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3 Janelia Publications

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    06/06/16 | The insect central complex.
    Turner-Evans DB, Jayaraman V
    Current Biology : CB. 2016 Jun 06;26(11):R453-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.04.006

    Hordes of tourists flock to Washington, D.C. every spring to see the cherry trees blossom. Once in the city, they must find their way to the Tidal Basin where the Japanese trees grow. Fortunately, a number of visual landmarks can help them to navigate. In 1910, the United States Congress passed The Height of Buildings Act, limiting the elevation of commercial and residential structures in D.C. to 130 feet. Thus, the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument often looms large against the horizon, serving as an anchor point to help set the tourists' sense of direction. Once their heading is set, they can lose sight of the monument behind buildings or groups of tall Scandinavian visitors and still use their internal compass to navigate to the Basin. This compass keeps track of their paces and turns and updates their sense of where they are and where they need to go. Yet while their heading informs their actions, it does not dictate them. Tourists who have been to D.C. in the past can, for example, use remembered views to alter their routes to avoid crowds. On an even finer scale, their leg movements also depend on their current state - they might increase the frequency and length of their strides if hunger pangs compete with their desire to see cherry blossoms, for example. The way in which these disparate cues and motivations influence exploration is a neuroscience mystery across creatures large and small.

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    03/24/16 | Sensitive red protein calcium indicators for imaging neural activity.
    Dana H, Mohar B, Sun Y, Narayan S, Gordus A, Hasseman JP, Tsegaye G, Holt GT, Hu A, Walpita D, Patel R, Macklin JJ, Bargmann CI, Ahrens MB, Schreiter ER, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Svoboda K, Kim DS
    eLife. 2016 Mar 24;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.12727

    Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) allow measurement of activity in large populations of neurons and in small neuronal compartments, over times of milliseconds to months. Although GFP-based GECIs are widely used for in vivo neurophysiology, GECIs with red-shifted excitation and emission spectra have advantages for in vivo imaging because of reduced scattering and absorption in tissue, and a consequent reduction in phototoxicity. However, current red GECIs are inferior to the state-of-the-art GFP-based GCaMP6 indicators for detecting and quantifying neural activity. Here we present improved red GECIs based on mRuby (jRCaMP1a, b) and mApple (jRGECO1a), with sensitivity comparable to GCaMP6. We characterized the performance of the new red GECIs in cultured neurons and in mouse, Drosophila, zebrafish and C. elegans in vivo. Red GECIs facilitate deep-tissue imaging, dual-color imaging together with GFP-based reporters, and the use of optogenetics in combination with calcium imaging.

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    01/28/16 | Studying small brains to understand the building blocks of cognition.
    Haberkern H, Jayaraman V
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2016 Jan 28;37:59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2016.01.007

    Cognition encompasses a range of higher-order mental processes, such as attention, working memory, and model-based decision-making. These processes are thought to involve the dynamic interaction of multiple central brain regions. A mechanistic understanding of such computations requires not only monitoring and manipulating specific neural populations during behavior, but also knowing the connectivity of the underlying circuitry. These goals are experimentally challenging in mammals, but are feasible in numerically simpler insect brains. In Drosophila melanogaster in particular, genetic tools enable precisely targeted physiology and optogenetics in actively behaving animals. In this article we discuss how these advantages are increasingly being leveraged to study abstract neural representations and sensorimotor computations that may be relevant for cognition in both insects and mammals.

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