Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New mathematical method reveals structure in neural activity in the brain

20.10.2015

A newly-developed mathematical method can detect geometric structure in neural activity in the brain. "Previously, in order to understand this structure, scientists needed to relate neural activity to some specific external stimulus," said Vladimir Itskov, associate professor of mathematics at Penn State University.

"Our method is the first to be able to reveal this structure without our knowing an external stimulus ahead of time. We've now shown that our new method will allow us to explore the organizational structure of neurons without knowing their function in advance."


This is an artist's illustration of neurons.

Credit: Benedict Campbell, Wellcome Images/CC

"The traditional methods used by researchers to analyze the relationship between the activities of neurons were adopted from physics," said Carina Curto, associate professor of mathematics at Penn State, "but neuroscience data doesn't necessarily play by the same rules as data from physics, so we need new tools. Our method is a first step toward developing a new mathematical toolkit to uncover the structure of neural circuits with unknown function in the brain."

The method -- clique topology -- was developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The method is described in a paper that will be posted in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week ending October 23, 2015.

"We have adopted approaches from the field of algebraic topology that previously had been used primarily in the domain of pure mathematics and have applied them to experimental data on the activity of place cells -- specialized neurons in the part of the brain called the hippocampus that sense the position of an animal in its environment," said Curto.

The researchers measured the activity of place cells in the brains of rats during three different experimental conditions. They then analyzed the pairwise correlations of this activity -- how the firing of each neuron was related to the firing of every other neuron.

In the first condition, the rats were allowed to roam freely in their environment -- a behavior where the activity of place cells is directly related to the location of the animal in its environment. They searched the data to find groups of neurons, or "cliques," in which the activity of all members of the clique was related to the activity of every other member. Their analysis of these cliques, using methods from algebraic topology, revealed an organized geometric structure. Surprisingly, the researchers found similar structure in the activities among place cells in the other two conditions they tested, wheel-running and sleep, where place cells are not expected to have geometric organization.

"Because the structure we detected was similar in all three experimental conditions, we think that we are picking up the fundamental organization of place cells in the hippocampus," said Itskov.

###

In addition to Itskov and Curto, other members of the research team include Chad Giusti at the University of Pennsylvania and Eva Pastalkova at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (grant numbers DMS 1122519, DMS 122566, and DMS 1537228), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award (grant number W911NF-15-1-0084), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

CONTACTS

Vladimir Itskov: vladimir.itskov@psu.edu

Carina Curto: cpc16@psu.edu

Barbara Kennedy (PIO): science@psu.edu, (+1) 814-863-4682

ARCHIVE

This press release will be archived online at http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2015-news/ItskovCurto10-2015

Media Contact

Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682

 @penn_state

http://live.psu.edu 

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: activities activity experimental conditions neural activity neurons structure

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)

nachricht CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>