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41 Janelia Publications

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    10/30/19 | Functional clustering of dendritic activity during decision-making.
    Kerlin A, Boaz M, Flickinger D, MacLennan BJ, Dean MB, Davis C, Spruston N, Svoboda K
    Elife. 2019 Oct 30;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.46966

    The active properties of dendrites can support local nonlinear operations, but previous imaging and electrophysiological measurements have produced conflicting views regarding the prevalence and selectivity of local nonlinearities in vivo. We imaged calcium signals in pyramidal cell dendrites in the motor cortex of mice performing a tactile decision task. A custom microscope allowed us to image the soma and up to 300 μm of contiguous dendrite at 15 Hz, while resolving individual spines. New analysis methods were used to estimate the frequency and spatial scales of activity in dendritic branches and spines. The majority of dendritic calcium transients were coincident with global events. However, task-associated calcium signals in dendrites and spines were compartmentalized by dendritic branching and clustered within branches over approximately 10 μm. Diverse behavior-related signals were intermingled and distributed throughout the dendritic arbor, potentially supporting a large learning capacity in individual neurons.

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    09/19/19 | Reconstruction of 1,000 projection neurons reveals new cell types and organization of long-range connectivity in the mouse brain.
    Winnubst J, Bas E, Ferreira TA, Wu Z, Economo MN, Edson P, Arthur BJ, Bruns C, Rokicki K, Schauder D, Olbris DJ, Murphy SD, Ackerman DG, Arshadi C, Baldwin P, Blake R, Elsayed A, Hasan M, Ramirez D, Dos Santos B, Weldon M, Zafar A, Dudman JT, Gerfen CR, Hantman AW, Korff W, Sternson SM, Spruston N, Svoboda K, Chandrashekar J
    Cell. 2019 Sep 19;179(1):268-81. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.07.042

    Neuronal cell types are the nodes of neural circuits that determine the flow of information within the brain. Neuronal morphology, especially the shape of the axonal arbor, provides an essential descriptor of cell type and reveals how individual neurons route their output across the brain. Despite the importance of morphology, few projection neurons in the mouse brain have been reconstructed in their entirety. Here we present a robust and efficient platform for imaging and reconstructing complete neuronal morphologies, including axonal arbors that span substantial portions of the brain. We used this platform to reconstruct more than 1,000 projection neurons in the motor cortex, thalamus, subiculum, and hypothalamus. Together, the reconstructed neurons constitute more than 85 meters of axonal length and are available in a searchable online database. Axonal shapes revealed previously unknown subtypes of projection neurons and suggest organizational principles of long-range connectivity.

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    04/12/19 | Mapping the transcriptional diversity of genetically and anatomically defined cell populations in the mouse brain.
    Sugino K, Clark E, Schulmann A, Shima Y, Wang L, Hunt DL, Hooks BM, Traenkner D, Chandrashekar J, Picard S, Lemire AL, Spruston N, Hantman AW, Nelson SB
    Elife. 2019 Apr 12;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.38619

    Understanding the principles governing neuronal diversity is a fundamental goal for neuroscience. Here we provide an anatomical and transcriptomic database of nearly 200 genetically identified cell populations. By separately analyzing the robustness and pattern of expression differences across these cell populations, we identify two gene classes contributing distinctly to neuronal diversity. Short homeobox transcription factors distinguish neuronal populations combinatorially, and exhibit extremely low transcriptional noise, enabling highly robust expression differences. Long neuronal effector genes, such as channels and cell adhesion molecules, contribute disproportionately to neuronal diversity, based on their patterns rather than robustness of expression differences. By linking transcriptional identity to genetic strains and anatomical atlases we provide an extensive resource for further investigation of mouse neuronal cell types.

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    04/01/19 | Multimodal in vivo brain electrophysiology with integrated glass microelectrodes.
    Hunt DL, Lai C, Smith RD, Lee AK, Harris TD, Barbic M
    Nature Biomedical Engineering. 2019 Apr 01;3(9):741-53. doi: 10.1038/s41551-019-0373-8

    Electrophysiology is the most used approach for the collection of functional data in basic and translational neuroscience, but it is typically limited to either intracellular or extracellular recordings. The integration of multiple physiological modalities for the routine acquisition of multimodal data with microelectrodes could be useful for biomedical applications, yet this has been challenging owing to incompatibilities of fabrication methods. Here, we present a suite of glass pipettes with integrated microelectrodes for the simultaneous acquisition of multimodal intracellular and extracellular information in vivo, electrochemistry assessments, and optogenetic perturbations of neural activity. We used the integrated devices to acquire multimodal signals from the CA1 region of the hippocampus in mice and rats, and show that these data can serve as ground-truth validation for the performance of spike-sorting algorithms. The microdevices are applicable for basic and translational neurobiology, and for the development of next-generation brain-machine interfaces.

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    02/18/19 | Heterogeneity within classical cell types is the rule: lessons from hippocampal pyramidal neurons.
    Cembrowski MS, Spruston N
    Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. 2019 Feb 18;20(4):193-204. doi: 10.1038/s41583-019-0125-5

    The mechanistic operation of brain regions is often interpreted by partitioning constituent neurons into 'cell types'. Historically, such cell types were broadly defined by their correspondence to gross features of the nervous system (such as cytoarchitecture). Modern-day neuroscientific techniques, enabling a more nuanced examination of neuronal properties, have illustrated a wealth of heterogeneity within these classical cell types. Here, we review the extent of this within-cell-type heterogeneity in one of the simplest cortical regions of the mammalian brain, the rodent hippocampus. We focus on the mounting evidence that the classical CA3, CA1 and subiculum pyramidal cell types all exhibit prominent and spatially patterned within-cell-type heterogeneity, and suggest these cell types provide a model system for exploring the organization and function of such heterogeneity. Given that the hippocampus is structurally simple and evolutionarily ancient, within-cell-type heterogeneity is likely to be a general and crucial feature of the mammalian brain.

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    10/30/18 | The subiculum is a patchwork of discrete subregions.
    Cembrowski MS, Wang L, Lemire AL, Copeland M, DiLisio SF, Clements J, Spruston N
    eLife. 2018 Oct 30;7:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.37701

    In the hippocampus, the classical pyramidal cell type of the subiculum acts as a primary output, conveying hippocampal signals to a diverse suite of downstream regions. Accumulating evidence suggests that the subiculum pyramidal cell population may actually be comprised of discrete subclasses. Here, we investigated the extent and organizational principles governing pyramidal cell heterogeneity throughout the mouse subiculum. Using single-cell RNA-seq, we find that the subiculum pyramidal cell population can be deconstructed into eight separable subclasses. These subclasses were mapped onto abutting spatial domains, ultimately producing a complex laminar and columnar organization with heterogeneity across classical dorsal-ventral, proximal-distal, and superficial-deep axes. We further show that these transcriptomically defined subclasses correspond to differential protein products and can be associated with specific projection targets. This work deconstructs the complex landscape of subiculum pyramidal cells into spatially segregated subclasses that may be observed, controlled, and interpreted in future experiments.

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    10/18/18 | Astrocytes integrate and drive action potential firing in inhibitory subnetworks.
    Deemyad T, Lüthi J, Spruston N
    Nature Communications. 2018 Oct 18;9(1):4336. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06338-3

    Many brain functions depend on the ability of neural networks to temporally integrate transient inputs to produce sustained discharges. This can occur through cell-autonomous mechanisms in individual neurons and through reverberating activity in recurrently connected neural networks. We report a third mechanism involving temporal integration of neural activity by a network of astrocytes. Previously, we showed that some types of interneurons can generate long-lasting trains of action potentials (barrage firing) following repeated depolarizing stimuli. Here we show that calcium signaling in an astrocytic network correlates with barrage firing; that active depolarization of astrocyte networks by chemical or optogenetic stimulation enhances; and that chelating internal calcium, inhibiting release from internal stores, or inhibiting GABA transporters or metabotropic glutamate receptors inhibits barrage firing. Thus, networks of astrocytes influence the spatiotemporal dynamics of neural networks by directly integrating neural activity and driving barrages of action potentials in some populations of inhibitory interneurons.

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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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    06/05/18 | Persistent sodium current mediates the steep voltage dependence of spatial coding in hippocampal pyramidal neurons.
    Hsu C, Zhao X, Milstein AD, Spruston N
    Neuron. 2018 Jun 05:. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.05.025

    The mammalian hippocampus forms a cognitive map using neurons that fire according to an animal's position ("place cells") and many other behavioral and cognitive variables. The responses of these neurons are shaped by their presynaptic inputs and the nature of their postsynaptic integration. In CA1 pyramidal neurons, spatial responses in vivo exhibit a strikingly supralinear dependence on baseline membrane potential. The biophysical mechanisms underlying this nonlinear cellular computation are unknown. Here, through a combination of in vitro, in vivo, and in silico approaches, we show that persistent sodium current mediates the strong membrane potential dependence of place cell activity. This current operates at membrane potentials below the action potential threshold and over seconds-long timescales, mediating a powerful and rapidly reversible amplification of synaptic responses, which drives place cell firing. Thus, we identify a biophysical mechanism that shapes the coding properties of neurons composing the hippocampal cognitive map.

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    05/23/18 | Cell-type specific changes in glial morphology and glucocorticoid expression during stress and aging in the medial prefrontal cortex.
    Chan TE, Grossman YS, Bloss EB, Janssen WG, Lou W, McEwen BS, Dumitriu D, Morrison JH
    Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2018 May 23;10:. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2018.00146

    Repeated exposure to stressors is known to produce large-scale remodeling of neurons within the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Recent work suggests stress-related forms of structural plasticity can interact with aging to drive distinct patterns of pyramidal cell morphological changes. However, little is known about how other cellular components within PFC might be affected by these challenges. Here, we examined the effects of stress exposure and aging on medial prefrontal cortical glial subpopulations. Interestingly, we found no changes in glial morphology with stress exposure but a profound morphological change with aging. Furthermore, we found an upregulation of non-nuclear glucocorticoid receptors (GR) with aging, while nuclear levels remained largely unaffected. Both changes are selective for microglia, with no stress or aging effect found in astrocytes. Lastly, we show that the changes found within microglia inversely correlated with the density of dendritic spines on layer III pyramidal cells. These findings suggest microglia play a selective role in synaptic health within the aging brain.

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