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12 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 12 results
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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01/05/14 | Flies and humans share a motion estimation strategy that exploits natural scene statistics.
Clark DA, Fitzgerald JE, Ales JM, Gohl DM, Silies MA, Norcia AM, Clandinin TR
Nature neuroscience. 2014 Feb;17(2):296-303. doi: 10.1038/nn.3600

Sighted animals extract motion information from visual scenes by processing spatiotemporal patterns of light falling on the retina. The dominant models for motion estimation exploit intensity correlations only between pairs of points in space and time. Moving natural scenes, however, contain more complex correlations. We found that fly and human visual systems encode the combined direction and contrast polarity of moving edges using triple correlations that enhance motion estimation in natural environments. Both species extracted triple correlations with neural substrates tuned for light or dark edges, and sensitivity to specific triple correlations was retained even as light and dark edge motion signals were combined. Thus, both species separately process light and dark image contrasts to capture motion signatures that can improve estimation accuracy. This convergence argues that statistical structures in natural scenes have greatly affected visual processing, driving a common computational strategy over 500 million years of evolution.

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01/08/13 | Photon shot noise limits on optical detection of neuronal spikes and estimation of spike timing.
Wilt BA, Fitzgerald JE, Schnitzer MJ
Biophysical journal. 2013 Jan 08;104(1):51-62. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.07.058

Optical approaches for tracking neural dynamics are of widespread interest, but a theoretical framework quantifying the physical limits of these techniques has been lacking. We formulate such a framework by using signal detection and estimation theory to obtain physical bounds on the detection of neural spikes and the estimation of their occurrence times as set by photon counting statistics (shot noise). These bounds are succinctly expressed via a discriminability index that depends on the kinetics of the optical indicator and the relative fluxes of signal and background photons. This approach facilitates quantitative evaluations of different indicators, detector technologies, and data analyses. Our treatment also provides optimal filtering techniques for optical detection of spikes. We compare various types of Ca(2+) indicators and show that background photons are a chief impediment to voltage sensing. Thus, voltage indicators that change color in response to membrane depolarization may offer a key advantage over those that change intensity. We also examine fluorescence resonance energy transfer indicators and identify the regimes in which the widely used ratiometric analysis of signals is substantially suboptimal. Overall, by showing how different optical factors interact to affect signal quality, our treatment offers a valuable guide to experimental design and provides measures of confidence to assess optically extracted traces of neural activity.

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07/12/12 | Estimation theoretic measure of resolution for stochastic localization microscopy.
Fitzgerald JE, Lu J, Schnitzer MJ
Physical review letters. 2012 Jul 27;109(4):048102. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.048102

One approach to super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, termed stochastic localization microscopy, relies on the nanometer scale spatial localization of individual fluorescent emitters that stochastically label specific features of the specimen. The precision of emitter localization is an important determinant of the resulting image resolution but is insufficient to specify how well the derived images capture the structure of the specimen. We address this deficiency by considering the inference of specimen structure based on the estimated emitter locations. By using estimation theory, we develop a measure of spatial resolution that jointly depends on the density of the emitter labels, the precision of emitter localization, and prior information regarding the spatial frequency content of the labeled object. The Nyquist criterion does not set the scaling of this measure with emitter number. Given prior information and a fixed emitter labeling density, our resolution measure asymptotes to a finite value as the precision of emitter localization improves. By considering the present experimental capabilities, this asymptotic behavior implies that further resolution improvements require increases in labeling density above typical current values. Our treatment also yields algorithms to enhance reliable image features. Overall, our formalism facilitates the rigorous statistical interpretation of the data produced by stochastic localization imaging techniques.

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08/02/11 | Symmetries in stimulus statistics shape the form of visual motion estimators.
Fitzgerald JE, Katsov AY, Clandinin TR, Schnitzer MJ
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011 Aug 02;108(31):12909-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015680108

The estimation of visual motion has long been studied as a paradigmatic neural computation, and multiple models have been advanced to explain behavioral and neural responses to motion signals. A broad class of models, originating with the Reichardt correlator model, proposes that animals estimate motion by computing a temporal cross-correlation of light intensities from two neighboring points in visual space. These models provide a good description of experimental data in specific contexts but cannot explain motion percepts in stimuli lacking pairwise correlations. Here, we develop a theoretical formalism that can accommodate diverse stimuli and behavioral goals. To achieve this, we treat motion estimation as a problem of Bayesian inference. Pairwise models emerge as one component of the generalized strategy for motion estimation. However, correlation functions beyond second order enable more accurate motion estimation. Prior expectations that are asymmetric with respect to bright and dark contrast use correlations of both even and odd orders, and we show that psychophysical experiments using visual stimuli with symmetric probability distributions for contrast cannot reveal whether the subject uses odd-order correlators for motion estimation. This result highlights a gap in previous experiments, which have largely relied on symmetric contrast distributions. Our theoretical treatment provides a natural interpretation of many visual motion percepts, indicates that motion estimation should be revisited using a broader class of stimuli, demonstrates how correlation-based motion estimation is related to stimulus statistics, and provides multiple experimentally testable predictions.

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03/10/09 | Mimicking the folding pathway to improve homology-free protein structure prediction.
DeBartolo J, Colubri A, Jha AK, Fitzgerald JE, Freed KF, Sosnick TR
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2009 Mar 10;106(10):3734-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811363106

Since the demonstration that the sequence of a protein encodes its structure, the prediction of structure from sequence remains an outstanding problem that impacts numerous scientific disciplines, including many genome projects. By iteratively fixing secondary structure assignments of residues during Monte Carlo simulations of folding, our coarse-grained model without information concerning homology or explicit side chains can outperform current homology-based secondary structure prediction methods for many proteins. The computationally rapid algorithm using only single (phi,psi) dihedral angle moves also generates tertiary structures of accuracy comparable with existing all-atom methods for many small proteins, particularly those with low homology. Hence, given appropriate search strategies and scoring functions, reduced representations can be used for accurately predicting secondary structure and providing 3D structures, thereby increasing the size of proteins approachable by homology-free methods and the accuracy of template methods that depend on a high-quality input secondary structure.

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03/19/08 | Benchmarking implicit solvent folding simulations of the amyloid beta(10-35) fragment.
Kent A, Jha AK, Fitzgerald JE, Freed KF
The journal of physical chemistry. B. 2008 May 15;112(19):6175-86. doi: 10.1021/jp077099h

A pathogenetic feature of Alzhemier disease is the aggregation of monomeric beta-amyloid proteins (Abeta) to form oligomers. Usually these oligomers of long peptides aggregate on time scales of microseconds or longer, making computational studies using atomistic molecular dynamics models prohibitively expensive and making it essential to develop computational models that are cheaper and at the same time faithful to physical features of the process. We benchmark the ability of our implicit solvent model to describe equilibrium and dynamic properties of monomeric Abeta(10-35) using all-atom Langevin dynamics (LD) simulations, since Alphabeta(10-35) is the only fragment whose monomeric properties have been measured. The accuracy of the implicit solvent model is tested by comparing its predictions with experiment and with those from a new explicit water MD simulation, (performed using CHARMM and the TIP3P water model) which is approximately 200 times slower than the implicit water simulations. The dependence on force field is investigated by running multiple trajectories for Alphabeta(10-35) using the CHARMM, OPLS-aal, and GS-AMBER94 force fields, whereas the convergence to equilibrium is tested for each force field by beginning separate trajectories from the native NMR structure, a completely stretched structure, and from unfolded initial structures. The NMR order parameter, S2, is computed for each trajectory and is compared with experimental data to assess the best choice for treating aggregates of Alphabeta. The computed order parameters vary significantly with force field. Explicit and implicit solvent simulations using the CHARMM force fields display excellent agreement with each other and once again support the accuracy of the implicit solvent model. Alphabeta(10-35) exhibits great flexibility, consistent with experiment data for the monomer in solution, while maintaining a general strand-loop-strand motif with a solvent-exposed hydrophobic patch that is believed to be important for aggregation. Finally, equilibration of the peptide structure requires an implicit solvent LD simulation as long as 30 ns.

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