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134 Publications

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    Sternson LabSvoboda Lab
    02/26/09 | The subcellular organization of neocortical excitatory connections.
    Petreanu L, Mao T, Sternson SM, Svoboda K
    Nature. 2009 Feb 26;457:1142-5. doi: 10.1038/nature07709

    Understanding cortical circuits will require mapping the connections between specific populations of neurons, as well as determining the dendritic locations where the synapses occur. The dendrites of individual cortical neurons overlap with numerous types of local and long-range excitatory axons, but axodendritic overlap is not always a good predictor of actual connection strength. Here we developed an efficient channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2)-assisted method to map the spatial distribution of synaptic inputs, defined by presynaptic ChR2 expression, within the dendritic arborizations of recorded neurons. We expressed ChR2 in two thalamic nuclei, the whisker motor cortex and local excitatory neurons and mapped their synapses with pyramidal neurons in layers 3, 5A and 5B (L3, L5A and L5B) in the mouse barrel cortex. Within the dendritic arborizations of L3 cells, individual inputs impinged onto distinct single domains. These domains were arrayed in an orderly, monotonic pattern along the apical axis: axons from more central origins targeted progressively higher regions of the apical dendrites. In L5 arborizations, different inputs targeted separate basal and apical domains. Input to L3 and L5 dendrites in L1 was related to whisker movement and position, suggesting that these signals have a role in controlling the gain of their target neurons. Our experiments reveal high specificity in the subcellular organization of excitatory circuits.

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    Svoboda Lab
    01/29/09 | Rapid functional maturation of nascent dendritic spines.
    Zito K, Scheuss V, Knott G, Hill T, Svoboda K
    Neuron. 2009 Jan 29;61(2):247-58. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.10.054

    Spine growth and retraction with synapse formation and elimination plays an important role in shaping brain circuits during development and in the adult brain, yet the temporal relationship between spine morphogenesis and the formation of functional synapses remains poorly defined. We imaged hippocampal pyramidal neurons to identify spines of different ages. We then used two-photon glutamate uncaging, whole-cell recording, and Ca(2+) imaging to analyze the properties of nascent spines and their older neighbors. New spines expressed glutamate-sensitive currents that were indistinguishable from mature spines of comparable volumes. Some spines exhibited negligible AMPA receptor-mediated responses, but the occurrence of these "silent" spines was uncorrelated with spine age. In contrast, NMDA receptor-mediated Ca(2+) accumulations were significantly lower in new spines. New spines reconstructed using electron microscopy made synapses. Our data support a model in which outgrowth and enlargement of nascent spines is tightly coupled to formation and maturation of glutamatergic synapses.

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    Svoboda Lab
    12/09/08 | A genetically encoded fluorescent sensor of ERK activity.
    Harvey CD, Ehrhardt AG, Cellurale C, Zhong H, Yasuda R, Davis RJ, Svoboda K
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2008 Dec 9;105(49):19264-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0804598105

    The activity of the ERK has complex spatial and temporal dynamics that are important for the specificity of downstream effects. However, current biochemical techniques do not allow for the measurement of ERK signaling with fine spatiotemporal resolution. We developed a genetically encoded, FRET-based sensor of ERK activity (the extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity reporter, EKAR), optimized for signal-to-noise ratio and fluorescence lifetime imaging. EKAR selectively and reversibly reported ERK activation in HEK293 cells after epidermal growth factor stimulation. EKAR signals were correlated with ERK phosphorylation, required ERK activity, and did not report the activities of JNK or p38. EKAR reported ERK activation in the dendrites and nucleus of hippocampal pyramidal neurons in brain slices after theta-burst stimuli or trains of back-propagating action potentials. EKAR therefore permits the measurement of spatiotemporal ERK signaling dynamics in living cells, including in neuronal compartments in intact tissues.

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    Looger LabSvoboda Lab
    08/06/08 | Reporting neural activity with genetically encoded calcium indicators.
    Hires SA, Tian L, Looger LL
    Brain Cell Biology. 2008 Aug 6;36(1-4):69-86. doi: 10.1007/s11068-008-9029-4

    Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs), based on recombinant fluorescent proteins, have been engineered to observe calcium transients in living cells and organisms. Through observation of calcium, these indicators also report neural activity. We review progress in GECI construction and application, particularly toward in vivo monitoring of sparse action potentials (APs). We summarize the extrinsic and intrinsic factors that influence GECI performance. A simple model of GECI response to AP firing demonstrates the relative significance of these factors. We recommend a standardized protocol for evaluating GECIs in a physiologically relevant context. A potential method of simultaneous optical control and recording of neuronal circuits is presented.

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    Svoboda Lab
    07/04/08 | The spread of Ras activity triggered by activation of a single dendritic spine.
    Harvey CD, Yasuda R, Zhong H, Svoboda K
    Science. 2008 Jul 4;321(5885):136-40. doi: 10.1126/science.1159675

    In neurons, individual dendritic spines isolate N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated calcium ion (Ca2+) accumulations from the dendrite and other spines. However, the extent to which spines compartmentalize signaling events downstream of Ca2+ influx is not known. We combined two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging with two-photon glutamate uncaging to image the activity of the small guanosine triphosphatase Ras after NMDA receptor activation at individual spines. Induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) triggered robust Ca2+-dependent Ras activation in single spines that decayed in approximately 5 minutes. Ras activity spread over approximately 10 micrometers of dendrite and invaded neighboring spines by diffusion. The spread of Ras-dependent signaling was necessary for the local regulation of the threshold for LTP induction. Thus, Ca2+-dependent synaptic signals can spread to couple multiple synapses on short stretches of dendrite.

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    Svoboda Lab
    03/19/08 | Characterization and subcellular targeting of GCaMP-type genetically-encoded calcium indicators.
    Mao T, O’Connor DH, Scheuss V, Nakai J, Svoboda K
    PLoS One. 2008 Mar 19;3(3):e1796. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001796

    Genetically-encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) hold the promise of monitoring [Ca(2+)] in selected populations of neurons and in specific cellular compartments. Relating GECI fluorescence to neuronal activity requires quantitative characterization. We have characterized a promising new genetically-encoded calcium indicator-GCaMP2-in mammalian pyramidal neurons. Fluorescence changes in response to single action potentials (17+/-10% DeltaF/F [mean+/-SD]) could be detected in some, but not all, neurons. Trains of high-frequency action potentials yielded robust responses (302+/-50% for trains of 40 action potentials at 83 Hz). Responses were similar in acute brain slices from in utero electroporated mice, indicating that long-term expression did not interfere with GCaMP2 function. Membrane-targeted versions of GCaMP2 did not yield larger signals than their non-targeted counterparts. We further targeted GCaMP2 to dendritic spines to monitor Ca(2+) accumulations evoked by activation of synaptic NMDA receptors. We observed robust DeltaF/F responses (range: 37%-264%) to single spine uncaging stimuli that were correlated with NMDA receptor currents measured through a somatic patch pipette. One major drawback of GCaMP2 was its low baseline fluorescence. Our results show that GCaMP2 is improved from the previous versions of GCaMP and may be suited to detect bursts of high-frequency action potentials and synaptic currents in vivo.

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    Svoboda Lab
    03/13/08 | Genetic dissection of neural circuits.
    Luo L, Callaway EM, Svoboda K
    Neuron. 2008 Mar 13;57:634-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.01.002

    Understanding the principles of information processing in neural circuits requires systematic characterization of the participating cell types and their connections, and the ability to measure and perturb their activity. Genetic approaches promise to bring experimental access to complex neural systems, including genetic stalwarts such as the fly and mouse, but also to nongenetic systems such as primates. Together with anatomical and physiological methods, cell-type-specific expression of protein markers and sensors and transducers will be critical to construct circuit diagrams and to measure the activity of genetically defined neurons. Inactivation and activation of genetically defined cell types will establish causal relationships between activity in specific groups of neurons, circuit function, and animal behavior. Genetic analysis thus promises to reveal the logic of the neural circuits in complex brains that guide behaviors. Here we review progress in the genetic analysis of neural circuits and discuss directions for future research and development.

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    Svoboda Lab
    01/03/08 | Sparse optical microstimulation in barrel cortex drives learned behaviour in freely moving mice.
    Huber D, Petreanu L, Ghitani N, Ranade S, Hromádka T, Mainen Z, Svoboda K
    Nature. 2008 Jan 3;451(7174):61-4. doi: 10.1038/nature06445

    Electrical microstimulation can establish causal links between the activity of groups of neurons and perceptual and cognitive functions. However, the number and identities of neurons microstimulated, as well as the number of action potentials evoked, are difficult to ascertain. To address these issues we introduced the light-gated algal channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) specifically into a small fraction of layer 2/3 neurons of the mouse primary somatosensory cortex. ChR2 photostimulation in vivo reliably generated stimulus-locked action potentials at frequencies up to 50 Hz. Here we show that naive mice readily learned to detect brief trains of action potentials (five light pulses, 1 ms, 20 Hz). After training, mice could detect a photostimulus firing a single action potential in approximately 300 neurons. Even fewer neurons (approximately 60) were required for longer stimuli (five action potentials, 250 ms). Our results show that perceptual decisions and learning can be driven by extremely brief epochs of cortical activity in a sparse subset of supragranular cortical pyramidal neurons.

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    Svoboda Lab
    12/20/07 | Locally dynamic synaptic learning rules in pyramidal neuron dendrites.
    Harvey CD, Svoboda K
    Nature. 2007 Dec 20;450(7173):1195-200. doi: 10.1038/nature06416

    Long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission underlies aspects of learning and memory. LTP is input-specific at the level of individual synapses, but neural network models predict interactions between plasticity at nearby synapses. Here we show in mouse hippocampal pyramidal cells that LTP at individual synapses reduces the threshold for potentiation at neighbouring synapses. After input-specific LTP induction by two-photon glutamate uncaging or by synaptic stimulation, subthreshold stimuli, which by themselves were too weak to trigger LTP, caused robust LTP and spine enlargement at neighbouring spines. Furthermore, LTP induction broadened the presynaptic-postsynaptic spike interval for spike-timing-dependent LTP within a dendritic neighbourhood. The reduction in the threshold for LTP induction lasted approximately 10 min and spread over approximately 10 microm of dendrite. These local interactions between neighbouring synapses support clustered plasticity models of memory storage and could allow for the binding of behaviourally linked information on the same dendritic branch.

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    Svoboda Lab
    07/10/07 | The functional microarchitecture of the mouse barrel cortex.
    Sato TR, Gray NW, Mainen ZF, Svoboda K
    PLoS Biology. 2007 Jul 10;5(7):e189. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050189

    Cortical maps, consisting of orderly arrangements of functional columns, are a hallmark of the organization of the cerebral cortex. However, the microorganization of cortical maps at the level of single neurons is not known, mainly because of the limitations of available mapping techniques. Here, we used bulk loading of Ca(2+) indicators combined with two-photon microscopy to image the activity of multiple single neurons in layer (L) 2/3 of the mouse barrel cortex in vivo. We developed methods that reliably detect single action potentials in approximately half of the imaged neurons in L2/3. This allowed us to measure the spiking probability following whisker deflection and thus map the whisker selectivity for multiple neurons with known spatial relationships. At the level of neuronal populations, the whisker map varied smoothly across the surface of the cortex, within and between the barrels. However, the whisker selectivity of individual neurons recorded simultaneously differed greatly, even for nearest neighbors. Trial-to-trial correlations between pairs of neurons were high over distances spanning multiple cortical columns. Our data suggest that the response properties of individual neurons are shaped by highly specific subcolumnar circuits and the momentary intrinsic state of the neocortex.

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