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Ahrens Lab / Publications
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28 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 28 results
08/03/17 | Multi-scale approaches for high-speed imaging and analysis of large neural populations.
Friedrich J, Yang W, Soudry D, Mu Y, Ahrens MB, Yuste R, Peterka DS, Paninski L
PLoS Computational Biology. 2017 Aug 03;13(8):e1005685. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005685

Progress in modern neuroscience critically depends on our ability to observe the activity of large neuronal populations with cellular spatial and high temporal resolution. However, two bottlenecks constrain efforts towards fast imaging of large populations. First, the resulting large video data is challenging to analyze. Second, there is an explicit tradeoff between imaging speed, signal-to-noise, and field of view: with current recording technology we cannot image very large neuronal populations with simultaneously high spatial and temporal resolution. Here we describe multi-scale approaches for alleviating both of these bottlenecks. First, we show that spatial and temporal decimation techniques based on simple local averaging provide order-of-magnitude speedups in spatiotemporally demixing calcium video data into estimates of single-cell neural activity. Second, once the shapes of individual neurons have been identified at fine scale (e.g., after an initial phase of conventional imaging with standard temporal and spatial resolution), we find that the spatial/temporal resolution tradeoff shifts dramatically: after demixing we can accurately recover denoised fluorescence traces and deconvolved neural activity of each individual neuron from coarse scale data that has been spatially decimated by an order of magnitude. This offers a cheap method for compressing this large video data, and also implies that it is possible to either speed up imaging significantly, or to "zoom out" by a corresponding factor to image order-of-magnitude larger neuronal populations with minimal loss in accuracy or temporal resolution.

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07/31/17 | The role of the serotonergic system in motor control.
Kawashima T
Neuroscience Research. 2017 Ju 31:. doi: 10.1016/j.neures.2017.07.005

The serotonergic system in the vertebrate brain is implicated in various behaviors and diseases. Its involvement in motor control has been studied for over half a century, but efforts to build a unified model of its functions have been hampered due to the complexity of serotonergic neuromodulation. This review summarizes the anatomical structure of the serotonergic system, its afferent and efferent connections to other brain regions, and recent insights into the sensorimotor computations in the serotonergic system, and considers future research directions into the roles of serotonergic system in motor control.

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10/27/16 | The serotonergic system tracks the outcomes of actions to mediate short-term motor learning.
Kawashima T, Zwart MF, Yang C, Mensh BD, Ahrens MB
Cell. 2016 Oct 27;167(4):933-46. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.055

To execute accurate movements, animals must continuously adapt their behavior to changes in their bodies and environments. Animals can learn changes in the relationship between their locomotor commands and the resulting distance moved, then adjust command strength to achieve a desired travel distance. It is largely unknown which circuits implement this form of motor learning, or how. Using whole-brain neuronal imaging and circuit manipulations in larval zebrafish, we discovered that the serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) mediates short-term locomotor learning. Serotonergic DRN neurons respond phasically to swim-induced visual motion, but little to motion that is not self-generated. During prolonged exposure to a given motosensory gain, persistent DRN activity emerges that stores the learned efficacy of motor commands and adapts future locomotor drive for tens of seconds. The DRN’s ability to track the effectiveness of motor intent may constitute a computational building block for the broader functions of the serotonergic system.

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07/28/16 | A Practical Guide to Light Sheet Microscopy.
Bennett DV, Ahrens MB
Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2016;1451:321-31. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-3771-4_22

Light sheet fluorescence microscopy is an efficient method for imaging large volumes of biological tissue, including brains of larval zebrafish, at high spatial and fairly high temporal resolution with minimal phototoxicity.Here, we provide a practical guide for those who intend to build a light sheet microscope for fluorescence imaging in live larval zebrafish brains or other tissues.

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03/24/16 | Sensitive red protein calcium indicators for imaging neural activity.
Dana H, Mohar B, Sun Y, Narayan S, Gordus A, Hasseman JP, Tsegaye G, Holt GT, Hu A, Walpita D, Patel R, Macklin JJ, Bargmann CI, Ahrens MB, Schreiter ER, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Svoboda K, Kim DS
eLife. 2016 Mar 24;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.12727

Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) allow measurement of activity in large populations of neurons and in small neuronal compartments, over times of milliseconds to months. Although GFP-based GECIs are widely used for in vivo neurophysiology, GECIs with red-shifted excitation and emission spectra have advantages for in vivo imaging because of reduced scattering and absorption in tissue, and a consequent reduction in phototoxicity. However, current red GECIs are inferior to the state-of-the-art GFP-based GCaMP6 indicators for detecting and quantifying neural activity. Here we present improved red GECIs based on mRuby (jRCaMP1a, b) and mApple (jRGECO1a), with sensitivity comparable to GCaMP6. We characterized the performance of the new red GECIs in cultured neurons and in mouse, Drosophila, zebrafish and C. elegans in vivo. Red GECIs facilitate deep-tissue imaging, dual-color imaging together with GFP-based reporters, and the use of optogenetics in combination with calcium imaging.

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Freeman LabAhrens Lab
03/22/16 | Brain-wide mapping of neural activity controlling zebrafish exploratory locomotion.
Dunn TW, Mu Y, Narayan S, Randlett O, Naumann EA, Yang C, Schier AF, Freeman J, Engert F, Ahrens MB
eLife. 2016 Mar 22:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.12741

In the absence of salient sensory cues to guide behavior, animals must still execute sequences of motor actions in order to forage and explore. How such successive motor actions are coordinated to form global locomotion trajectories is unknown. We mapped the structure of larval zebrafish swim trajectories in homogeneous environments and found that trajectories were characterized by alternating sequences of repeated turns to the left and to the right. Using whole-brain light-sheet imaging, we identified activity relating to the behavior in specific neural populations that we termed the anterior rhombencephalic turning region (ARTR). ARTR perturbations biased swim direction and reduced the dependence of turn direction on turn history, indicating that the ARTR is part of a network generating the temporal correlations in turn direction. We also find suggestive evidence for ARTR mutual inhibition and ARTR projections to premotor neurons. Finally, simulations suggest the observed turn sequences may underlie efficient exploration of local environments.

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02/17/16 | Calcium imaging of neural circuits with extended depth-of-field light-sheet microscopy.
Quirin S, Vladimirov N, Yang C, Peterka DS, Yuste R, Ahrens MB
Optics Letters. 2016 Feb 17;41(5):855-8. doi: 10.1364/OL.41.000855

Increasing the volumetric imaging speed of light-sheet microscopy will improve its ability to detect fast changes in neural activity. Here, a system is introduced for brain-wide imaging of neural activity in the larval zebrafish by coupling structured illumination with cubic phase extended depth-of-field (EDoF) pupil encoding. This microscope enables faster light-sheet imaging and facilitates arbitrary plane scanning—removing constraints on acquisition speed, alignment tolerances, and physical motion near the sample. The usefulness of this method is demonstrated by performing multi-plane calcium imaging in the fish brain with a 416×832×160  μm field of view at 33 Hz. The optomotor response behavior of the zebrafish is monitored at high speeds, and time-locked correlations of neuronal activity are resolved across its brain.

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02/03/16 | Neural Circuits Underlying Visually Evoked Escapes in Larval Zebrafish.
Dunn TW, Gebhardt C, Naumann EA, Riegler C, Ahrens MB, Engert F, Del Bene F
Neuron. 2016 Feb 3;89(3):613-628. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.12.021

Escape behaviors deliver organisms away from imminent catastrophe. Here, we characterize behavioral responses of freely swimming larval zebrafish to looming visual stimuli simulating predators. We report that the visual system alone can recruit lateralized, rapid escape motor programs, similar to those elicited by mechanosensory modalities. Two-photon calcium imaging of retino-recipient midbrain regions isolated the optic tectum as an important center processing looming stimuli, with ensemble activity encoding the critical image size determining escape latency. Furthermore, we describe activity in retinal ganglion cell terminals and superficial inhibitory interneurons in the tectum during looming and propose a model for how temporal dynamics in tectal periventricular neurons might arise from computations between these two fundamental constituents. Finally, laser ablations of hindbrain circuitry confirmed that visual and mechanosensory modalities share the same premotor output network. We establish a circuit for the processing of aversive stimuli in the context of an innate visual behavior.

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01/20/16 | Simultaneous denoising, deconvolution, and demixing of calcium imaging data.
Pnevmatikakis EA, Soudry D, Gao Y, Machado TA, Merel J, Pfau D, Reardon T, Mu Y, Lacefield C, Yang W, Ahrens M, Bruno R, Jessell TM, Peterka DS, Yuste R, Paninski L
Neuron. 2016 Jan 20;89(2):285-99. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.11.037

We present a modular approach for analyzing calcium imaging recordings of large neuronal ensembles. Our goal is to simultaneously identify the locations of the neurons, demix spatially overlapping components, and denoise and deconvolve the spiking activity from the slow dynamics of the calcium indicator. Our approach relies on a constrained nonnegative matrix factorization that expresses the spatiotemporal fluorescence activity as the product of a spatial matrix that encodes the spatial footprint of each neuron in the optical field and a temporal matrix that characterizes the calcium concentration of each neuron over time. This framework is combined with a novel constrained deconvolution approach that extracts estimates of neural activity from fluorescence traces, to create a spatiotemporal processing algorithm that requires minimal parameter tuning. We demonstrate the general applicability of our method by applying it to in vitro and in vivo multi-neuronal imaging data, whole-brain light-sheet imaging data, and dendritic imaging data.

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06/01/15 | Large-scale imaging in small brains.
Ahrens MB, Engert F
Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2015 Jun 1;32C:78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2015.01.007

The dense connectivity in the brain means that one neuron's activity can influence many others. To observe this interconnected system comprehensively, an aspiration within neuroscience is to record from as many neurons as possible at the same time. There are two useful routes toward this goal: one is to expand the spatial extent of functional imaging techniques, and the second is to use animals with small brains. Here we review recent progress toward imaging many neurons and complete populations of identified neurons in small vertebrates and invertebrates.

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