To this end we are attempting to produce biophysically based explanations of the information-processing and storage capabilities of single and small networks of neurons. We use a variety of optical (two-photon transmitter uncaging, single and two-photon ChR2/NpHR activation, two photon Ca2+ imaging) and electrical (dual whole-cell recordings, cell-attached and outside-out patches) techniques in the various projects.
Jeffrey Magee Lab Head
Katie Bittner Postdoctoral Associate
Frances Chance Research Staff
Mark Harnett Postdoctoral Associate
Aaron Milstein Postdoctoral Associate
Gayathri Ranganathan Postdoctoral Associate
Ning-long Xu Research Staff
Active dendrites provide neurons with powerful processing capabilities. However, little is known about the role of neuronal dendrites in behaviourally related circuit computations. Here we report that a novel global dendritic nonlinearity is involved in the integration of sensory and motor information within layer 5 pyramidal neurons during an active sensing behaviour. Layer 5 pyramidal neurons possess elaborate dendritic arborizations that receive functionally distinct inputs, each targeted to spatially separate regions1, 2. At the cellular level, coincident input from these segregated pathways initiates regenerative dendritic electrical events that produce bursts of action potential output3, 4 and circuits featuring this powerful dendritic nonlinearity can implement computations based on input correlation5. To examine this in vivo we recorded dendritic activity in layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the barrel cortex using two-photon calcium imaging in mice performing an object-localization task. Large-amplitude, global calcium signals were observed throughout the apical tuft dendrites when active touch occurred at particular object locations or whisker angles. Such global calcium signals are produced by dendritic plateau potentials that require both vibrissal sensory input and primary motor cortex activity. These data provide direct evidence of nonlinear dendritic processing of correlated sensory and motor information in the mammalian neocortex during active sensation.
Dendritic ion channels play a critical role in shaping synaptic input and are fundamentally important for synaptic integration and plasticity. In the hippocampal region CA1, somato-dendritic gradients of AMPA receptors and the hyperpolarization-activated cation conductance (I(h)) counteract the effects of dendritic filtering on the amplitude, time-course, and temporal integration of distal Schaffer collateral (SC) synaptic inputs within stratum radiatum (SR). While ion channel gradients in CA1 distal apical trunk dendrites within SR have been well characterized, little is known about the patterns of ion channel expression in the distal apical tuft dendrites within stratum lacunosum moleculare (SLM) that receive distinct input from the entorhinal cortex via perforant path (PP) axons. Here, we measured local ion channels densities within these distal apical tuft dendrites to determine if the somato-dendritic gradients of I(h) and AMPA receptors extend into distal tuft dendrites. We also determined the densities of voltage-gated sodium channels and NMDA receptors. We found that the densities of AMPA receptors, I(h,) and voltage-gated sodium channels are similar in tuft dendrites in SLM when compared with distal apical dendrites in SR, while the ratio of NMDA receptors to AMPA receptors increases in tuft dendrites relative to distal apical dendrites within SR. These data indicate that the somato-dendritic gradients of I(h) and AMPA receptors in apical dendrites do not extend into the distal tuft, and the relative densities of voltage-gated sodium channels and NMDA receptors are poised to support nonlinear integration of correlated SC and PP input.
The GFP reconstitution across synaptic partners (GRASP) technique, based on functional complementation between two nonfluorescent GFP fragments, can be used to detect the location of synapses quickly, accurately and with high spatial resolution. The method has been previously applied in the nematode and the fruit fly but requires substantial modification for use in the mammalian brain. We developed mammalian GRASP (mGRASP) by optimizing transmembrane split-GFP carriers for mammalian synapses. Using in silico protein design, we engineered chimeric synaptic mGRASP fragments that were efficiently delivered to synaptic locations and reconstituted GFP fluorescence in vivo. Furthermore, by integrating molecular and cellular approaches with a computational strategy for the three-dimensional reconstruction of neurons, we applied mGRASP to both long-range circuits and local microcircuits in the mouse hippocampus and thalamocortical regions, analyzing synaptic distribution in single neurons and in dendritic compartments.
A consortium of inhibitory neurons control the firing patterns of pyramidal cells, but their specific roles in the behaving animal are largely unknown. We performed simultaneous physiological recordings and optogenetic silencing of either perisomatic (parvalbumin (PV) expressing) or dendrite-targeting (somatostatin (SOM) expressing) interneurons in hippocampal area CA1 of head-fixed mice actively moving a treadmill belt rich with visual-tactile stimuli. Silencing of either PV or SOM interneurons increased the firing rates of pyramidal cells selectively in their place fields, with PV and SOM interneurons having their largest effect during the rising and decaying parts of the place field, respectively. SOM interneuron silencing powerfully increased burst firing without altering the theta phase of spikes. In contrast, PV interneuron silencing had no effect on burst firing, but instead shifted the spikes' theta phase toward the trough of theta. These findings indicate that perisomatic and dendritic inhibition have distinct roles in controlling the rate, burst and timing of hippocampal pyramidal cells.
Dendritic spines are the nearly ubiquitous site of excitatory synaptic input onto neurons and as such are critically positioned to influence diverse aspects of neuronal signalling. Decades of theoretical studies have proposed that spines may function as highly effective and modifiable chemical and electrical compartments that regulate synaptic efficacy, integration and plasticity. Experimental studies have confirmed activity-dependent structural dynamics and biochemical compartmentalization by spines. However, there is a longstanding debate over the influence of spines on the electrical aspects of synaptic transmission and dendritic operation. Here we measure the amplitude ratio of spine head to parent dendrite voltage across a range of dendritic compartments and calculate the associated spine neck resistance (R(neck)) for spines at apical trunk dendrites in rat hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. We find that R(neck) is large enough (~500 MΩ) to amplify substantially the spine head depolarization associated with a unitary synaptic input by ~1.5- to ~45-fold, depending on parent dendritic impedance. A morphologically realistic compartmental model capable of reproducing the observed spatial profile of the amplitude ratio indicates that spines provide a consistently high-impedance input structure throughout the dendritic arborization. Finally, we demonstrate that the amplification produced by spines encourages electrical interaction among coactive inputs through an R(neck)-dependent increase in spine head voltage-gated conductance activation. We conclude that the electrical properties of spines promote nonlinear dendritic processing and associated forms of plasticity and storage, thus fundamentally enhancing the computational capabilities of neurons.
Multi-array silicon probes with integrated optical fibers: light-assisted perturbation and recording of local neural circuits in the behaving animal.The European Journal of Neuroscience 2010
S. Royer, B. V. Zemelman, M. Barbic, A. Losonczy, G. Buzsáki, and J. C. Magee The European Journal of Neuroscience, 31:2279-91 (2010)
Recordings of large neuronal ensembles and neural stimulation of high spatial and temporal precision are important requisites for studying the real-time dynamics of neural networks. Multiple-shank silicon probes enable large-scale monitoring of individual neurons. Optical stimulation of genetically targeted neurons expressing light-sensitive channels or other fast (milliseconds) actuators offers the means for controlled perturbation of local circuits. Here we describe a method to equip the shanks of silicon probes with micron-scale light guides for allowing the simultaneous use of the two approaches. We then show illustrative examples of how these compact hybrid electrodes can be used in probing local circuits in behaving rats and mice. A key advantage of these devices is the enhanced spatial precision of stimulation that is achieved by delivering light close to the recording sites of the probe. When paired with the expression of light-sensitive actuators within genetically specified neuronal populations, these devices allow the relatively straightforward and interpretable manipulation of network activity.
Although hippocampal theta oscillations represent a prime example of temporal coding in the mammalian brain, little is known about the specific biophysical mechanisms. Intracellular recordings support a particular abstract oscillatory interference model of hippocampal theta activity, the soma-dendrite interference model. To gain insight into the cellular and circuit level mechanisms of theta activity, we implemented a similar form of interference using the actual hippocampal network in mice in vitro. We found that pairing increasing levels of phasic dendritic excitation with phasic stimulation of perisomatic projecting inhibitory interneurons induced a somatic polarization and action potential timing profile that reproduced most common features. Alterations in the temporal profile of inhibition were required to fully capture all features. These data suggest that theta-related place cell activity is generated through an interaction between a phasic dendritic excitation and a phasic perisomatic shunting inhibition delivered by interneurons, a subset of which undergo activity-dependent presynaptic modulation.
The excitability of individual dendritic branches is a plastic property of neurons. We found that experience in an enriched environment increased propagation of dendritic Na(+) spikes in a subset of individual dendritic branches in rat hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons and that this effect was mainly mediated by localized downregulation of A-type K(+) channel function. Thus, dendritic plasticity might be used to store recent experience in individual branches of the dendritic arbor.
Cortical information processing is under state-dependent control of subcortical neuromodulatory systems. Although this modulatory effect is thought to be mediated mainly by slow nonsynaptic metabotropic receptors, other mechanisms, such as direct synaptic transmission, are possible. Yet, it is currently unknown if any such form of subcortical control exists. Here, we present direct evidence of a strong, spatiotemporally precise excitatory input from an ascending neuromodulatory center. Selective stimulation of serotonergic median raphe neurons produced a rapid activation of hippocampal interneurons. At the network level, this subcortical drive was manifested as a pattern of effective disynaptic GABAergic inhibition that spread throughout the circuit. This form of subcortical network regulation should be incorporated into current concepts of normal and pathological cortical function.
Input comparison is thought to occur in many neuronal circuits, including the hippocampus, where functionally important interactions between the Schaffer collateral and perforant pathways have been hypothesized. We investigated this idea using multisite, whole-cell recordings and Ca2+ imaging and found that properly timed, repetitive stimulation of both pathways results in the generation of large plateau potentials in distal dendrites of CA1 pyramidal neurons. These dendritic plateau potentials produce widespread Ca2+ influx, large after-depolarizations, burst firing output, and long-term potentiation of perforant path synapses. Plateau duration is directly related to the strength and temporal overlap of pathway activation and involves back-propagating action potentials and both NMDA receptors and voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. Thus, the occurrence of highly correlated SC and PP input to CA1 is signaled by a dramatic change in output mode and an increase in input efficacy, all induced by a large plateau potential in the distal dendrites of CA1 pyramidal neurons.
Back-propagating action potentials (bAPs) travelling from the soma to the dendrites of neurons are involved in various aspects of synaptic plasticity. The distance-dependent increase in Kv4.2-mediated A-type K(+) current along the apical dendrites of CA1 pyramidal cells (CA1 PCs) is responsible for the attenuation of bAP amplitude with distance from the soma. Genetic deletion of Kv4.2 reduced dendritic A-type K(+) current and increased the bAP amplitude in distal dendrites. Our previous studies revealed that the amplitude of unitary Schaffer collateral inputs increases with distance from the soma along the apical dendrites of CA1 PCs. We tested the hypothesis that the weight of distal synapses is dependent on dendritic Kv4.2 channels. We compared the amplitude and kinetics of mEPSCs at different locations on the main apical trunk of CA1 PCs from wild-type (WT) and Kv4.2 knockout (KO) mice. While wild-type mice showed normal distance-dependent scaling, it was missing in the Kv4.2 KO mice. We also tested whether there was an increase in inhibition in the Kv4.2 knockout, induced in an attempt to compensate for a non-specific increase in neuronal excitability (after-polarization duration and burst firing probability were increased in KO). Indeed, we found that the magnitude of the tonic GABA current increased in Kv4.2 KO mice by 53% and the amplitude of mIPSCs increased by 25%, as recorded at the soma. Our results suggest important roles for the dendritic K(+) channels in distance-dependent adjustment of synaptic strength as well as a primary role for tonic inhibition in the regulation of global synaptic strength and membrane excitability.
Although information storage in the central nervous system is thought to be primarily mediated by various forms of synaptic plasticity, other mechanisms, such as modifications in membrane excitability, are available. Local dendritic spikes are nonlinear voltage events that are initiated within dendritic branches by spatially clustered and temporally synchronous synaptic input. That local spikes selectively respond only to appropriately correlated input allows them to function as input feature detectors and potentially as powerful information storage mechanisms. However, it is currently unknown whether any effective form of local dendritic spike plasticity exists. Here we show that the coupling between local dendritic spikes and the soma of rat hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons can be modified in a branch-specific manner through an N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent regulation of dendritic Kv4.2 potassium channels. These data suggest that compartmentalized changes in branch excitability could store multiple complex features of synaptic input, such as their spatio-temporal correlation. We propose that this 'branch strength potentiation' represents a previously unknown form of information storage that is distinct from that produced by changes in synaptic efficacy both at the mechanistic level and in the type of information stored.
Pulsed lasers are key elements in nonlinear bioimaging techniques such as two-photon fluorescence excitation (TPE) microscopy. Typically, however, only a percent or less of the laser power available can be delivered to the sample before photoinduced damage becomes excessive. Here we describe a passive pulse splitter that converts each laser pulse into a fixed number of sub-pulses of equal energy. We applied the splitter to TPE imaging of fixed mouse brain slices labeled with GFP and show that, in different power regimes, the splitter can be used either to increase the signal rate more than 100-fold or to reduce the rate of photobleaching by over fourfold. In living specimens, the gains were even greater: a ninefold reduction in photobleaching during in vivo imaging of Caenorhabditis elegans larvae, and a six- to 20-fold decrease in the rate of photodamage during calcium imaging of rat hippocampal brain slices.
Although radial oblique dendrites are a major synaptic input site in CA1 pyramidal neurons, little is known about their integrative properties. We have used multisite two-photon glutamate uncaging to deliver different spatiotemporal input patterns to single branches while simultaneously recording the uncaging-evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials and local Ca2+ signals. Asynchronous input patterns sum linearly in spite of the spatial clustering and produce Ca2+ signals that are mediated by NMDA receptors (NMDARs). Appropriately timed and sized input patterns ( approximately 20 inputs within approximately 6 ms) produce a supralinear summation due to the initiation of a dendritic spike. The Ca2+ signals associated with synchronous input were larger and mediated by influx through both NMDARs and voltage-gated Ca2+ channels (VGCCs). The oblique spike is a fast Na+ spike whose duration is shaped by the coincident activation of NMDAR, VGCCs, and transient K+ currents. Our results suggest that individual branches can function as single integrative compartments.