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 Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>