-activated, cation nonselective 1 (HCN1) channels control processing of information by stellate cells found within layer II of the entorhinal cortex. Axonal projections from these neurons form a major component of the synaptic input to the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. To determine whether HCN1 channels control either the resting or the active properties of stellate neurons, we performed whole-cell recordings in horizontal brain slices prepared from adult wild-type and HCN1 knock-out mice. We found that HCN1 channels are required for rapid and full activation of hyperpolarization-activated currents in stellate neurons. HCN1 channels dominate the membrane conductance at rest, are not required for theta frequency (4-12 Hz) membrane potential fluctuations, but suppress low-frequency (<4 Hz) components of spontaneous and evoked membrane potential activity. During sustained activation of stellate cells sufficient for firing of repeated action potentials, HCN1 channels control the pattern of spike output by promoting recovery of the spike afterhyperpolarization. These data suggest that HCN1 channels expressed by stellate neurons in layer II of the entorhinal cortex are key molecular components in the processing of inputs to the hippocampal dentate gyrus, with distinct integrative roles during resting and active states.
HCN1 hyperpolarization-activated cation channels act as an inhibitory constraint of both spatial learning and synaptic integration and long-term plasticity in the distal dendrites of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. However, as HCN1 channels provide an excitatory current, the mechanism of their inhibitory action remains unclear. Here we report that HCN1 channels also constrain CA1 distal dendritic Ca2+ spikes, which have been implicated in the induction of LTP at distal excitatory synapses. Our experimental and computational results indicate that HCN1 channels provide both an active shunt conductance that decreases the temporal integration of distal EPSPs and a tonic depolarizing current that increases resting inactivation of T-type and N-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels, which contribute to the Ca2+ spikes. This dual mechanism may provide a general means by which HCN channels regulate dendritic excitability.
Persistent neural activity that outlasts an initial stimulus is thought to provide a mechanism for the transient storage of memory. In this issue of Neuron, Fransén et al. identify important principles for a cell-autonomous mechanism of graded persistent firing using an elegant combination of experimental and computational approaches.
Mechanism of positive allosteric modulators acting on AMPA receptors.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2005
R. Jin, S. Clark, A. M. Weeks, J. T. Dudman, E. Gouaux, and K. M. Partin The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 25:9027-36 (2005)
Ligand-gated ion channels involved in the modulation of synaptic strength are the AMPA, kainate, and NMDA glutamate receptors. Small molecules that potentiate AMPA receptor currents relieve cognitive deficits caused by neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and show promise in the treatment of depression. Previously, there has been limited understanding of the molecular mechanism of action for AMPA receptor potentiators. Here we present cocrystal structures of the glutamate receptor GluR2 S1S2 ligand-binding domain in complex with aniracetam [1-(4-methoxybenzoyl)-2-pyrrolidinone] or CX614 (pyrrolidino-1,3-oxazino benzo-1,4-dioxan-10-one), two AMPA receptor potentiators that preferentially slow AMPA receptor deactivation. Both potentiators bind within the dimer interface of the nondesensitized receptor at a common site located on the twofold axis of molecular symmetry. Importantly, the potentiator binding site is adjacent to the "hinge" in the ligand-binding core "clamshell" that undergoes conformational rearrangement after glutamate binding. Using rapid solution exchange, patch-clamp electrophysiology experiments, we show that point mutations of residues that interact with potentiators in the cocrystal disrupt potentiator function. We suggest that the potentiators slow deactivation by stabilizing the clamshell in its closed-cleft, glutamate-bound conformation.
Molecular adaptations are believed to contribute to the mechanism of action of antipsychotic drugs (APDs). We attempted to establish common gene regulation patterns induced by chronic treatment with APDs.
Responses to threat-related stimuli are influenced by conscious and unconscious processes, but the neural systems underlying these processes and their relationship to anxiety have not been clearly delineated. Using fMRI, we investigated the neural responses associated with the conscious and unconscious (backwardly masked) perception of fearful faces in healthy volunteers who varied in threat sensitivity (Spielberger trait anxiety scale). Unconscious processing modulated activity only in the basolateral subregion of the amygdala, while conscious processing modulated activity only in the dorsal amygdala (containing the central nucleus). Whereas activation of the dorsal amygdala by conscious stimuli was consistent across subjects and independent of trait anxiety, activity in the basolateral amygdala to unconscious stimuli, and subjects' reaction times, were predicted by individual differences in trait anxiety. These findings provide a biological basis for the unconscious emotional vigilance characteristic of anxiety and a means for investigating the mechanisms and efficacy of treatments for anxiety.
L-type Ca2+ channel blockers promote Ca2+ accumulation when dopamine receptors are activated in striatal neurons.Brain Research. Molecular Brain Research 2004
M. E. Eaton, W. Macías, R. M. Youngs, A. Rajadhyaksha, J. T. Dudman, and C. Konradi Brain Research. Molecular Brain Research, 131:65-72 (2004)
Dopamine (DA) receptor-mediated signal transduction and gene expression play a central role in many brain disorders from schizophrenia to Parkinson's disease to addiction. While trying to evaluate the role of L-type Ca2+ channels in dopamine D1 receptor-mediated phosphorylation of the transcription factor cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB), we found that activation of dopamine D1 receptors alters the properties of L-type Ca2+ channel inhibitors and turns them into facilitators of Ca2+ influx. In D1 receptor-stimulated neurons, L-type Ca2+ channel blockers promote cytosolic Ca2+ accumulation. This leads to the activation of a molecular signal transduction pathway and CREB phosphorylation. In the absence of dopamine receptor stimulation, L-type Ca2+ channel blockers inhibit CREB phosphorylation. The effect of dopamine on L-type Ca2+ channel blockers is dependent on protein kinase A (PKA), suggesting that protein phosphorylation plays a role in this phenomenon. Because of the adverse effect of activated dopamine receptors on L-type Ca2+ channel blocker action, the role of L-type Ca2+ channels in the dopamine D1 receptor signal transduction pathway cannot be assessed with pharmacological tools. However, with antisense technology, we demonstrate that L-type Ca2+ channels contribute to D1 receptor-mediated CREB phosphorylation. We conclude that the D1 receptor signal transduction pathway depends on L-type Ca2+ channels to mediate CREB phosphorylation.
Enkephalin modulates striatal function, thereby affecting motor performance and addictive behaviors. The proenkephalin gene is also used as a model to study cyclic AMP-mediated gene expression in striatal neurons. The second messenger pathway leading to proenkephalin expression demonstrates how cyclic AMP pathways are synchronized with depolarization. We show that cyclic AMP-mediated regulation of the proenkephalin gene is dependent on the activity of L-type Ca2+ channels. Inhibition of L-type Ca2+ channels blocks forskolin-mediated induction of proenkephalin. The Ca2+-activated kinase, Ca2+/calmodulin kinase, as well as the cyclic AMP-activated kinase, protein kinase A (PKA), are both necessary for the induction of the proenkephalin promoter. Similarly, both kinases are needed for the L-type Ca2+ channel-mediated induction of proenkephalin. This synchronization of second messenger pathways provides a coincidence mechanism that gates proenkephalin synthesis in striatal neurons, ensuring that levels are increased only in the presence of activated PKA and depolarization.
The hyperpolarization-activated HCN1 channel is important for motor learning and neuronal integration by cerebellar Purkinje cells.Cell 2003
M. F. Nolan, G. Malleret, K. Lee, E. Gibbs, J. T. Dudman, B. Santoro, D. Yin, R. F. Thompson, S. A. Siegelbaum, E. R. Kandel, and A. Morozov Cell, 115:551-64 (2003)
In contrast to our increasingly detailed understanding of how synaptic plasticity provides a cellular substrate for learning and memory, it is less clear how a neuron's voltage-gated ion channels interact with plastic changes in synaptic strength to influence behavior. We find, using generalized and regional knockout mice, that deletion of the HCN1 channel causes profound motor learning and memory deficits in swimming and rotarod tasks. In cerebellar Purkinje cells, which are a key component of the cerebellar circuit for learning of correctly timed movements, HCN1 mediates an inward current that stabilizes the integrative properties of Purkinje cells and ensures that their input-output function is independent of the previous history of their activity. We suggest that this nonsynaptic integrative function of HCN1 is required for accurate decoding of input patterns and thereby enables synaptic plasticity to appropriately influence the performance of motor activity.
Dopamine D1 receptors mediate CREB phosphorylation via phosphorylation of the NMDA receptor at Ser897-NR1.Journal of Neurochemistry 2003
J. T. Dudman, M. E. Eaton, A. Rajadhyaksha, W. Macías, M. Taher, A. Barczak, K. Kameyama, R. Huganir, and C. Konradi Journal of Neurochemistry, 87:922-34 (2003)
Addictive drugs such as amphetamine and cocaine stimulate the dopaminergic system, activate dopamine receptors and induce gene expression throughout the striatum. The signal transduction pathway leading from dopamine receptor stimulation at the synapse to gene expression in the nucleus has not been fully elucidated. Here, we present evidence that D1 receptor stimulation leads to phosphorylation of the transcription factor Ca2+ and cyclic AMP response element binding protein (CREB) in the nucleus by means of NMDA receptor-mediated Ca2+ signaling. Stimulation of D1 receptors induces the phosphorylation of Ser897 on the NR1 subunit by protein kinase A (PKA). This phosphorylation event is crucial for D1 receptor-mediated CREB phosphorylation. Dopamine cannot induce CRE-mediated gene expression in neurons transfected with a phosphorylation-deficient NR1 construct. Moreover, stimulation of D1 receptors or increase in cyclic AMP levels leads to an increase in cytosolic Ca2+ in the presence of glutamate, but not in the absence of glutamate, indicating the ability of dopamine and cyclic AMP to facilitate NMDA channel activity. The recruitment of the NMDA receptor signal transduction pathway by D1 receptors may provide a general mechanism for gene regulation that is fundamental for mechanisms of drug addiction and long-term memory.