Concept: Membrane potential
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.
The TRPM8 channel is a principal cold transducer that is expressed on some primary afferents of the somatic and cranial sensory systems. However, it is uncertain whether TRPM8-expressing afferent neurons have the ability to convey innocuous and noxious cold stimuli with sensory discrimination between the two sub-modalities. Using rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and the patch-clamp recording technique, we characterized membrane and action potential properties of TRPM8-expressing DRG neurons at 24°C and 10°C. TRPM8-expressing neurons could be classified into TTX-sensitive (TTXs/TRPM8) and TTX-resistant (TTXr/TRPM8) subtypes based on the sensitivity to tetrodotoxin (TTX) block of their action potentials. These two subtypes of cold-sensing cells displayed different membrane and action potential properties. Voltage-activated inward Na+ currents were highly susceptible to cooling temperature and abolished by ~95% at 10°C in TTXs/TRPM8 DRG neurons, but remained substantially large at 10°C in TTXr/TRPM8 cells. In both TTXs/TRPM8 and TTXr/TRPM8 cells, voltage-activated outward K+ currents were substantially inhibited at 10°C, and the cooling-sensitive outward currents resembled A-type K+ currents. TTXs/TRPM8 neurons and TTXr/TRPM8 neurons were shown to fire action potentials at innocuous and noxious cold temperatures respectively, demonstrating sensory discrimination between innocuous and noxious cold by the two subpopulations of cold-sensing DRG neurons. The effects of cooling temperatures on voltage-gated Na+ channels and A-type K+ currents are likely to be contributing factors to sensory discrimination of cold by TTXs/TRPM8 and TTXr/TRPM8 afferent neurons.
Identifying the determinants of neuronal energy consumption and their relationship to information coding is critical to understanding neuronal function and evolution. Three of the main determinants are cell size, ion channel density, and stimulus statistics. Here we investigate their impact on neuronal energy consumption and information coding by comparing single-compartment spiking neuron models of different sizes with different densities of stochastic voltage-gated Na(+) and K(+) channels and different statistics of synaptic inputs. The largest compartments have the highest information rates but the lowest energy efficiency for a given voltage-gated ion channel density, and the highest signaling efficiency (bits spike(-1)) for a given firing rate. For a given cell size, our models revealed that the ion channel density that maximizes energy efficiency is lower than that maximizing information rate. Low rates of small synaptic inputs improve energy efficiency but the highest information rates occur with higher rates and larger inputs. These relationships produce a Law of Diminishing Returns that penalizes costly excess information coding capacity, promoting the reduction of cell size, channel density, and input stimuli to the minimum possible, suggesting that the trade-off between energy and information has influenced all aspects of neuronal anatomy and physiology.Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication, 19 June 2013; doi:10.1038/jcbfm.2013.103.
The cellular components of mammalian neocortical circuits are diverse, and capturing this diversity in computational models is challenging. Here we report an approach for generating biophysically detailed models of 170 individual neurons in the Allen Cell Types Database to link the systematic experimental characterization of cell types to the construction of cortical models. We build models from 3D morphologies and somatic electrophysiological responses measured in the same cells. Densities of active somatic conductances and additional parameters are optimized with a genetic algorithm to match electrophysiological features. We evaluate the models by applying additional stimuli and comparing model responses to experimental data. Applying this technique across a diverse set of neurons from adult mouse primary visual cortex, we verify that models preserve the distinctiveness of intrinsic properties between subsets of cells observed in experiments. The optimized models are accessible online alongside the experimental data. Code for optimization and simulation is also openly distributed.
Studies on neural plasticity associated with brain-machine interface (BMI) exposure have primarily documented changes in single neuron activity, and largely in intact subjects. Here, we demonstrate significant changes in ensemble-level functional connectivity among primary motor cortical (MI) neurons of chronically amputated monkeys exposed to control a multiple-degree-of-freedom robot arm. A multi-electrode array was implanted in M1 contralateral or ipsilateral to the amputation in three animals. Two clusters of stably recorded neurons were arbitrarily assigned to control reach and grasp movements, respectively. With exposure, network density increased in a nearly monotonic fashion in the contralateral monkeys, whereas the ipsilateral monkey pruned the existing network before re-forming a denser connectivity. Excitatory connections among neurons within a cluster were denser, whereas inhibitory connections were denser among neurons across the two clusters. These results indicate that cortical network connectivity can be modified with BMI learning, even among neurons that have been chronically de-efferented and de-afferented due to amputation.
There is a high diversity of neuronal types in the mammalian neocortex. To facilitate construction of system models with multiple cell types, we generate a database of point models associated with the Allen Cell Types Database. We construct a set of generalized leaky integrate-and-fire (GLIF) models of increasing complexity to reproduce the spiking behaviors of 645 recorded neurons from 16 transgenic lines. The more complex models have an increased capacity to predict spiking behavior of hold-out stimuli. We use unsupervised methods to classify cell types, and find that high level GLIF model parameters are able to differentiate transgenic lines comparable to electrophysiological features. The more complex model parameters also have an increased ability to differentiate between transgenic lines. Thus, creating simple models is an effective dimensionality reduction technique that enables the differentiation of cell types from electrophysiological responses without the need for a priori-defined features. This database will provide a set of simplified models of multiple cell types for the community to use in network models.
Type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) are widely expressed in the vertebrate retina but the role of endocannabinoids in vision is not fully understood. Here we identified a novel mechanism underlying a CB1R-mediated increase in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) intrinsic excitability acting through AMPK-dependent inhibition of NKCC1 activity. Clomeleon imaging and patch clamp recordings revealed that inhibition of NKCC1 downstream of CB1R activation reduces intracellular Cl(-) levels in RGCs, hyperpolarizing the resting membrane potential. We confirmed that such hyperpolarization enhances RGC action potential firing in response to subsequent depolarization, consistent with the increased intrinsic excitability of RGCs observed with CB1R activation. Using a dot avoidance assay in freely swimming Xenopus tadpoles we demonstrate that CB1R activation markedly improves visual contrast sensitivity under low light conditions. These results highlight a role for endocannabinoids in vision, and present a novel mechanism for cannabinoid modulation of neuronal activity through Cl(-) regulation.
This review, one of a series of articles, tries to make sense of optogenetics, a recently developed technology that can be used to control the activity of genetically defined neurons with light. Cells are first genetically engineered to express a light-sensitive opsin, which is typically an ion channel, pump, or G protein-coupled receptor. When engineered cells are then illuminated with light of the correct frequency, opsin-bound retinal undergoes a conformational change that leads to channel opening or pump activation, cell depolarization or hyperpolarization, and neural activation or silencing. Since the advent of optogenetics many different opsin variants have been discovered or engineered, and it is now possible to stimulate or inhibit neuronal activity or intracellular signaling pathways on fast or slow timescales with a variety of different wavelengths of light. Optogenetics has been successfully employed to enhance our understanding of the neural circuit dysfunction underlying mood disorders, addiction, and Parkinson’s disease, and has enabled us to achieve a better understanding of the neural circuits mediating normal behavior. It has revolutionized the field of neuroscience, and has enabled a new generation of experiments that probe the causal roles of specific neural circuit components.
Pyramidal neurons represent the majority of excitatory neurons in the neocortex. Each pyramidal neuron receives input from thousands of excitatory synapses that are segregated onto dendritic branches. The dendrites themselves are segregated into apical, basal, and proximal integration zones, which have different properties. It is a mystery how pyramidal neurons integrate the input from thousands of synapses, what role the different dendrites play in this integration, and what kind of network behavior this enables in cortical tissue. It has been previously proposed that non-linear properties of dendrites enable cortical neurons to recognize multiple independent patterns. In this paper we extend this idea in multiple ways. First we show that a neuron with several thousand synapses segregated on active dendrites can recognize hundreds of independent patterns of cellular activity even in the presence of large amounts of noise and pattern variation. We then propose a neuron model where patterns detected on proximal dendrites lead to action potentials, defining the classic receptive field of the neuron, and patterns detected on basal and apical dendrites act as predictions by slightly depolarizing the neuron without generating an action potential. By this mechanism, a neuron can predict its activation in hundreds of independent contexts. We then present a network model based on neurons with these properties that learns time-based sequences. The network relies on fast local inhibition to preferentially activate neurons that are slightly depolarized. Through simulation we show that the network scales well and operates robustly over a wide range of parameters as long as the network uses a sparse distributed code of cellular activations. We contrast the properties of the new network model with several other neural network models to illustrate the relative capabilities of each. We conclude that pyramidal neurons with thousands of synapses, active dendrites, and multiple integration zones create a robust and powerful sequence memory. Given the prevalence and similarity of excitatory neurons throughout the neocortex and the importance of sequence memory in inference and behavior, we propose that this form of sequence memory may be a universal property of neocortical tissue.
Purkinje neurons are central to cerebellar function and show membrane bistability when recorded in vitro or in vivo under anesthesia. The existence of bistability in vivo in awake animals is disputed. Here, by recording intracellularly from Purkinje neurons in unanesthetized larval zebrafish (Danio rerio), we unequivocally demonstrate bistability in these neurons. Tonic firing was seen in depolarized regimes and bursting at hyperpolarized membrane potentials. In addition, Purkinje neurons could switch from one state to another spontaneously or with current injection. While GABAAR or NMDAR were not required for bursting, activation of AMPARs by climbing fibers (CFs) was sufficient to trigger bursts. Further, by recording Purkinje neuron membrane potential intracellularly, and motor neuron spikes extracellularly, we show that initiation of motor neuron spiking is correlated with increased incidence of CF EPSPs and membrane depolarization. Developmentally, bistability was observed soon after Purkinje neuron specification and persists at least until late larval stages.