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18 Janelia Publications

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    10/23/13 | Nonlinear dynamics support a linear population code in a retinal target-tracking circuit.
    Leonardo A, Meister M
    The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2013 Oct 23;33(43):16971-82. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2257-13.2013

    A basic task faced by the visual system of many organisms is to accurately track the position of moving prey. The retina is the first stage in the processing of such stimuli; the nature of the transformation here, from photons to spike trains, constrains not only the ultimate fidelity of the tracking signal but also the ease with which it can be extracted by other brain regions. Here we demonstrate that a population of fast-OFF ganglion cells in the salamander retina, whose dynamics are governed by a nonlinear circuit, serve to compute the future position of the target over hundreds of milliseconds. The extrapolated position of the target is not found by stimulus reconstruction but is instead computed by a weighted sum of ganglion cell outputs, the population vector average (PVA). The magnitude of PVA extrapolation varies systematically with target size, speed, and acceleration, such that large targets are tracked most accurately at high speeds, and small targets at low speeds, just as is seen in the motion of real prey. Tracking precision reaches the resolution of single photoreceptors, and the PVA algorithm performs more robustly than several alternative algorithms. If the salamander brain uses the fast-OFF cell circuit for target extrapolation as we suggest, the circuit dynamics should leave a microstructure on the behavior that may be measured in future experiments. Our analysis highlights the utility of simple computations that, while not globally optimal, are efficiently implemented and have close to optimal performance over a limited but ethologically relevant range of stimuli.

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    07/03/13 | Two-photon imaging of nonlinear glutamate release dynamics at bipolar cell synapses in the mouse retina.
    Borghuis BG, Marvin JS, Looger LL, Demb JB
    The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2013 Jul 3;33(27):10972-85. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1241-13.2013

    Alpha/Y-type retinal ganglion cells encode visual information with a receptive field composed of nonlinear subunits. This nonlinear subunit structure enhances sensitivity to patterns composed of high spatial frequencies. The Y-cell’s subunits are the presynaptic bipolar cells, but the mechanism for the nonlinearity remains incompletely understood. We investigated the synaptic basis of the subunit nonlinearity by combining whole-cell recording of mouse Y-type ganglion cells with two-photon fluorescence imaging of a glutamate sensor (iGluSnFR) expressed on their dendrites and throughout the inner plexiform layer. A control experiment designed to assess iGluSnFR’s dynamic range showed that fluorescence responses from Y-cell dendrites increased proportionally with simultaneously recorded excitatory current. Spatial resolution was sufficient to readily resolve independent release at intermingled ON and OFF bipolar terminals. iGluSnFR responses at Y-cell dendrites showed strong surround inhibition, reflecting receptive field properties of presynaptic release sites. Responses to spatial patterns located the origin of the Y-cell nonlinearity to the bipolar cell output, after the stage of spatial integration. The underlying mechanism differed between OFF and ON pathways: OFF synapses showed transient release and strong rectification, whereas ON synapses showed relatively sustained release and weak rectification. At ON synapses, the combination of fast release onset with slower release offset explained the nonlinear response of the postsynaptic ganglion cell. Imaging throughout the inner plexiform layer, we found transient, rectified release at the central-most levels, with increasingly sustained release near the borders. By visualizing glutamate release in real time, iGluSnFR provides a powerful tool for characterizing glutamate synapses in intact neural circuits.

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    02/01/13 | An optimized fluorescent probe for visualizing glutamate neurotransmission.
    Marvin JS, Borghuis BG, Tian L, Cichon J, Harnett MT, Akerboom J, Gordus A, Renninger SL, Chen T, Bargmann CI, Orger MB, Schreiter ER, Demb JB, Gan W, Hires SA, Looger LL
    Nature Methods. 2013 Feb;10:162-70. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2333

    We describe an intensity-based glutamate-sensing fluorescent reporter (iGluSnFR) with signal-to-noise ratio and kinetics appropriate for in vivo imaging. We engineered iGluSnFR in vitro to maximize its fluorescence change, and we validated its utility for visualizing glutamate release by neurons and astrocytes in increasingly intact neurological systems. In hippocampal culture, iGluSnFR detected single field stimulus-evoked glutamate release events. In pyramidal neurons in acute brain slices, glutamate uncaging at single spines showed that iGluSnFR responds robustly and specifically to glutamate in situ, and responses correlate with voltage changes. In mouse retina, iGluSnFR-expressing neurons showed intact light-evoked excitatory currents, and the sensor revealed tonic glutamate signaling in response to light stimuli. In worms, glutamate signals preceded and predicted postsynaptic calcium transients. In zebrafish, iGluSnFR revealed spatial organization of direction-selective synaptic activity in the optic tectum. Finally, in mouse forelimb motor cortex, iGluSnFR expression in layer V pyramidal neurons revealed task-dependent single-spine activity during running.

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    10/01/12 | A battery-free multichannel digital neural/EMG telemetry system for flying insects.
    Thomas SJ, Harrison RR, Leonardo A, Reynolds MS
    IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems. 2012 Oct;6(5):424-36. doi: 10.1109/TBCAS.2012.2222881

    This paper presents a digital neural/EMG telemetry system small enough and lightweight enough to permit recording from insects in flight. It has a measured flight package mass of only 38 mg. This system includes a single-chip telemetry integrated circuit (IC) employing RF power harvesting for battery-free operation, with communication via modulated backscatter in the UHF (902-928 MHz) band. An on-chip 11-bit ADC digitizes 10 neural channels with a sampling rate of 26.1 kSps and 4 EMG channels at 1.63 kSps, and telemeters this data wirelessly to a base station. The companion base station transceiver includes an RF transmitter of +36 dBm (4 W) output power to wirelessly power the telemetry IC, and a digital receiver with a sensitivity of -70 dBm for 10⁻⁵ BER at 5.0 Mbps to receive the data stream from the telemetry IC. The telemetry chip was fabricated in a commercial 0.35 μ m 4M1P (4 metal, 1 poly) CMOS process. The die measures 2.36 × 1.88 mm, is 250 μm thick, and is wire bonded into a flex circuit assembly measuring 4.6 × 6.8 mm.

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    02/29/12 | A Cre-dependent GCaMP3 reporter mouse for neuronal imaging in vivo.
    Zariwala HA, Borghuis BG, Hoogland TM, Madisen L, Tian L, De Zeeuw CI, Zeng H, Looger LL, Svoboda K, Chen T
    The Journal of Neuroscience. 2012 Feb 29;32:3131-41. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4469-11.2012

    Fluorescent calcium indicator proteins, such as GCaMP3, allow imaging of activity in genetically defined neuronal populations. GCaMP3 can be expressed using various gene delivery methods, such as viral infection or electroporation. However, these methods are invasive and provide inhomogeneous and nonstationary expression. Here, we developed a genetic reporter mouse, Ai38, which expresses GCaMP3 in a Cre-dependent manner from the ROSA26 locus, driven by a strong CAG promoter. Crossing Ai38 with appropriate Cre mice produced robust GCaMP3 expression in defined cell populations in the retina, cortex, and cerebellum. In the primary visual cortex, visually evoked GCaMP3 signals showed normal orientation and direction selectivity. GCaMP3 signals were rapid, compared with virally expressed GCaMP3 and synthetic calcium indicators. In the retina, Ai38 allowed imaging spontaneous calcium waves in starburst amacrine cells during development, and light-evoked responses in ganglion cells in adult tissue. Our results show that the Ai38 reporter mouse provides a flexible method for targeted expression of GCaMP3.

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    04/01/11 | Wireless neural/EMG telemetry systems for small freely moving animals.
    Harrison RR, Fotowat H, Chan R, Kier RJ, Olberg R, Leonardo A, Gabbiani F
    IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems. 2011 Apr;5(2):103-11. doi: 10.1109/TBCAS.2011.2131140

    We have developed miniature telemetry systems that capture neural, EMG, and acceleration signals from a freely moving insect or other small animal and transmit the data wirelessly to a remote digital receiver. The systems are based on custom low-power integrated circuits (ICs) that amplify, filter, and digitize four biopotential signals using low-noise circuits. One of the chips also digitizes three acceleration signals from an off-chip microelectromechanical-system accelerometer. All information is transmitted over a wireless ~ 900-MHz telemetry link. The first unit, using a custom chip fabricated in a 0.6- μm BiCMOS process, weighs 0.79 g and runs for two hours on two small batteries. We have used this system to monitor neural and EMG signals in jumping and flying locusts as well as transdermal potentials in weakly swimming electric fish. The second unit, using a custom chip fabricated in a 0.35-μ m complementary metal-oxide semiconductor CMOS process, weighs 0.17 g and runs for five hours on a single 1.5-V battery. This system has been used to monitor neural potentials in untethered perching dragonflies.

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    02/23/11 | Imaging light responses of targeted neuron populations in the rodent retina.
    Borghuis BG, Tian L, Xu Y, Nikonov SS, Vardi N, Zemelman BV, Looger LL
    The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2011 Feb 23;31:2855-67. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6064-10.2011

    Decoding the wiring diagram of the retina requires simultaneous observation of activity in identified neuron populations. Available recording methods are limited in their scope: electrodes can access only a small fraction of neurons at once, whereas synthetic fluorescent indicator dyes label tissue indiscriminately. Here, we describe a method for studying retinal circuitry at cellular and subcellular levels combining two-photon microscopy and a genetically encoded calcium indicator. Using specific viral and promoter constructs to drive expression of GCaMP3, we labeled all five major neuron classes in the adult mouse retina. Stimulus-evoked GCaMP3 responses as imaged by two-photon microscopy permitted functional cell type annotation. Fluorescence responses were similar to those measured with the small molecule dye OGB-1. Fluorescence intensity correlated linearly with spike rates >10 spikes/s, and a significant change in fluorescence always reflected a significant change in spike firing rate. GCaMP3 expression had no apparent effect on neuronal function. Imaging at subcellular resolution showed compartment-specific calcium dynamics in multiple identified cell types.

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    03/11/09 | Loss of sensitivity in an analog neural circuit.
    Borghuis BG, Sterling P, Smith RG
    The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2009 Mar 11;29:3045-58. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5071-08.2009

    A low-contrast spot that activates just one ganglion cell in the retina is detected in the spike train of the cell with about the same sensitivity as it is detected behaviorally. This is consistent with Barlow’s proposal that the ganglion cell and later stages of spiking neurons transfer information essentially without loss. Yet, when losses of sensitivity by all preneural factors are accounted for, predicted sensitivity near threshold is considerably greater than behavioral sensitivity, implying that somewhere in the brain information is lost. We hypothesized that the losses occur mainly in the retina, where graded signals are processed by analog circuits that transfer information at high rates and low metabolic cost. To test this, we constructed a model that included all preneural losses for an in vitro mammalian retina, and evaluated the model to predict sensitivity at the cone output. Recording graded responses postsynaptic to the cones (from the type A horizontal cell) and comparing to predicted preneural sensitivity, we found substantial loss of sensitivity (4.2-fold) across the first visual synapse. Recording spike responses from brisk-transient ganglion cells stimulated with the same spot, we found a similar loss (3.5-fold) across the second synapse. The total retinal loss approximated the known overall loss, supporting the hypothesis that from stimulus to perception, most loss near threshold is retinal.

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