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Concept: Electrophysiology


Flexible, wearable sensing devices can yield important information about the underlying physiology of a human subject for applications in real-time health and fitness monitoring. Despite significant progress in the fabrication of flexible biosensors that naturally comply with the epidermis, most designs measure only a small number of physical or electrophysiological parameters, and neglect the rich chemical information available from biomarkers. Here, we introduce a skin-worn wearable hybrid sensing system that offers simultaneous real-time monitoring of a biochemical (lactate) and an electrophysiological signal (electrocardiogram), for more comprehensive fitness monitoring than from physical or electrophysiological sensors alone. The two sensing modalities, comprising a three-electrode amperometric lactate biosensor and a bipolar electrocardiogram sensor, are co-fabricated on a flexible substrate and mounted on the skin. Human experiments reveal that physiochemistry and electrophysiology can be measured simultaneously with negligible cross-talk, enabling a new class of hybrid sensing devices.

Concepts: Chemistry, Electrophysiology, Cardiac electrophysiology, Signal processing, Electroencephalography, Skin, Sensors, Electrocardiography


Behavioral output of neural networks depends on a delicate balance between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic connections. However, it is not known whether network formation and stability is constrained by the sign of synaptic connections between neurons within the network. Here we show that switching the sign of a synapse within a neural circuit can reverse the behavioral output. The inhibitory tyramine-gated chloride channel, LGC-55, induces head relaxation and inhibits forward locomotion during the Caenorhabditis elegans escape response. We switched the ion selectivity of an inhibitory LGC-55 anion channel to an excitatory LGC-55 cation channel. The engineered cation channel is properly trafficked in the native neural circuit and results in behavioral responses that are opposite to those produced by activation of the LGC-55 anion channel. Our findings indicate that switches in ion selectivity of ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) do not affect network connectivity or stability and may provide an evolutionary and a synthetic mechanism to change behavior.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Caenorhabditis elegans, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Ion, Ion channels, Membrane potential


The auditory pathways coursing through the brainstem are organized bilaterally in mirror image about the midline and at several levels the two sides are interconnected. One of the most prominent points of interconnection is the commissure of the inferior colliculus (CoIC). Anatomical studies have revealed that these fibers make reciprocal connections which follow the tonotopic organization of the inferior colliculus (IC), and that the commissure contains both excitatory and, albeit fewer, inhibitory fibers. The role of these connections in sound processing is largely unknown. Here we describe a method to address this question in the anaesthetized guinea pig. We used a cryoloop placed on one IC to produce reversible deactivation while recording electrophysiological responses to sounds in both ICs. We recorded single units, multi-unit clusters and local field potentials (LFPs) before, during and after cooling. The degree and spread of cooling was measured with a thermocouple placed in the IC and other auditory structures. Cooling sufficient to eliminate firing was restricted to the IC contacted by the cryoloop. The temperature of other auditory brainstem structures, including the contralateral IC and the cochlea were minimally affected. Cooling below 20°C reduced or eliminated the firing of action potentials in frequency laminae at depths corresponding to characteristic frequencies up to ~8 kHz. Modulation of neural activity also occurred in the un-cooled IC with changes in single unit firing and LFPs. Components of LFPs signaling lemniscal afferent input to the IC showed little change in amplitude or latency with cooling, whereas the later components, which likely reflect inter- and intra-collicular processing, showed marked changes in form and amplitude. We conclude that the cryoloop is an effective method of selectively deactivating one IC in guinea pig, and demonstrate that auditory processing in the IC is strongly influenced by the other.

Concepts: Action potential, Electrophysiology, Auditory system, Sound, Superior colliculus, Excitatory postsynaptic potential, Inhibitory postsynaptic potential, Inferior colliculus


Theoretical and computational frameworks for synaptic plasticity and learning have a long and cherished history, with few parallels within the well-established literature for plasticity of voltage-gated ion channels. In this study, we derive rules for plasticity in the hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels, and assess the synergy between synaptic and HCN channel plasticity in establishing stability during synaptic learning. To do this, we employ a conductance-based model for the hippocampal pyramidal neuron, and incorporate synaptic plasticity through the well-established Bienenstock-Cooper-Munro (BCM)-like rule for synaptic plasticity, wherein the direction and strength of the plasticity is dependent on the concentration of calcium influx. Under this framework, we derive a rule for HCN channel plasticity to establish homeostasis in synaptically-driven firing rate, and incorporate such plasticity into our model. In demonstrating that this rule for HCN channel plasticity helps maintain firing rate homeostasis after bidirectional synaptic plasticity, we observe a linear relationship between synaptic plasticity and HCN channel plasticity for maintaining firing rate homeostasis. Motivated by this linear relationship, we derive a calcium-dependent rule for HCN-channel plasticity, and demonstrate that firing rate homeostasis is maintained in the face of synaptic plasticity when moderate and high levels of cytosolic calcium influx induced depression and potentiation of the HCN-channel conductance, respectively. Additionally, we show that such synergy between synaptic and HCN-channel plasticity enhances the stability of synaptic learning through metaplasticity in the BCM-like synaptic plasticity profile. Finally, we demonstrate that the synergistic interaction between synaptic and HCN-channel plasticity preserves robustness of information transfer across the neuron under a rate-coding schema. Our results establish specific physiological roles for experimentally observed plasticity in HCN channels accompanying synaptic plasticity in hippocampal neurons, and uncover potential links between HCN-channel plasticity and calcium influx, dynamic gain control and stable synaptic learning.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Ion channels, Pyramidal cell, Integral membrane proteins, Neurochemistry


Primary erythromelalgia (PE) is an autosomal dominant neurological disorder characterized by severe burning pain and erythema in the extremities upon heat stimuli or exercise. Mutations in human SCN9A gene, encoding the α-subunit of the voltage-gated sodium channel, Na(v)1.7, were found to be responsible for PE. Three missense mutations of SCN9A gene have recently been identified in Taiwanese patients including a familial (I136V) and two sporadic mutations (I848T, V1316A). V1316A is a novel mutation and has not been characterized yet. Topologically, I136V is located in DI/S1 segment and both I848T and V1316A are located in S4-S5 linker region of DII and DIII domains, respectively. To characterize the elelctrophysiological manifestations, the channel conductance with whole-cell patch clamp was recorded on the over-expressed Chinese hamster overy cells. As compared with wild type, the mutant channels showed a significant hyperpolarizing shift in voltage dependent activation and a depolarizing shift in steady-state fast inactivation. The recovery time from channel inactivation is faster in the mutant than in the wild type channels. Since warmth can trigger and exacerbate symptoms, we then examine the influence of tempearture on the sodium channel conduction. At 35°C, I136V and V1316A mutant channels exhibit a further hyperpolarizing shift at activation as compared with wild type channel, even though wild type channel also produced a significant hyperpolarizing shift compared to that of 25°C. High temperature caused a significant depolarizing shift in steady-state fast inactivation in all three mutant channels. These findings may confer to the hyperexcitability of sensory neurons, especially at high temperature. In order to identifying an effective treatment, we tested the IC(50) values of selective sodium channel blockers, lidocaine and mexiletine. The IC(50) for mexiletine is lower for I848T mutant channel as compared to that of the wild type and other two mutants which is comparable to the clinical observations.

Concepts: DNA, Mutation, Mutant, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Point mutation, Missense mutation, Erythromelalgia


The electroencephalogram (EEG) reflects brain electrical activity. A flat (isoelectric) EEG, which is usually recorded during very deep coma, is considered to be a turning point between a living brain and a deceased brain. Therefore the isoelectric EEG constitutes, together with evidence of irreversible structural brain damage, one of the criteria for the assessment of brain death. In this study we use EEG recordings for humans on the one hand, and on the other hand double simultaneous intracellular recordings in the cortex and hippocampus, combined with EEG, in cats. They serve to demonstrate that a novel brain phenomenon is observable in both humans and animals during coma that is deeper than the one reflected by the isoelectric EEG, and that this state is characterized by brain activity generated within the hippocampal formation. This new state was induced either by medication applied to postanoxic coma (in human) or by application of high doses of anesthesia (isoflurane in animals) leading to an EEG activity of quasi-rhythmic sharp waves which henceforth we propose to call ν-complexes (Nu-complexes). Using simultaneous intracellular recordings in vivo in the cortex and hippocampus (especially in the CA3 region) we demonstrate that ν-complexes arise in the hippocampus and are subsequently transmitted to the cortex. The genesis of a hippocampal ν-complex depends upon another hippocampal activity, known as ripple activity, which is not overtly detectable at the cortical level. Based on our observations, we propose a scenario of how self-oscillations in hippocampal neurons can lead to a whole brain phenomenon during coma.

Concepts: Brain, Electrophysiology, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Electroencephalography, Coma, Electrocardiography


The brain is assumed to be hypoactive during cardiac arrest. However, the neurophysiological state of the brain immediately following cardiac arrest has not been systematically investigated. In this study, we performed continuous electroencephalography in rats undergoing experimental cardiac arrest and analyzed changes in power density, coherence, directed connectivity, and cross-frequency coupling. We identified a transient surge of synchronous gamma oscillations that occurred within the first 30 s after cardiac arrest and preceded isoelectric electroencephalogram. Gamma oscillations during cardiac arrest were global and highly coherent; moreover, this frequency band exhibited a striking increase in anterior-posterior-directed connectivity and tight phase-coupling to both theta and alpha waves. High-frequency neurophysiological activity in the near-death state exceeded levels found during the conscious waking state. These data demonstrate that the mammalian brain can, albeit paradoxically, generate neural correlates of heightened conscious processing at near-death.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Electrophysiology, Neuroscience, Cognition, Neurology, Electroencephalography, Mind


Electroencephalographic hyperscanning was used to investigate interbrain synchronization patterns in dyads of participants interacting through speech. Results show that brain oscillations are synchronized between listener and speaker during oral narratives. This interpersonal synchronization is mediated in part by a lower-level sensory mechanism of speech-to-brain synchronization, but also by the interactive process that takes place in the situation per se. These results demonstrate the existence of brain-to-brain entrainment which is not merely an epiphenomenon of auditory processing, during listening to one speaker. The study highlights the validity of the two-person neuroscience framework for understanding induced brain activity, and suggests that verbal information exchange cannot be fully understood by examining the listener’s or speaker’s brain activity in isolation.

Concepts: Brain, Electrophysiology, Neuroscience, Cognitive science, Electroencephalography


The ability of azobenzene trimethylammonium bromide (azoTAB) to sensitize cardiac tissue excitability to light was recently reported. The dark, thermally relaxed trans- isomer of azoTAB suppressed spontaneous activity and excitation propagation speed, whereas the cis- isomer had no detectable effect on the electrical properties of cardiomyocyte monolayers. As the membrane potential of cardiac cells is mainly controlled by activity of voltage-gated ion channels, this study examined whether the sensitization effect of azoTAB was exerted primarily via the modulation of voltage-gated ion channel activity. The effects of trans- and cis- isomers of azoTAB on voltage-dependent sodium (INav), calcium (ICav), and potassium (IKv) currents in isolated neonatal rat cardiomyocytes were investigated using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. The experiments showed that azoTAB modulated ion currents, causing suppression of sodium (Na+) and calcium (Ca2+) currents and potentiation of net potassium (K+) currents. This finding confirms that azoTAB-effect on cardiac tissue excitability do indeed result from modulation of voltage-gated ion channels responsible for action potential.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Voltage-gated potassium channel, Potassium channel, Patch clamp


Efference copies refer to internal duplicates of movement-producing neural signals. Their primary function is to predict, and often suppress, the sensory consequences of willed movements. Efference copies have been almost exclusively investigated in the context of overt movements. The current electrophysiological study employed a novel design to show that inner speech - the silent production of words in one’s mind - is also associated with an efference copy. Participants produced an inner phoneme at a precisely specified time, at which an audible phoneme was concurrently presented. The production of the inner phoneme resulted in electrophysiological suppression, but only if the content of the inner phoneme matched the content of the audible phoneme. These results demonstrate that inner speech - a purely mental action - is associated with an efference copy with detailed auditory properties. These findings suggest that inner speech may ultimately reflect a special type of overt speech.

Concepts: Neuron, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Neuroscience, Novel, Neurophysiology, Suppression, Suppression of dissent