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31 Publications

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    08/15/14 | Large environments reveal the statistical structure governing hippocampal representations.
    Rich PD, Liaw H, Lee AK
    Science. 2014 Aug 15;345(6198):814-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1255635

    The rules governing the formation of spatial maps in the hippocampus have not been determined. We investigated the large-scale structure of place field activity by recording hippocampal neurons in rats exploring a previously unencountered 48-meter-long track. Single-cell and population activities were well described by a two-parameter stochastic model. Individual neurons had their own characteristic propensity for forming fields randomly along the track, with some cells expressing many fields and many exhibiting few or none. Because of the particular distribution of propensities across cells, the number of neurons with fields scaled logarithmically with track length over a wide, ethological range. These features constrain hippocampal memory mechanisms, may allow efficient encoding of environments and experiences of vastly different extents and durations, and could reflect general principles of population coding.

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    Lee (Albert) LabSvoboda Lab
    07/16/14 | Natural whisker-guided behavior by head-fixed mice in tactile virtual reality.
    Sofroniew NJ, Cohen JD, Lee AK, Svoboda K
    Journal of Neuroscience. 2014 Jul 16;34(29):9537-50. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0712-14.2014

    During many natural behaviors the relevant sensory stimuli and motor outputs are difficult to quantify. Furthermore, the high dimensionality of the space of possible stimuli and movements compounds the problem of experimental control. Head fixation facilitates stimulus control and movement tracking, and can be combined with techniques for recording and manipulating neural activity. However, head-fixed mouse behaviors are typically trained through extensive instrumental conditioning. Here we present a whisker-based, tactile virtual reality system for head-fixed mice running on a spherical treadmill. Head-fixed mice displayed natural movements, including running and rhythmic whisking at 16 Hz. Whisking was centered on a set point that changed in concert with running so that more protracted whisking was correlated with faster running. During turning, whiskers moved in an asymmetric manner, with more retracted whisker positions in the turn direction and protracted whisker movements on the other side. Under some conditions, whisker movements were phase-coupled to strides. We simulated a virtual reality tactile corridor, consisting of two moveable walls controlled in a closed-loop by running speed and direction. Mice used their whiskers to track the walls of the winding corridor without training. Whisker curvature changes, which cause forces in the sensory follicles at the base of the whiskers, were tightly coupled to distance from the walls. Our behavioral system allows for precise control of sensorimotor variables during natural tactile navigation.

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    06/20/14 | Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in freely moving animals.
    Lee AK, Epsztein J, Brecht M
    Methods in Molecular Biology. 2014 Jun 20;1183:263-76. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1096-0_17

    The patch-clamp technique and the whole-cell measurements derived from it have greatly advanced our understanding of the coding properties of individual neurons by allowing for a detailed analysis of their excitatory/inhibitory synaptic inputs, intrinsic electrical properties, and morphology. Because such measurements require a high level of mechanical stability they have for a long time been limited to in vitro and anesthetized preparations. Recently, however, a considerable amount of effort has been devoted to extending these techniques to awake restrained/head-fixed preparations allowing for the study of the input-output functions of neurons during behavior. In this chapter we describe a technique extending patch-clamp recordings to awake animals free to explore their environments.

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    08/17/12 | Hippocampal place fields emerge upon single-cell manipulation of excitability during behavior.
    Lee D, Lin B, Lee AK
    Science. 2012 Aug 17;337:849-53. doi: 10.1126/science.1221489

    The origin of the spatial receptive fields of hippocampal place cells has not been established. A hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cell receives thousands of synaptic inputs, mostly from other spatially tuned neurons; however, how the postsynaptic neuron’s cellular properties determine the response to these inputs during behavior is unknown. We discovered that, contrary to expectations from basic models of place cells and neuronal integration, a small, spatially uniform depolarization of the spatially untuned somatic membrane potential of a silent cell leads to the sudden and reversible emergence of a spatially tuned subthreshold response and place-field spiking. Such gating of inputs by postsynaptic neuronal excitability reveals a cellular mechanism for receptive field origin and may be critical for the formation of hippocampal memory representations.

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    02/01/12 | Intracellular recording in behaving animals.
    Long MA, Lee AK
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2012 Feb;22(1):34-44. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.10.013

    Electrophysiological recordings from behaving animals provide an unparalleled view into the functional role of individual neurons. Intracellular approaches can be especially revealing as they provide information about a neuron's inputs and intrinsic cellular properties, which together determine its spiking output. Recent technical developments have made intracellular recording possible during an ever-increasing range of behaviors in both head-fixed and freely moving animals. These recordings have yielded fundamental insights into the cellular and circuit mechanisms underlying neural activity during natural behaviors in such areas as sensory perception, motor sequence generation, and spatial navigation, forging a direct link between cellular and systems neuroscience.

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    04/14/11 | Intracellular determinants of hippocampal CA1 place and silent cell activity in a novel environment.
    Epsztein J, Brecht M, Lee AK
    Neuron. 2011 Apr 14;70(1):109-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.03.006

    For each environment a rodent has explored, its hippocampus contains a map consisting of a unique subset of neurons, called place cells, that have spatially tuned spiking there, with the remaining neurons being essentially silent. Using whole-cell recording in freely moving rats exploring a novel maze, we observed differences in intrinsic cellular properties and input-based subthreshold membrane potential levels underlying this division into place and silent cells. Compared to silent cells, place cells had lower spike thresholds and peaked versus flat subthreshold membrane potentials as a function of animal location. Both differences were evident from the beginning of exploration. Additionally, future place cells exhibited higher burst propensity before exploration. Thus, internal settings appear to predetermine which cells will represent the next novel environment encountered. Furthermore, place cells fired spatially tuned bursts with large, putatively calcium-mediated depolarizations that could trigger plasticity and stabilize the new map for long-term storage. Our results provide new insight into hippocampal memory formation.

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    01/22/10 | Impact of spikelets on hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cell activity during spatial exploration.
    Epsztein J, Lee AK, Chorev E, Brecht M
    Science. 2010 Jan 22;327(5964):474-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1182773

    In vivo intracellular recordings of hippocampal neurons reveal the occurrence of fast events of small amplitude called spikelets or fast prepotentials. Because intracellular recordings have been restricted to anesthetized or head-fixed animals, it is not known how spikelet activity contributes to hippocampal spatial representations. We addressed this question in CA1 pyramidal cells by using in vivo whole-cell recording in freely moving rats. We observed a high incidence of spikelets that occurred either in isolation or in bursts and could drive spiking as fast prepotentials of action potentials. Spikelets strongly contributed to spiking activity, driving approximately 30% of all action potentials. CA1 pyramidal cell firing and spikelet activity were comodulated as a function of the animal’s location in the environment. We conclude that spikelets have a major impact on hippocampal activity during spatial exploration.

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    01/01/09 | Head-anchored whole-cell recordings in freely moving rats.
    Lee AK, Epsztein J, Brecht M
    Nature Protocols. 2009;4(3):385-92. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2009.5

    Intracellular recordings are routinely used to study the synaptic and intrinsic properties of neurons in vitro. A key requirement for these recordings is a mechanically very stable preparation; thus their use in vivo had been limited previously to head-restrained animals. We have recently demonstrated that anchoring the electrode rigidly in place with respect to the skull provides sufficient stabilization for long-lasting, high-quality whole-cell recordings in awake, freely moving rats. This protocol describes our procedure in detail, adds specific instructions for targeting hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons and updates it with changes that facilitate patching and improve the success rate. The changes involve combining a standard, nonhead-mounted micromanipulator with a gripper to firmly hold the recording pipette during the anchoring process then gently release it afterwards. The procedure from the beginning of surgery to the end of a recording takes approximately 5 h. This technique allows new studies of the mechanisms underlying neuronal integration and cellular/synaptic plasticity in identified cells during natural behaviors.

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    08/17/06 | Whole-cell recordings in freely moving rats.
    Lee AK, Manns ID, Sakmann B, Brecht M
    Neuron. 2006 Aug 17;51:399-407. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.07.004

    Intracellular recording, which allows direct measurement of the membrane potential and currents of individual neurons, requires a very mechanically stable preparation and has thus been limited to in vitro and head-immobilized in vivo experiments. This restriction constitutes a major obstacle for linking cellular and synaptic physiology with animal behavior. To overcome this limitation we have developed a method for performing whole-cell recordings in freely moving rats. We constructed a miniature head-mountable recording device, with mechanical stabilization achieved by anchoring the recording pipette rigidly in place after the whole-cell configuration is established. We obtain long-duration recordings (mean of approximately 20 min, maximum 60 min) in freely moving animals that are remarkably insensitive to mechanical disturbances, then reconstruct the anatomy of the recorded cells. This head-anchored whole-cell recording technique will enable a wide range of new studies involving detailed measurement and manipulation of the physiological properties of identified cells during natural behaviors.

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    10/01/04 | A combinatorial method for analyzing sequential firing patterns involving an arbitrary number of neurons based on relative time order.
    Lee AK, Wilson MA
    Journal of Neurophysiology. 2004 Oct;92(4):2555-73. doi: 10.1152/jn.01030.2003

    Information processing in the brain is believed to require coordinated activity across many neurons. With the recent development of techniques for simultaneously recording the spiking activity of large numbers of individual neurons, the search for complex multicell firing patterns that could help reveal this neural code has become possible. Here we develop a new approach for analyzing sequential firing patterns involving an arbitrary number of neurons based on relative firing order. Specifically, we develop a combinatorial method for quantifying the degree of matching between a "reference sequence" of N distinct "letters" (representing a particular target order of firing by N cells) and an arbitrarily long "word" composed of any subset of those letters including repeats (representing the relative time order of spikes in an arbitrary firing pattern). The method involves computing the probability that a random permutation of the word’s letters would by chance alone match the reference sequence as well as or better than the actual word does, assuming all permutations were equally likely. Lower probabilities thus indicate better matching. The overall degree and statistical significance of sequence matching across a heterogeneous set of words (such as those produced during the course of an experiment) can be computed from the corresponding set of probabilities. This approach can reduce the sample size problem associated with analyzing complex firing patterns. The approach is general and thus applicable to other types of neural data beyond multiple spike trains, such as EEG events or imaging signals from multiple locations. We have recently applied this method to quantify memory traces of sequential experience in the rodent hippocampus during slow wave sleep.

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