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Fitzgerald Lab / Publications
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18 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 18 results
05/07/20 | A neural representation of naturalistic motion-guided behavior in the zebrafish brain.
Yildizoglu T, Riegler C, Fitzgerald JE, Portugues R
Current Biology. 2020 May 07:. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.043

All animals must transform ambiguous sensory data into successful behavior. This requires sensory representations that accurately reflect the statistics of natural stimuli and behavior. Multiple studies show that visual motion processing is tuned for accuracy under naturalistic conditions, but the sensorimotor circuits extracting these cues and implementing motion-guided behavior remain unclear. Here we show that the larval zebrafish retina extracts a diversity of naturalistic motion cues, and the retinorecipient pretectum organizes these cues around the elements of behavior. We find that higher-order motion stimuli, gliders, induce optomotor behavior matching expectations from natural scene analyses. We then image activity of retinal ganglion cell terminals and pretectal neurons. The retina exhibits direction-selective responses across glider stimuli, and anatomically clustered pretectal neurons respond with magnitudes matching behavior. Peripheral computations thus reflect natural input statistics, whereas central brain activity precisely codes information needed for behavior. This general principle could organize sensorimotor transformations across animal species.

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03/24/20 | Correcting for physical distortions in visual stimuli improves reproducibility in zebrafish neuroscience.
Dunn TW, Fitzgerald JE
eLife. 2020 Mar 24;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.53684

Breakthrough technologies for monitoring and manipulating single-neuron activity provide unprecedented opportunities for whole-brain neuroscience in larval zebrafish1–9. Understanding the neural mechanisms of visually guided behavior also requires precise stimulus control, but little prior research has accounted for physical distortions that result from refraction and reflection at an air-water interface that usually separates the projected stimulus from the fish10–12. Here we provide a computational tool that transforms between projected and received stimuli in order to detect and control these distortions. The tool considers the most commonly encountered interface geometry, and we show that this and other common configurations produce stereotyped distortions. By correcting these distortions, we reduced discrepancies in the literature concerning stimuli that evoke escape behavior13,14, and we expect this tool will help reconcile other confusing aspects of the literature. This tool also aids experimental design, and we illustrate the dangers that uncorrected stimuli pose to receptive field mapping experiments.

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10/15/19 | Asymmetric ON-OFF processing of visual motion cancels variability induced by the structure of natural scenes.
Chen J, Mandel HB, Fitzgerald JE, Clark DA
eLife. 2019 Oct 15;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.47579

Animals detect motion using a variety of visual cues that reflect regularities in the natural world. Experiments in animals across phyla have shown that motion percepts incorporate both pairwise and triplet spatiotemporal correlations that could theoretically benefit motion computation. However, it remains unclear how visual systems assemble these cues to build accurate motion estimates. Here we used systematic behavioral measurements of fruit fly motion perception to show how flies combine local pairwise and triplet correlations to reduce variability in motion estimates across natural scenes. By generating synthetic images with statistics controlled by maximum entropy distributions, we show that the triplet correlations are useful only when images have light-dark asymmetries that mimic natural ones. This suggests that asymmetric ON-OFF processing is tuned to the particular statistics of natural scenes. Since all animals encounter the world's light-dark asymmetries, many visual systems are likely to use asymmetric ON-OFF processing to improve motion estimation.

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01/07/19 | Threshold-based ordering of sequential actions during Drosophila courtship.
McKellar CE, Lillvis JL, Bath DE, Fitzgerald JE, Cannon JG, Simpson JH, Dickson BJ
Current Biology : CB. 2019 Jan 07;29(3):426-34. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.019

Goal-directed animal behaviors are typically composed of sequences of motor actions whose order and timing are critical for a successful outcome. Although numerous theoretical models for sequential action generation have been proposed, few have been supported by the identification of control neurons sufficient to elicit a sequence. Here, we identify a pair of descending neurons that coordinate a stereotyped sequence of engagement actions during Drosophila melanogaster male courtship behavior. These actions are initiated sequentially but persist cumulatively, a feature not explained by existing models of sequential behaviors. We find evidence consistent with a ramp-to-threshold mechanism, in which increasing neuronal activity elicits each action independently at successively higher activity thresholds.

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10/31/18 | The neuronal basis of an illusory motion percept is explained by decorrelation of parallel motion pathways.
Salazar-Gatzimas E, Agrochao M, Fitzgerald JE, Clark DA
Current Biology : CB. 2018 Oct 31;28(23):3748-78. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.10.007

Both vertebrates and invertebrates perceive illusory motion, known as "reverse-phi," in visual stimuli that contain sequential luminance increments and decrements. However, increment (ON) and decrement (OFF) signals are initially processed by separate visual neurons, and parallel elementary motion detectors downstream respond selectively to the motion of light or dark edges, often termed ON- and OFF-edges. It remains unknown how and where ON and OFF signals combine to generate reverse-phi motion signals. Here, we show that each of Drosophila's elementary motion detectors encodes motion by combining both ON and OFF signals. Their pattern of responses reflects combinations of increments and decrements that co-occur in natural motion, serving to decorrelate their outputs. These results suggest that the general principle of signal decorrelation drives the functional specialization of parallel motion detection channels, including their selectivity for moving light or dark edges.

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10/25/18 | Long-Term Consolidation of Ensemble Neural Plasticity Patterns in Hippocampal Area CA1.
Attardo A, Lu J, Kawashima T, Okuno H, Fitzgerald JE, Bito H, Schnitzer MJ
Cell reports. 2018 Oct 16;25(3):640-650.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.09.064

Neural network remodeling underpins the ability to remember life experiences, but little is known about the long-term plasticity of neural populations. To study how the brain encodes episodic events, we used time-lapse two-photon microscopy and a fluorescent reporter of neural plasticity based on an enhanced form of the synaptic activity-responsive element (E-SARE) within the Arc promoter to track thousands of CA1 hippocampal pyramidal cells over weeks in mice that repeatedly encountered different environments. Each environment evokes characteristic patterns of ensemble neural plasticity, but with each encounter, the set of activated cells gradually evolves. After repeated exposures, the plasticity patterns evoked by an individual environment progressively stabilize. Compared with young adults, plasticity patterns in aged mice are less specific to individual environments and less stable across repeat experiences. Long-term consolidation of hippocampal plasticity patterns may support long-term memory formation, whereas weaker consolidation in aged subjects might reflect declining memory function.

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11/03/16 | From Whole-Brain Data to Functional Circuit Models: The Zebrafish Optomotor Response.
Naumann EA, Fitzgerald JE, Dunn TW, Rihel J, Sompolinsky H, Engert F
Cell. 2016 11 03;167(4):947-960.e20. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.019

Detailed descriptions of brain-scale sensorimotor circuits underlying vertebrate behavior remain elusive. Recent advances in zebrafish neuroscience offer new opportunities to dissect such circuits via whole-brain imaging, behavioral analysis, functional perturbations, and network modeling. Here, we harness these tools to generate a brain-scale circuit model of the optomotor response, an orienting behavior evoked by visual motion. We show that such motion is processed by diverse neural response types distributed across multiple brain regions. To transform sensory input into action, these regions sequentially integrate eye- and direction-specific sensory streams, refine representations via interhemispheric inhibition, and demix locomotor instructions to independently drive turning and forward swimming. While experiments revealed many neural response types throughout the brain, modeling identified the dimensions of functional connectivity most critical for the behavior. We thus reveal how distributed neurons collaborate to generate behavior and illustrate a paradigm for distilling functional circuit models from whole-brain data.

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10/24/15 | Nonlinear circuits for naturalistic visual motion estimation.
Fitzgerald JE, Clark DA
eLife. 2015 Oct 24;4:e09123. doi: 10.7554/eLife.09123

Many animals use visual signals to estimate motion. Canonical models suppose that animals estimate motion by cross-correlating pairs of spatiotemporally separated visual signals, but recent experiments indicate that humans and flies perceive motion from higher-order correlations that signify motion in natural environments. Here we show how biologically plausible processing motifs in neural circuits could be tuned to extract this information. We emphasize how known aspects of Drosophila's visual circuitry could embody this tuning and predict fly behavior. We find that segregating motion signals into ON/OFF channels can enhance estimation accuracy by accounting for natural light/dark asymmetries. Furthermore, a diversity of inputs to motion detecting neurons can provide access to more complex higher-order correlations. Collectively, these results illustrate how non-canonical computations improve motion estimation with naturalistic inputs. This argues that the complexity of the fly's motion computations, implemented in its elaborate circuits, represents a valuable feature of its visual motion estimator.

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09/14/15 | Whole-brain activity mapping onto a zebrafish brain atlas.
Randlett O, Wee CL, Naumann EA, Nnaemeka O, Schoppik D, Fitzgerald JE, Portugues R, Lacoste AM, Riegler C, Engert F, Schier AF
Nature methods. 2015 Nov;12(11):1039-46. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3581

In order to localize the neural circuits involved in generating behaviors, it is necessary to assign activity onto anatomical maps of the nervous system. Using brain registration across hundreds of larval zebrafish, we have built an expandable open-source atlas containing molecular labels and definitions of anatomical regions, the Z-Brain. Using this platform and immunohistochemical detection of phosphorylated extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) as a readout of neural activity, we have developed a system to create and contextualize whole-brain maps of stimulus- and behavior-dependent neural activity. This mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP)-mapping assay is technically simple, and data analysis is completely automated. Because MAP-mapping is performed on freely swimming fish, it is applicable to studies of nearly any stimulus or behavior. Here we demonstrate our high-throughput approach using pharmacological, visual and noxious stimuli, as well as hunting and feeding. The resultant maps outline hundreds of areas associated with behaviors.

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06/15/15 | Impermanence of dendritic spines in live adult CA1 hippocampus.
Attardo A, Fitzgerald JE, Schnitzer MJ
Nature. 2015 Jul 30;523(7562):592-6. doi: 10.1038/nature14467

The mammalian hippocampus is crucial for episodic memory formation and transiently retains information for about 3-4 weeks in adult mice and longer in humans. Although neuroscientists widely believe that neural synapses are elemental sites of information storage, there has been no direct evidence that hippocampal synapses persist for time intervals commensurate with the duration of hippocampal-dependent memory. Here we tested the prediction that the lifetimes of hippocampal synapses match the longevity of hippocampal memory. By using time-lapse two-photon microendoscopy in the CA1 hippocampal area of live mice, we monitored the turnover dynamics of the pyramidal neurons' basal dendritic spines, postsynaptic structures whose turnover dynamics are thought to reflect those of excitatory synaptic connections. Strikingly, CA1 spine turnover dynamics differed sharply from those seen previously in the neocortex. Mathematical modelling revealed that the data best matched kinetic models with a single population of spines with a mean lifetime of approximately 1-2 weeks. This implies ∼100% turnover in ∼2-3 times this interval, a near full erasure of the synaptic connectivity pattern. Although N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor blockade stabilizes spines in the neocortex, in CA1 it transiently increased the rate of spine loss and thus lowered spine density. These results reveal that adult neocortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons have divergent patterns of spine regulation and quantitatively support the idea that the transience of hippocampal-dependent memory directly reflects the turnover dynamics of hippocampal synapses.

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