Ultra fast tissue staining with chemical tags

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Genetically encoded fluorescent proteins and immunostainings are widely used to detect cellular or sub-cellular structures in thick biological samples. However, each approach suffers from limitations, including low signal and limited spectral flexibility or slow speed, poor penetration and high background, respectively. Here we overcome these limitations by using transgenically expressed chemical tags for rapid, even and low-background labeling of thick biological tissues. We construct a platform of widely applicable transgenic Drosophila reporter lines, demonstrating that chemical labeling can accelerate staining of whole-mount fly brains by a factor of 100x. Together, this tag-based approach drastically improves the speed and specificity of labeling genetically marked cells in intact and/or thick biological samples.


Collecting reward to defend homeostasis: A homeostatic reinforcement learning theory

Efficient regulation of internal homeostasis and defending it against perturbations requires complex behavioral strategies. However, the computational principles mediating brain’s homeostatic regulation of reward and associative learning remain undefined. Here we use a definition of primary rewards, as outcomes fulfilling physiological needs, to build a normative theory showing how learning motivated behavior is modulated by the internal state of the animal. The theory proves that seeking rewards is equivalent to the fundamental objective of physiological stability, defining the notion of physiological rationality of behavior. We further give a formal basis for temporal discounting of reward. It also explains how animals learn to act predictively to preclude prospective homeostatic challenges, and attributes a normative computational role to the modulation of midbrain dopaminergic activity by hypothalamic signals. 

Independent Theta Phase Coding Accounts for CA1 Population Sequences and Enables Flexible Remapping

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Populations of hippocampal place cells encode an animal’s past, current and future location through sequences of action potentials generated within each cycle of the network theta rhythm. These sequential representations have been suggested to result from temporally coordinated synaptic interactions within and between cell assemblies. In contrast, we show that a model based on rate and phase coding in independent neurons is sufficient to explain the organization of CA1 population activity during theta states. We show that CA1 population activity can be described as an evolving traveling wave that exhibits phase coding, rate coding, spike sequences and that generates an emergent population theta rhythm. We identify measures of global remapping and intracellular theta dynamics as critical for distinguishing mechanisms for pacemaking and coordination of sequential population activity. Our analysis suggests that independent coding enables flexible generation of sequential population activity within the duration of a single theta cycle.

Missing kinaesthesia challenges precise naturalistic cortical prosthetic control


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A major assumption of brain-machine interface (BMI) research is that patients with disconnected neural pathways can still volitionally recall precise motor commands that could be decoded for naturalistic prosthetic control. However, the disconnected condition of these patients also blocks kinaesthetic feedback from the periphery, which has been shown to regulate centrally generated output responsible for accurate motor control. Here we tested how well motor commands are generated in the absence of kinaesthetic feedback by decoding hand movements from human scalp electroencephalography (EEG) in three conditions: unimpaired movement, imagined movement, and movement attempted during temporary disconnection of peripheral afferent and efferent nerves by ischemic nerve block. Our results suggest that the recall of cortical motor commands is impoverished in absence of kinaesthetic feedback, challenging the possibility of precise naturalistic cortical prosthetic control.

Visual areas exert feedforward and feedback influences through distinct frequency channels


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Visual cortical areas are thought to form a hierarchy and to subserve cognitive functions by interacting in both feedforward and feedback directions. While feedforward influences convey sensory signals, feedback influences modulate brain responses to a given sensory stimulus according to the current behavioural context. Many studies have demonstrated effects of feedback influences on feedforward driven responses and on behaviour. Also, anatomical projections in both directions have been identified. However, although these studies have revealed the anatomical paths and the neurophysiological consequences of influences in both directions, the neurophysiological mechanisms through which these influences are exerted remain largely elusive. Here we show that in the primate visual system, feedforward influences are carried by theta-band (~4 Hz) and gamma-band (~60-80 Hz) synchronization, and feedback influences by beta-band (~14-18 Hz) synchronization. These frequency-specific asymmetries in directed influences were revealed by simultaneous local field potential recordings from eight visual areas and an analysis of Granger-causal influences across all 28 pairs of areas. The asymmetries in directed influences correlated directly with asymmetries in anatomy and enabled us to build a visual cortical hierarchy from the influence asymmetries alone. Across different task periods, most areas stayed at their hierarchical position, whereas particularly frontal areas moved dynamically. Our results demonstrate that feedforward and feedback signalling use different frequency channels, which might subserve their differential communication requirements and lead to differential local consequences. The possibility to infer hierarchical relationships through functional data alone might make it possible to derive a cortical hierarchy in the living human brain.

Pre-trial exogenous visual flicker does not affect behavioral or EEG signatures of conflict processing


Activity in the theta frequency band (4-8 Hz) over medial prefrontal regions has been consistently implicated in top-down cognitive control processes, including recognizing and resolving response conflict. It remains an unanswered question whether these theta-band dynamics are a neural mechanism of cognitive control, or instead are epiphenomenal to the neural computational machinery but are useful indices of brain function. Here we addressed this question by attempting to boost conflict processing (or its EEG theta-band signatures) via pre-trial exogenous theta-band visual flicker. Although the flicker successfully entrained posterior brain networks, there were no effects of flicker on behavior or on EEG signatures of conflict processing. In this paper, we detail our attempts and discuss possible future directions for using exogenous flicker in the study of the role of endogenous brain oscillations in conflict processing.

Functional knockout of forebrain protein 14-3-3 disrupts conditioned taste aversion learning

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Protein 14-3-3 isoforms are key to many cellular processes and are ubiquitous throughout the brain. 14-3-3 is a regulator of ser/thr phospho-signaling by binding and sequestering phosphorylated substrates including kinases, histone deactylases, and transcription factors. The role of protein 14-3-3 in conditioned taste aversion learning (CTA) has not previously been examined. We parameterized CTA learning in difopein- YFP transgenic mice, which have widespread by expression of the artificial peptide difopein in the forebrain, including the basolateral amygdala and insular cortex, resulting in functional knock-out (FKO) of all 14-3-3 isoforms . We found that a single pairing of saccharin or NaCl (CS) and LiCl injection (US) was not sufficient to induce CTA in FKO mice. Multiples pairings of CS and US did lead to CTA acquisition in the FKO mice; however, the CTA rapidly extinguished within 30 minutes to 24 hours after acquisition. Additionally, we found that 14-3-3 FKO mice have an attenuated visceral neuraxis response to LiCl as measured by c-Fos induction. The deficit in FKO was not due to an inability to discriminate or avoid tastants, because they showed normal unconditioned taste preferences for both palatable (saccharin, maltodextrin , low concentration NaCl) and unpalatable tastants (quinine, HCl, and high concentration NaCl) and they were able to reduce intake of a maltodextrin solution adulterated with quinine. The FKO did not have a global deficit in ingestive learning, because they were able to form a conditioned flavor-nutrient preference. Thus, FKO of forebrain 14-3-3 appears to disrupt CTA learning leading to forgetting, rapid extinction, or failure to reconsolidate. This further implicates ser/thr phospho-signaling pathways in the regulation of long-term CTA learning.