Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study breaks ground in revealing how neurons generate movement

28.04.2008
When the eye tracks a bird’s flight across the sky, the visual experience is normally smooth, without interruption. But underlying this behavior is a complex coordination of neurons that has remained mysterious to scientists.

Now, UCSF researchers have broken ground in understanding how the brain generates this tracking motion, a finding that offers a window, they say, into how neurons orchestrate all of the body’s movements.

The study, reported in the April 24 issue of Neuron, reveals that individual neurons do not fire independently across the entire duration of a motor function as traditionally thought. Rather, they coordinate their activity with other neurons, each firing at a particular moment in time.

“Scientists have known that neurons that connect to muscles initiate movement in a coordinated fashion. But they have not known how the neurons we are studying – which coordinate these front-line neurons -- commit the brain to move the eyes,”says co-lead author David Schoppik, PhD, who conducted the study while a doctoral candidate in the laboratory of senior author Stephen Lisberger, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco.

“For decades, scientists have been asking, ‘Do the signals involve a handful of neurons or thousands? What is the nature of the commands?’ The classical understanding has been that one class of neuron is responsible for one movement, such as generating eye movement to the left, and that it remains active across the entire duration of a behavior,” he says.

“The new findings suggest a totally different way of looking at how movement is controlled across time,” says Lisberger, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at UCSF, where he is professor of physiology, director of the W.M. Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience, and co-director of the Sloan Center for Theoretical Neurobiology.

The findings, the researchers say, could inform efforts to develop neural prosthetics to treat paralysis and motor dysfunctions, such as those resulting from stroke. “The brain’s messages don’t reach the muscles in these conditions,” says Schoppik, “so it’s critical that the drive to these prosthetics reflect what the brain is trying to do to move muscles. Understanding how multiple neurons work together could influence the type of software created to drive these devices.”

The investigation of how neurons give rise to motor behaviorshas been stymied until now, says Schoppik, by the difficulties inherent in studying more than one neuron in action at a time during the course of a behavior. In the current study, the scientists overcame this obstacle in a study of macaque monkeys that had been trained to track a moving object with their eyes.

Basing their approach on two key pieces of information -- first, that when a neuron responds to a stimulus there is always a slight variation in its performance, a phenomenon that neuroscientists traditionally refer to as “noise,” and, second, that each attempt of the eye to pursue a moving target is also unique – they proposed that some aspects of neural variation may reflect behavioral variation.

They used this inherent variability as a probe. Using a formula from financial securities market analysis that looks at how individual stocks behave at a given time within the context of fluctuations in the larger financial market, they explored how individual neurons would behave relative to their neighbors.

They compared the deviations from the average spiking activity of single neurons and simultaneous deviations from the mean eye velocity. They also measured the degree to which variation shared across two pairs of concurrently active neurons.

The data demonstrated that individual neurons encode different aspects of behavior, controlling eye velocity fluctuations at particular moments during the course of eye movement, while the population of neurons collectively tiles the entire duration of the movement.

The analysis also revealed the strength of correlations in the eye movement predictions derived from pairs of simultaneously recorded neurons, and suggests, the researcher say, either that a small number of neurons are sufficient to drive the behavior at any given time or that many neurons operate collectively at each moment.

The finding, says Lisberger, underscores the importance of recording for more than one neuron at a time. “There is a lot that we can learn from how multiple neurons interact.”

The other co-author of the study was Katherine Nagel, PhD, at the time a doctoral candidate in the laboratory of Allison J. Doupe, MD, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and physiology and a member of the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF.

The study was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and by a Conte Center for Neuroscience Research grant.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to defining health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Jennifer O’Brien | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsf.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New model connects respiratory droplet physics with spread of Covid-19
21.07.2020 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Risk of infection with COVID-19 from singing: First results of aerosol study with the Bavarian Radio Chorus
03.07.2020 | Klinikum der Universität München

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: ScanCut project completed: laser cutting enables more intricate plug connector designs

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.

Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...

Im Focus: New Strategy Against Osteoporosis

An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...

Im Focus: AI & single-cell genomics

New software predicts cell fate

Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...

Im Focus: TU Graz Researchers synthesize nanoparticles tailored for special applications

“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.

Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...

Im Focus: Tailored light inspired by nature

An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.

Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2020”: The final touches for surfaces

23.07.2020 | Event News

Conference radar for cybersecurity

21.07.2020 | Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rare Earth Elements in Norwegian Fjords?

06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences

Anode material for safe batteries with a long cycle life

06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

06.08.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>