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17 Janelia Publications

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    01/10/20 | Fundamental law of memory recall.
    Naim M, Katkov M, Romani S, Tsodyks M
    Physical Review Letters. 2020 Jan 10;124(1):018101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.124.018101

    Human memory appears to be fragile and unpredictable. Free recall of random lists of words is a standard paradigm used to probe episodic memory. We proposed an associative search process that can be reduced to a deterministic walk on random graphs defined by the structure of memory representations. The corresponding graph model can be solved analytically, resulting in a novel parameter-free prediction for the average number of memory items recalled (R) out of M items in memory: R=sqrt[3πM/2]. This prediction was verified with a specially designed experimental protocol combining large-scale crowd-sourced free recall and recognition experiments with randomly assembled lists of words or common facts. Our results show that human memory can be described by universal laws derived from first principles.

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    12/11/19 | The computation of directional selectivity in the OFF motion pathway.
    Gruntman E, Romani S, Reiser MB
    eLife. 2019 Dec 11;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50706

    In flies, the direction of moving ON and OFF features is computed separately. T4 (ON) and T5 (OFF) are the first neurons in their respective pathways to extract a directionally selective response from their non-selective inputs. Our recent study of T4 found that the integration of offset depolarizing and hyperpolarizing inputs is critical for the generation of directional selectivity. However, T5s lack small-field inhibitory inputs, suggesting they may use a different mechanism. Here we used whole-cell recordings of T5 neurons and found a similar receptive field structure: fast depolarization and persistent, spatially offset hyperpolarization. By assaying pairwise interactions of local stimulation across the receptive field, we found no amplifying responses, only suppressive responses to the non-preferred motion direction. We then evaluated passive, biophysical models and found that a model using direct inhibition, but not the removal of excitation, can accurately predict T5 responses to a range of moving stimuli.

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    11/20/19 | Generation of stable heading representations in diverse visual scenes.
    Kim SS, Hermundstad AM, Romani S, Abbott LF, Jayaraman V
    Nature. 2019 Nov 20;576(7785):126-31. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1767-1

    Many animals rely on an internal heading representation when navigating in varied environments. How this representation is linked to the sensory cues that define different surroundings is unclear. In the fly brain, heading is represented by 'compass' neurons that innervate a ring-shaped structure known as the ellipsoid body. Each compass neuron receives inputs from 'ring' neurons that are selective for particular visual features; this combination provides an ideal substrate for the extraction of directional information from a visual scene. Here we combine two-photon calcium imaging and optogenetics in tethered flying flies with circuit modelling, and show how the correlated activity of compass and visual neurons drives plasticity, which flexibly transforms two-dimensional visual cues into a stable heading representation. We also describe how this plasticity enables the fly to convert a partial heading representation, established from orienting within part of a novel setting, into a complete heading representation. Our results provide mechanistic insight into the memory-related computations that are essential for flexible navigation in varied surroundings.

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    02/06/19 | Discrete attractor dynamics underlies persistent activity in the frontal cortex.
    Inagaki HK, Fontolan L, Romani S, Svoboda K
    Nature. 2019 Feb 06;566(7743):212-7. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-0919-7

    Short-term memories link events separated in time, such as past sensation and future actions. Short-term memories are correlated with slow neural dynamics, including selective persistent activity, which can be maintained over seconds. In a delayed response task that requires short-term memory, neurons in the mouse anterior lateral motor cortex (ALM) show persistent activity that instructs future actions. To determine the principles that underlie this persistent activity, here we combined intracellular and extracellular electrophysiology with optogenetic perturbations and network modelling. We show that during the delay epoch, the activity of ALM neurons moved towards discrete end points that correspond to specific movement directions. These end points were robust to transient shifts in ALM activity caused by optogenetic perturbations. Perturbations occasionally switched the population dynamics to the other end point, followed by incorrect actions. Our results show that discrete attractor dynamics underlie short-term memory related to motor planning.

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    06/18/18 | A novel pyramidal cell type promotes sharp-wave synchronization in the hippocampus.
    Hunt DL, Linaro D, Si B, Romani S, Spruston N
    Nature Neuroscience. 2018 Jun 18;21(7):985-95. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0172-7

    To support cognitive function, the CA3 region of the hippocampus performs computations involving attractor dynamics. Understanding how cellular and ensemble activities of CA3 neurons enable computation is critical for elucidating the neural correlates of cognition. Here we show that CA3 comprises not only classically described pyramid cells with thorny excrescences, but also includes previously unidentified 'athorny' pyramid cells that lack mossy-fiber input. Moreover, the two neuron types have distinct morphological and physiological phenotypes and are differentially modulated by acetylcholine. To understand the contribution of these athorny pyramid neurons to circuit function, we measured cell-type-specific firing patterns during sharp-wave synchronization events in vivo and recapitulated these dynamics with an attractor network model comprising two principal cell types. Our data and simulations reveal a key role for athorny cell bursting in the initiation of sharp waves: transient network attractor states that signify the execution of pattern completion computations vital to cognitive function.

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    04/25/18 | Low-dimensional and monotonic preparatory activity in mouse anterior lateral motor cortex.
    Inagaki HK, Inagaki M, Romani S, Svoboda K
    The Journal of Neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2018 Apr 25;38(17):4163-85. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3152-17.2018

    Neurons in multiple brain regions fire trains of action potentials anticipating specific movements, but this 'preparatory activity' has not been systematically compared across behavioral tasks. We compared preparatory activity in auditory and tactile delayed-response tasks in male mice. Skilled, directional licking was the motor output. The anterior lateral motor cortex (ALM) is necessary for motor planning in both tasks. Multiple features of ALM preparatory activity during the delay epoch were similar across tasks. First, majority of neurons showed direction-selective activity and spatially intermingled neurons were selective for either movement direction. Second, many cells showed mixed coding of sensory stimulus and licking direction, with a bias toward licking direction. Third, delay activity was monotonic and low-dimensional. Fourth, pairs of neurons with similar direction selectivity showed high spike-count correlations. Our study forms the foundation to analyze the neural circuit mechanisms underlying preparatory activity in a genetically tractable model organism.Short-term memories link events separated in time. Neurons in frontal cortex fire trains of action potentials anticipating specific movements, often seconds before the movement. This 'preparatory activity' has been observed in multiple brain regions, but has rarely been compared systematically across behavioral tasks in the same brain region. To identify common features of preparatory activity, we developed and compared preparatory activity in auditory and tactile delayed-response tasks in mice. The same cortical area is necessary for both tasks. Multiple features of preparatory activity, measured with high-density silicon probes, were similar across tasks. We find that preparatory activity is low-dimensional and monotonic. Our study forms the foundation to analyze the circuit mechanisms underlying preparatory activity in a genetically tractable model organism.

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    01/08/18 | Simple integration of fast excitation and offset, delayed inhibition computes directional selectivity in Drosophila.
    Gruntman E, Romani S, Reiser MB
    Nature Neuroscience. 2018 Jan 08;21(2):250-7. doi: 10.1038/s41593-017-0046-4

    A neuron that extracts directionally selective motion information from upstream signals lacking this selectivity must compare visual responses from spatially offset inputs. Distinguishing among prevailing algorithmic models for this computation requires measuring fast neuronal activity and inhibition. In the Drosophila melanogaster visual system, a fourth-order neuron-T4-is the first cell type in the ON pathway to exhibit directionally selective signals. Here we use in vivo whole-cell recordings of T4 to show that directional selectivity originates from simple integration of spatially offset fast excitatory and slow inhibitory inputs, resulting in a suppression of responses to the nonpreferred motion direction. We constructed a passive, conductance-based model of a T4 cell that accurately predicts the neuron's response to moving stimuli. These results connect the known circuit anatomy of the motion pathway to the algorithmic mechanism by which the direction of motion is computed.

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    Romani LabMagee Lab
    09/08/17 | Behavioral time scale synaptic plasticity underlies CA1 place fields.
    Bittner KC, Milstein AD, Grienberger C, Romani S, Magee JC
    Science (New York, N.Y.). 2017 Sep 08;357(6355):1033-1036. doi: 10.1126/science.aan3846

    Learning is primarily mediated by activity-dependent modifications of synaptic strength within neuronal circuits. We discovered that place fields in hippocampal area CA1 are produced by a synaptic potentiation notably different from Hebbian plasticity. Place fields could be produced in vivo in a single trial by potentiation of input that arrived seconds before and after complex spiking. The potentiated synaptic input was not initially coincident with action potentials or depolarization. This rule, named behavioral time scale synaptic plasticity, abruptly modifies inputs that were neither causal nor close in time to postsynaptic activation. In slices, five pairings of subthreshold presynaptic activity and calcium (Ca(2+)) plateau potentials produced a large potentiation with an asymmetric seconds-long time course. This plasticity efficiently stores entire behavioral sequences within synaptic weights to produce predictive place cell activity.

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    06/07/17 | Memory retrieval from first principles.
    Katkov M, Romani S, Tsodyks M
    Neuron. 2017 Jun 07;94(5):1027-1032. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.03.048

    The dilemma that neurotheorists face is that (1) detailed biophysical models that can be constrained by direct measurements, while being of great importance, offer no immediate insights into cognitive processes in the brain, and (2) high-level abstract cognitive models, on the other hand, while relevant for understanding behavior, are largely detached from neuronal processes and typically have many free, experimentally unconstrained parameters that have to be tuned to a particular data set and, hence, cannot be readily generalized to other experimental paradigms. In this contribution, we propose a set of "first principles" for neurally inspired cognitive modeling of memory retrieval that has no biologically unconstrained parameters and can be analyzed mathematically both at neuronal and cognitive levels. We apply this framework to the classical cognitive paradigm of free recall. We show that the resulting model accounts well for puzzling behavioral data on human participants and makes predictions that could potentially be tested with neurophysiological recording techniques.

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    05/30/17 | Theta-paced flickering between place-cell maps in the hippocampus: A model based on short-term synaptic plasticity.
    Mark S, Romani S, Jezek K, Tsodyks M
    Hippocampus. 2017 May 30;27(9):959-70. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22743

    Hippocampal place cells represent different environments with distinct neural activity patterns. Following an abrupt switch between two familiar configurations of visual cues defining two environments, the hippocampal neural activity pattern switches almost immediately to the corresponding representation. Surprisingly, during a transient period following the switch to the new environment, occasional fast transitions of activity patterns between the representations (flickering) were observed (Jezek et al. 2011). Here we show that an attractor neural network model of place cells with connections endowed with short-term synaptic plasticity can account for this phenomenon. A memory trace of the recent history of network activity is maintained in the state of the synapses, allowing the network to temporarily reactivate the representation of the previous environment in the absence of the corresponding sensory cues. The model predicts that the number of flickering events depends on the amplitude of the ongoing theta rhythm and the distance between the current position of the animal and its position at the time of cue switching. We test these predictions with new analysis of experimental data. These results suggest a potential role of short-term synaptic plasticity in recruiting the activity of different cell assemblies and in shaping hippocampal activity of behaving animals. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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