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41 Publications

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    08/19/22 | Flexible control of behavioral variability mediated by an internal representation of head direction
    Chuntao Dan , Brad K. Hulse , Vivek Jayaraman , Ann M. Hermundstad
    bioRxiv. 2022 Aug 19:. doi: 10.1101/2021.08.18.456004

    Internal representations are thought to support the generation of flexible, long-timescale behavioral patterns in both animals and artificial agents. Here, we present a novel conceptual framework for how Drosophila use their internal representation of head direction to maintain preferred headings in their surroundings, and how they learn to modify these preferences in the presence of selective thermal reinforcement. To develop the framework, we analyzed flies’ behavior in a classical operant visual learning paradigm and found that they use stochastically generated fixations and directed turns to express their heading preferences. Symmetries in the visual scene used in the paradigm allowed us to expose how flies’ probabilistic behavior in this setting is tethered to their head direction representation. We describe how flies’ ability to quickly adapt their behavior to the rules of their environment may rest on a behavioral policy whose parameters are flexible but whose form is genetically encoded in the structure of their circuits. Many of the mechanisms we outline may also be relevant for rapidly adaptive behavior driven by internal representations in other animals, including mammals.

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    05/25/22 | Accurate angular integration with only a handful of neurons.
    Marcella Noorman , Brad K Hulse , Vivek Jayaraman , Sandro Romani , Ann M Hermundstad
    bioRxiv. 2022 May 25:. doi: 10.1101/2022.05.23.493052

    To flexibly navigate, many animals rely on internal spatial representations that persist when the animal is standing still in darkness, and update accurately by integrating the animal's movements in the absence of localizing sensory cues. Theories of mammalian head direction cells have proposed that these dynamics can be realized in a special class of networks that maintain a localized bump of activity via structured recurrent connectivity, and that shift this bump of activity via angular velocity input. Although there are many different variants of these so-called ring attractor networks, they all rely on large numbers of neurons to generate representations that persist in the absence of input and accurately integrate angular velocity input. Surprisingly, in the fly, Drosophila melanogaster, a head direction representation is maintained by a much smaller number of neurons whose dynamics and connectivity resemble those of a ring attractor network. These findings challenge our understanding of ring attractors and their putative implementation in neural circuits. Here, we analyzed failures of angular velocity integration that emerge in small attractor networks with only a few computational units. Motivated by the peak performance of the fly head direction system in darkness, we mathematically derived conditions under which small networks, even with as few as 4 neurons, achieve the performance of much larger networks. The resulting description reveals that by appropriately tuning the network connectivity, the network can maintain persistent representations over the continuum of head directions, and it can accurately integrate angular velocity inputs. We then analytically determined how performance degrades as the connectivity deviates from this optimally-tuned setting, and we find a trade-off between network size and the tuning precision needed to achieve persistence and accurate integration. This work shows how even small networks can accurately track an animal's movements to guide navigation, and it informs our understanding of the functional capabilities of discrete systems more broadly.

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    05/18/22 | Maintaining a stable head direction representation in naturalistic visual environments
    Hannah Haberkern , Shivam S Chitnis , Philip M Hubbard , Tobias Goulet , Ann M Hermundstad , Vivek Jayaraman
    bioRxiv. 2022 May 18:. doi: 10.1101/2022.05.17.492284

    Many animals rely on a representation of head direction for flexible, goal-directed navigation. In insects, a compass-like head direction representation is maintained in a conserved brain region called the central complex. This head direction representation is updated by self-motion information and by tethering to sensory cues in the surroundings through a plasticity mechanism. However, under natural settings, some of these sensory cues may temporarily disappear—for example, when clouds hide the sun—and prominent landmarks at different distances from the insect may move across the animal's field of view during translation, creating potential conflicts for a neural compass. We used two-photon calcium imaging in head-fixed Drosophila behaving in virtual reality to monitor the fly's compass during navigation in immersive naturalistic environments with approachable local landmarks. We found that the fly's compass remains stable even in these settings by tethering to available global cues, likely preserving the animal's ability to perform compass-driven behaviors such as maintaining a constant heading.

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    10/26/21 | A connectome of the central complex reveals network motifs suitable for flexible navigation and context-dependent action selection.
    Hulse BK, Haberkern H, Franconville R, Turner-Evans DB, Takemura S, Wolff T, Noorman M, Dreher M, Dan C, Parekh R, Hermundstad AM, Rubin GM, Jayaraman V
    eLife. 2021 Oct 26;10:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.66039

    Flexible behaviors over long timescales are thought to engage recurrent neural networks in deep brain regions, which are experimentally challenging to study. In insects, recurrent circuit dynamics in a brain region called the central complex (CX) enable directed locomotion, sleep, and context- and experience-dependent spatial navigation. We describe the first complete electron-microscopy-based connectome of the CX, including all its neurons and circuits at synaptic resolution. We identified new CX neuron types, novel sensory and motor pathways, and network motifs that likely enable the CX to extract the fly's head-direction, maintain it with attractor dynamics, and combine it with other sensorimotor information to perform vector-based navigational computations. We also identified numerous pathways that may facilitate the selection of CX-driven behavioral patterns by context and internal state. The CX connectome provides a comprehensive blueprint necessary for a detailed understanding of network dynamics underlying sleep, flexible navigation, and state-dependent action selection.

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    10/14/20 | The neuroanatomical ultrastructure and function of a biological ring attractor.
    Turner-Evans DB, Jensen KT, Ali S, Paterson T, Sheridan A, Ray RP, Wolff T, Lauritzen JS, Rubin GM, Bock DD, Jayaraman V
    Neuron. 2020 Oct 14;108(1):145-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.08.006

    Neural representations of head direction (HD) have been discovered in many species. Theoretical work has proposed that the dynamics associated with these representations are generated, maintained, and updated by recurrent network structures called ring attractors. We evaluated this theorized structure-function relationship by performing electron-microscopy-based circuit reconstruction and RNA profiling of identified cell types in the HD system of Drosophila melanogaster. We identified motifs that have been hypothesized to maintain the HD representation in darkness, update it when the animal turns, and tether it to visual cues. Functional studies provided support for the proposed roles of individual excitatory or inhibitory circuit elements in shaping activity. We also discovered recurrent connections between neuronal arbors with mixed pre- and postsynaptic specializations. Our results confirm that the Drosophila HD network contains the core components of a ring attractor while also revealing unpredicted structural features that might enhance the network's computational power.

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    09/07/20 | A connectome and analysis of the adult central brain.
    Scheffer LK, Xu CS, Januszewski M, Lu Z, Takemura S, Hayworth KJ, Huang GB, Shinomiya K, Maitlin-Shepard J, Berg S, Clements J, Hubbard PM, Katz WT, Umayam L, Zhao T, Ackerman D, Blakely T, Bogovic J, Dolafi T, Kainmueller D, Kawase T, Khairy KA, Leavitt L, Li PH, Lindsey L, Neubarth N, Olbris DJ, Otsuna H, Trautman ET, Ito M, Bates AS, Goldammer J, Wolff T, Svirskas R, Schlegel P, Neace E, Knecht CJ, Alvarado CX, Bailey DA, Ballinger S, Borycz JA, Canino BS, Cheatham N, Cook M, Dreher M, Duclos O, Eubanks B, Fairbanks K, Finley S, Forknall N, Francis A, Hopkins GP, Joyce EM, Kim S, Kirk NA, Kovalyak J, Lauchie SA, Lohff A, Maldonado C, Manley EA, McLin S, Mooney C, Ndama M, Ogundeyi O, Okeoma N, Ordish C, Padilla N, Patrick CM, Paterson T, Phillips EE, Phillips EM, Rampally N, Ribeiro C, Robertson MK, Rymer JT, Ryan SM, Sammons M, Scott AK, Scott AL, Shinomiya A, Smith C, Smith K, Smith NL, Sobeski MA, Suleiman A, Swift J, Takemura S, Talebi I, Tarnogorska D, Tenshaw E, Tokhi T, Walsh JJ, Yang T, Horne JA, Li F, Parekh R, Rivlin PK, Jayaraman V, Costa M, Jefferis GS, Ito K, Saalfeld S, George R, Meinertzhagen IA, Rubin GM, Hess HF, Jain V, Plaza SM
    Elife. 2020 Sep 07;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.57443

    The neural circuits responsible for animal behavior remain largely unknown. We summarize new methods and present the circuitry of a large fraction of the brain of the fruit fly . Improved methods include new procedures to prepare, image, align, segment, find synapses in, and proofread such large data sets. We define cell types, refine computational compartments, and provide an exhaustive atlas of cell examples and types, many of them novel. We provide detailed circuits consisting of neurons and their chemical synapses for most of the central brain. We make the data public and simplify access, reducing the effort needed to answer circuit questions, and provide procedures linking the neurons defined by our analysis with genetic reagents. Biologically, we examine distributions of connection strengths, neural motifs on different scales, electrical consequences of compartmentalization, and evidence that maximizing packing density is an important criterion in the evolution of the fly's brain.

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    07/08/20 | Mechanisms underlying the neural computation of head direction.
    Hulse BK, Jayaraman V
    Annual Review of Neuroscience. 2020 Jul 8;43:31-54. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-072116-031516

    Many animals use an internal sense of direction to guide their movements through the world. Neurons selective to head direction are thought to support this directional sense and have been found in a diverse range of species, from insects to primates, highlighting their evolutionary importance. Across species, most head-direction networks share four key properties: a unique representation of direction at all times, persistent activity in the absence of movement, integration of angular velocity to update the representation, and the use of directional cues to correct drift. The dynamics of theorized network structures called ring attractors elegantly account for these properties, but their relationship to brain circuits is unclear. Here, we review experiments in rodents and flies that offer insights into potential neural implementations of ring attractor networks. We suggest that a theory-guided search across model systems for biological mechanisms that enable such dynamics would uncover general principles underlying head-direction circuit function. Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 43 is July 8, 2020. Please see for revised estimates.

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    02/08/20 | A fast genetically encoded fluorescent sensor for faithful in vivo acetylcholine detection in mice, fish, worms and flies.
    Borden P, Zhang P, Shivange AV, Marvin JS, Cichon J, Dan C, Podgorski K, Figueiredo A, Novak O, Tanimoto M, Shigetomi E, Lobas MA, Kim H, Zhu P, Zhang Y, Zheng WS, Fan C, Wang G, Xiang B, Gan L, Zhang G, Guo K, Lin L, Cai Y, Yee AG, Aggarwal A, Ford CP, Rees DC, Dietrich D, Khakh BS, Dittman JS, Gan W, Koyama M, Jayaraman V, Cheer JF, Lester HA, Zhu JJ, Looger LL
    bioRxiv. 2020 Feb 8:. doi:

    Here we design and optimize a genetically encoded fluorescent indicator, iAChSnFR, for the ubiquitous neurotransmitter acetylcholine, based on a bacterial periplasmic binding protein. iAChSnFR shows large fluorescence changes, rapid rise and decay kinetics, and insensitivity to most cholinergic drugs. iAChSnFR revealed large transients in a variety of slice and in vivo preparations in mouse, fish, fly and worm. iAChSnFR will be useful for the study of acetylcholine in all animals.

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    11/20/19 | Generation of stable heading representations in diverse visual scenes.
    Kim SS, Hermundstad AM, Romani S, Abbott LF, Jayaraman V
    Nature. 2019 Nov 20;576(7785):126-31. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1767-1

    Many animals rely on an internal heading representation when navigating in varied environments. How this representation is linked to the sensory cues that define different surroundings is unclear. In the fly brain, heading is represented by 'compass' neurons that innervate a ring-shaped structure known as the ellipsoid body. Each compass neuron receives inputs from 'ring' neurons that are selective for particular visual features; this combination provides an ideal substrate for the extraction of directional information from a visual scene. Here we combine two-photon calcium imaging and optogenetics in tethered flying flies with circuit modelling, and show how the correlated activity of compass and visual neurons drives plasticity, which flexibly transforms two-dimensional visual cues into a stable heading representation. We also describe how this plasticity enables the fly to convert a partial heading representation, established from orienting within part of a novel setting, into a complete heading representation. Our results provide mechanistic insight into the memory-related computations that are essential for flexible navigation in varied surroundings.

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    Looger LabJayaraman LabSvoboda LabSchreiter Lab
    06/17/19 | High-performance calcium sensors for imaging activity in neuronal populations and microcompartments.
    Dana H, Sun Y, Mohar B, Hulse BK, Kerlin AM, Hasseman JP, Tsegaye G, Tsang A, Wong A, Patel R, Macklin JJ, Chen Y, Konnerth A, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Schreiter ER, Svoboda K, Kim DS
    Nature Methods. 2019 Jun 17;16(7):649-57. doi: 10.1038/s41592-019-0435-6

    Calcium imaging with genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) is routinely used to measure neural activity in intact nervous systems. GECIs are frequently used in one of two different modes: to track activity in large populations of neuronal cell bodies, or to follow dynamics in subcellular compartments such as axons, dendrites and individual synaptic compartments. Despite major advances, calcium imaging is still limited by the biophysical properties of existing GECIs, including affinity, signal-to-noise ratio, rise and decay kinetics and dynamic range. Using structure-guided mutagenesis and neuron-based screening, we optimized the green fluorescent protein-based GECI GCaMP6 for different modes of in vivo imaging. The resulting jGCaMP7 sensors provide improved detection of individual spikes (jGCaMP7s,f), imaging in neurites and neuropil (jGCaMP7b), and may allow tracking larger populations of neurons using two-photon (jGCaMP7s,f) or wide-field (jGCaMP7c) imaging.

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