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Current Opinion in Neurobiology

Priyanka Rao-Ruiz, Julia Yu, Steven A Kushner, Sheena A Josselyn
Extensive work in computational modeling has highlighted the advantages for employing sparse yet distributed data representation and storage Kanerva (1998), properties that extend to neuronal networks encoding mnemonic information (memory traces or engrams). While neurons that participate in an engram are distributed across multiple brain regions, within each region, the cellular sparsity of the mnemonic representation appears to be quite fixed. Although technological advances have enabled significant progress in identifying and manipulating engrams, relatively little is known about the region-dependent microcircuit rules governing the cellular sparsity of an engram...
November 10, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Paul S Katz, Phoenix D Quinlan
Gastropod molluscs have large neurons that are uniquely identifiable across individuals and across species based on neuroanatomical and neurochemical criteria, facilitating research into neural signaling and neural circuits. Novel neuropeptides have been identified through RNA sequencing and mass spectroscopic analysis of single neurons. The roles of peptides and other signaling molecules including second messengers have been placed in the context of small circuits that control simple behaviors. Despite the stereotypy, neurons vary over time in their activity in large ensembles...
October 31, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Igor Delvendahl, Martin Müller
Plastic changes in synaptic transmission are thought to underlie learning and memory formation. However, changes in synaptic function are only meaningful in the context of stable baseline function. Accumulating evidence suggests that homeostatic signaling systems actively stabilize synaptic transmission in response to neural activity perturbation. Homeostatic mechanisms control both presynaptic and postsynaptic function. Here, we review recent advances in the field of presynaptic homeostatic plasticity (PHP)...
October 25, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Andreas S Thum, Bertram Gerber
The Drosophila larva is a relatively simple, 10 000-neuron study case for learning and memory with enticing analytical power, combining genetic tractability, the availability of robust behavioral assays, the opportunity for single-cell transgenic manipulation, and an emerging synaptic connectome of its complete central nervous system. Indeed, although the insect mushroom body is a much-studied memory network, the connectome revealed that more than half of the classes of connection within the mushroom body had escaped attention...
October 24, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Jeffrey M Donlea
Sleep has been universally conserved across animal species. The basic functions of sleep remain unclear, but insufficient sleep impairs memory acquisition and retention in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Sleep is also a homeostatic process that is influenced not only by the amount of time awake, but also by neural activity and plasticity. Because of the breadth and precision of available genetic tools, the fruit fly has become a powerful model system to understand sleep regulation and function. Importantly, these tools enable the dissection of memory-encoding circuits at the level of individual neurons, and have allowed the development of genetic tools to induce sleep on-demand...
October 23, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Markus Knaden
The desert ant Cataglyphis inhabits the arid environment of North Africa where it forages individually for dead arthropods. Because of the ants' high motivation to find the nest entrance and due to the almost lab-like conditions of their environment - the flat salt pan (where visual information and partly also olfactory information available to a homing ant can be easily manipulated) - Cataglyphis has become an important model for animal navigation. So far, we know a lot about how Cataglyphis uses path integration and learns visual and olfactory cues to return to its nest entrance after far-reaching foraging runs...
October 22, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Hernán López-Schier
Learning is essential for animal survival under changing environments. Even in its simplest form, learning involves interactions between a handful of neuronal circuits, hundreds of neurons and many thousand synapses. In this review I will focus on habituation - a form of non-associative learning during which organisms decrease their response to repetitions of identical sensory stimuli. I will discuss how recent studies of the acoustic startle reflex mediated by the Mauthner cell in the zebrafish larva are helping to understand the neuroplastic processes that underlie habituation...
October 22, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Sarah C Woolley
Dopaminergic projections to the basal ganglia and nucleus accumbens shape the learning and plasticity of motivated behaviors across species. In songbirds, vocal learning relies on an evolutionarily specialized basal ganglia nucleus, Area X, densely innervated by dopaminergic inputs from the ventral tegmental area (VTA). While this positions songbirds as a unique model in which to tease apart the contributions of VTA dopamine neurons to vocal learning and performance, that potential has been largely underrealized...
October 22, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Marion R Van Horn, Edward S Ruthazer
The dynamic interaction between neurons and glia is a fundamental aspect of developmental neurobiology. Astrocytic processes are extremely complex and can physically surround neuronal synapses where they are involved in regulating neuronal activity and synaptic plasticity. This review describes important roles glial cells play in synapse maturation and stabilization in the developing central nervous system. We highlight recent evidence showing that the motility of astrocytic and radial glial processes is modulated by neuronal signals and is important for normal synapse maturation and function...
October 19, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Taro Kitazawa, Filippo M Rijli
The rodent whiskers are topographically mapped in brainstem sensory nuclei as neuronal modules known as barrelettes. Little is known about how the facial whisker pattern is copied into a brainstem barrelette topographic pattern, which serves as a template for the establishment of thalamic barreloid and, in turn, cortical barrel maps, and how precisely is the whisker pattern mapped in the brainstem during prenatal development. Here, we review recent insights advancing our understanding of the intrinsic and extrinsic patterning mechanisms contributing to establish topographical equivalence between the facial whisker pattern and the mouse brainstem during prenatal development and their relative importance...
October 17, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Supraja G Varadarajan, Andrew D Huberman
Vision is the sense humans rely on most to navigate the world and survive. A tremendous amount of research has focused on understanding the neural circuits for vision and the developmental mechanisms that establish them. The eye-to-brain, or 'retinofugal' pathway remains a particularly important model in these contexts because it is essential for sight, its overt anatomical features relate to distinct functional attributes and those features develop in a tractable sequence. Much progress has been made in understanding the growth of retinal axons out of the eye, their selection of targets in the brain, the development of laminar and cell type-specific connectivity within those targets, and also dendritic connectivity within the retina itself...
October 16, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Lisa Topolnik, Olivier Camiré
Understanding of how intracellular calcium (Ca2+ ) signals regulate the efficacy of transmission at excitatory and inhibitory synapses in the central nervous system (CNS) has been a focus of intense investigation. This review discusses recent findings on how Ca2+ signals are integrated in dendrites of inhibitory interneurons to regulate their synapses. In particular, Ca2+ signaling through intracellular Ca2+ release plays an essential role in synaptic signal transduction and experience-dependent plasticity in dendrites of interneurons...
October 12, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Elodie Perrin, Laurent Venance
The striatum, the main input nucleus of the basal ganglia, controls goal-directed behavior and procedural learning. Striatal projection neurons integrate glutamatergic inputs from cortex and thalamus together with neuromodulatory systems, and are subjected to plasticity. Striatal projection neurons exhibit bidirectional plasticity (LTP and LTD) when exposed to Hebbian paradigms. Importantly, correlative and even causal links between procedural learning and striatal plasticity have recently been shown. This short review summarizes the current view on striatal plasticity (with a focus on spike-timing-dependent plasticity), recent studies aiming at bridging in vivo skill acquisition and striatal plasticity, the temporal credit-assignment problem, and the gaps that remain to be filled...
October 12, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Joseph R Knoedler, Nirao M Shah
A long-standing goal in developmental neuroscience is to understand the mechanisms by which steroid sex hormones pattern the mammalian central nervous system along male or female pathways to enable subsequent displays of sexually dimorphic behaviors. In this article, we review recent advances in understanding the epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms mediating sexual differentiation of the brain in mammals, flies, and worms. These studies suggest a model of sexual differentiation wherein master regulators of sex determination initiate a cascade of sexually dimorphic gene expression that controls development of neural pathways and behavioral displays in a strikingly modular manner...
October 10, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Milton Llera-Montero, João Sacramento, Rui Ponte Costa
The probabilistic nature of synaptic transmission has remained enigmatic. However, recent developments have started to shed light on why the brain may rely on probabilistic synapses. Here, we start out by reviewing experimental evidence on the specificity and plasticity of synaptic response statistics. Next, we overview different computational perspectives on the function of plastic probabilistic synapses for constrained, statistical and deep learning. We highlight that all of these views require some form of optimisation of probabilistic synapses, which has recently gained support from theoretical analysis of long-term synaptic plasticity experiments...
October 8, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Mary H Patton, Jay A Blundon, Stanislav S Zakharenko
Cortical circuits are particularly sensitive to incoming sensory information during well-defined intervals of postnatal development called 'critical periods'. The critical period for cortical plasticity closes in adults, thus restricting the brain's ability to indiscriminately store new sensory information. For example, children acquire language in an exposure-based manner, whereas learning language in adulthood requires more effort and attention. It has been suggested that pairing sounds with the activation of neuromodulatory circuits involved in attention reopens this critical period...
October 1, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Anaïs Bellon, Fanny Mann
Twenty-five years after the discovery of the first chemotropic molecules for growing axons, what are the new findings? This review describes the latest progress made in our understanding of the molecular control of axonal guidance in the vertebrate nervous system. Special focus will be given to new molecular players, their source and location in vivo, and the role of membrane/receptor trafficking and RNA-based mechanisms in axon guidance cue signalling.
September 27, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Shannon K Rich, Jonathan R Terman
Understanding how neurons form, extend, and navigate their finger-like axonal and dendritic processes is crucial for developing therapeutics for the diseased and damaged brain. Although less well appreciated, many other types of cells also send out similar finger-like projections. Indeed, unlike neuronal specific phenomena such as synapse formation or synaptic transmission, an important issue for thought is that this critical long-standing question of how a cellular process like an axon or dendrite forms and extends is not primarily a neuroscience problem but a cell biological problem...
September 21, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Dominique Debanne, Yanis Inglebert, Michaël Russier
Long-term synaptic modification is not the exclusive mode of memory storage, and persistent regulation of voltage-gated ion channels also participates in memory formation. Intrinsic plasticity is expressed in virtually all neuronal types including principal cells and interneurons. Activation of synaptic glutamate receptors initiates long-lasting changes in neuronal excitability at presynaptic and postsynaptic side. As synaptic plasticity, intrinsic plasticity is bi-directional and expresses a certain level of input-specificity or cell-specificity...
September 19, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Vittoria Mariano, Nuria Domínguez-Iturza, Lukas J Neukomm, Claudia Bagni
Adult, circuit-integrated neurons must be maintained and supported for the life span of their host. The attenuation of either maintenance or plasticity leads to impaired circuit function and ultimately to neurodegenerative disorders. Over the last few years, significant discoveries of molecular mechanisms were made that mediate the formation and maintenance of axons. Here, we highlight intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms that ensure the health and survival of axons. We also briefly discuss examples of mutations associated with impaired axonal maintenance identified in specific neurological conditions...
September 18, 2018: Current Opinion in Neurobiology
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