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30 Janelia Publications

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    02/03/16 | Neural circuits underlying visually evoked escapes in larval zebrafish.
    Dunn TW, Gebhardt C, Naumann EA, Riegler C, Ahrens MB, Engert F, Del Bene F
    Neuron. 2016 Feb 3;89(3):613-628. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.12.021

    Escape behaviors deliver organisms away from imminent catastrophe. Here, we characterize behavioral responses of freely swimming larval zebrafish to looming visual stimuli simulating predators. We report that the visual system alone can recruit lateralized, rapid escape motor programs, similar to those elicited by mechanosensory modalities. Two-photon calcium imaging of retino-recipient midbrain regions isolated the optic tectum as an important center processing looming stimuli, with ensemble activity encoding the critical image size determining escape latency. Furthermore, we describe activity in retinal ganglion cell terminals and superficial inhibitory interneurons in the tectum during looming and propose a model for how temporal dynamics in tectal periventricular neurons might arise from computations between these two fundamental constituents. Finally, laser ablations of hindbrain circuitry confirmed that visual and mechanosensory modalities share the same premotor output network. We establish a circuit for the processing of aversive stimuli in the context of an innate visual behavior.

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    01/20/16 | Simultaneous denoising, deconvolution, and demixing of calcium imaging data.
    Pnevmatikakis EA, Soudry D, Gao Y, Machado TA, Merel J, Pfau D, Reardon T, Mu Y, Lacefield C, Yang W, Ahrens M, Bruno R, Jessell TM, Peterka DS, Yuste R, Paninski L
    Neuron. 2016 Jan 20;89(2):285-99. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.11.037

    We present a modular approach for analyzing calcium imaging recordings of large neuronal ensembles. Our goal is to simultaneously identify the locations of the neurons, demix spatially overlapping components, and denoise and deconvolve the spiking activity from the slow dynamics of the calcium indicator. Our approach relies on a constrained nonnegative matrix factorization that expresses the spatiotemporal fluorescence activity as the product of a spatial matrix that encodes the spatial footprint of each neuron in the optical field and a temporal matrix that characterizes the calcium concentration of each neuron over time. This framework is combined with a novel constrained deconvolution approach that extracts estimates of neural activity from fluorescence traces, to create a spatiotemporal processing algorithm that requires minimal parameter tuning. We demonstrate the general applicability of our method by applying it to in vitro and in vivo multi-neuronal imaging data, whole-brain light-sheet imaging data, and dendritic imaging data.

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    06/01/15 | Large-scale imaging in small brains.
    Ahrens MB, Engert F
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2015 Jun 1;32C:78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2015.01.007

    The dense connectivity in the brain means that one neuron's activity can influence many others. To observe this interconnected system comprehensively, an aspiration within neuroscience is to record from as many neurons as possible at the same time. There are two useful routes toward this goal: one is to expand the spatial extent of functional imaging techniques, and the second is to use animals with small brains. Here we review recent progress toward imaging many neurons and complete populations of identified neurons in small vertebrates and invertebrates.

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    02/13/15 | Labeling of active neural circuits in vivo with designed calcium integrators.
    Fosque BF, Sun Y, Dana H, Yang C, Ohyama T, Tadross MR, Patel R, Zlatic M, Kim DS, Ahrens MB, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Schreiter ER
    Science. 2015 Feb 13;347(6223):755-60. doi: 10.1126/science.1260922

    The identification of active neurons and circuits in vivo is a fundamental challenge in understanding the neural basis of behavior. Genetically encoded calcium (Ca(2+)) indicators (GECIs) enable quantitative monitoring of cellular-resolution activity during behavior. However, such indicators require online monitoring within a limited field of view. Alternatively, post hoc staining of immediate early genes (IEGs) indicates highly active cells within the entire brain, albeit with poor temporal resolution. We designed a fluorescent sensor, CaMPARI, that combines the genetic targetability and quantitative link to neural activity of GECIs with the permanent, large-scale labeling of IEGs, allowing a temporally precise "activity snapshot" of a large tissue volume. CaMPARI undergoes efficient and irreversible green-to-red conversion only when elevated intracellular Ca(2+) and experimenter-controlled illumination coincide. We demonstrate the utility of CaMPARI in freely moving larvae of zebrafish and flies, and in head-fixed mice and adult flies.

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    02/04/15 | Visualizing whole-brain activity and development at the single-cell level using light-sheet microscopy.
    Keller PJ, Ahrens MB
    Neuron. 2015 Feb 4;85(3):462-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.12.039

    The nature of nervous system function and development is inherently global, since all components eventually influence one another. Networks communicate through dense synaptic, electric, and modulatory connections and develop through concurrent growth and interlinking of their neurons, processes, glia, and blood vessels. These factors drive the development of techniques capable of imaging neural signaling, anatomy, and developmental processes at ever-larger scales. Here, we discuss the nature of questions benefitting from large-scale imaging techniques and introduce recent applications. We focus on emerging light-sheet microscopy approaches, which are well suited for live imaging of large systems with high spatiotemporal resolution and over long periods of time. We also discuss computational methods suitable for extracting biological information from the resulting system-level image data sets. Together with new tools for reporting and manipulating neuronal activity and gene expression, these techniques promise new insights into the large-scale function and development of neural systems.

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    12/30/14 | Light-sheet imaging for systems neuroscience.
    Keller PJ, Ahrens MB, Freeman J
    Nature Methods. 2014 Dec 30;12(1):27-9. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3214

    Developments in electrical and optical recording technology are scaling up the size of neuronal populations that can be monitored simultaneously. Light-sheet imaging is rapidly gaining traction as a method for optically interrogating activity in large networks and presents both opportunities and challenges for understanding circuit function.

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    07/27/14 | Light-sheet functional imaging in fictively behaving zebrafish.
    Vladimirov N, Mu Y, Kawashima T, Bennett DV, Yang C, Looger LL, Keller PJ, Freeman J, Ahrens MB
    Nature Methods. 2014 Jul 27;11(9):883-4. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3040

    The processing of sensory input and the generation of behavior involves large networks of neurons, which necessitates new technology for recording from many neurons in behaving animals. In the larval zebrafish, light-sheet microscopy can be used to record the activity of almost all neurons in the brain simultaneously at single-cell resolution. Existing implementations, however, cannot be combined with visually driven behavior because the light sheet scans over the eye, interfering with presentation of controlled visual stimuli. Here we describe a system that overcomes the confounding eye stimulation through the use of two light sheets and combines whole-brain light-sheet imaging with virtual reality for fictively behaving larval zebrafish.

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    07/27/14 | Mapping brain activity at scale with cluster computing.
    Freeman J, Vladimirov N, Kawashima T, Mu Y, Sofroniew NJ, Bennett DV, Rosen J, Yang C, Looger LL, Ahrens MB
    Nature Methods. 2014 Jul 27;11(9):941-950. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3041

    Understanding brain function requires monitoring and interpreting the activity of large networks of neurons during behavior. Advances in recording technology are greatly increasing the size and complexity of neural data. Analyzing such data will pose a fundamental bottleneck for neuroscience. We present a library of analytical tools called Thunder built on the open-source Apache Spark platform for large-scale distributed computing. The library implements a variety of univariate and multivariate analyses with a modular, extendable structure well-suited to interactive exploration and analysis development. We demonstrate how these analyses find structure in large-scale neural data, including whole-brain light-sheet imaging data from fictively behaving larval zebrafish, and two-photon imaging data from behaving mouse. The analyses relate neuronal responses to sensory input and behavior, run in minutes or less and can be used on a private cluster or in the cloud. Our open-source framework thus holds promise for turning brain activity mapping efforts into biological insights.

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    05/01/13 | Whole-brain functional imaging at cellular resolution using light-sheet microscopy.
    Ahrens MB, Orger MB, Robson DN, Li JM, Keller PJ
    Nature Methods. 2013 May;10(5):413-20. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2434

    Brain function relies on communication between large populations of neurons across multiple brain areas, a full understanding of which would require knowledge of the time-varying activity of all neurons in the central nervous system. Here we use light-sheet microscopy to record activity, reported through the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP5G, from the entire volume of the brain of the larval zebrafish in vivo at 0.8 Hz, capturing more than 80% of all neurons at single-cell resolution. Demonstrating how this technique can be used to reveal functionally defined circuits across the brain, we identify two populations of neurons with correlated activity patterns. One circuit consists of hindbrain neurons functionally coupled to spinal cord neuropil. The other consists of an anatomically symmetric population in the anterior hindbrain, with activity in the left and right halves oscillating in antiphase, on a timescale of 20 s, and coupled to equally slow oscillations in the inferior olive.

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    02/01/13 | Optogenetics in a transparent animal: circuit function in the larval zebrafish.
    Portugues R, Severi KE, Wyart C, Ahrens MB
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2013 Feb;23(1):119-26. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2012.11.001

    Optogenetic tools can be used to manipulate neuronal activity in a reversible and specific manner. In recent years, such methods have been applied to uncover causal relationships between activity in specified neuronal circuits and behavior in the larval zebrafish. In this small, transparent, genetic model organism, noninvasive manipulation and monitoring of neuronal activity with light is possible throughout the nervous system. Here we review recent work in which these new tools have been applied to zebrafish, and discuss some of the existing challenges of these approaches.

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