Matching Items (6)

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Emerging neural coincidences in rats agranular medial and agranular lateral cortices during learning of a directional choice task

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To uncover the neural correlates to go-directed behavior, single unit action potentials are considered fundamental computing units and have been examined by different analytical methodologies under a broad set of

To uncover the neural correlates to go-directed behavior, single unit action potentials are considered fundamental computing units and have been examined by different analytical methodologies under a broad set of hypotheses. Using a behaving rat performing a directional choice learning task, we aim to study changes in rat's cortical neural patterns while he improved his task performance accuracy from chance to 80% or higher. Specifically, simultaneous multi-channel single unit neural recordings from the rat's agranular medial (AGm) and Agranular lateral (AGl) cortices were analyzed using joint peristimulus time histogram (JPSTHs), which effectively unveils firing coincidences in neural action potentials. My results based on data from six rats revealed that coincidences of pair-wise neural action potentials are higher when rats were performing the task than they were not at the learning stage, and this trend abated after the rats learned the task. Another finding is that the coincidences at the learning stage are stronger than that when the rats learned the task especially when they were performing the task. Therefore, this coincidence measure is the highest when the rats were performing the task at the learning stage. This may suggest that neural coincidences play a role in the coordination and communication among populations of neurons engaged in a purposeful act. Additionally, attention and working memory may have contributed to the modulation of neural coincidences during the designed task.

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  • 2014

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Perturbing neural feedback loops to understand the relationships of their parts

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The basal ganglia are four sub-cortical nuclei associated with motor control and reward learning. They are part of numerous larger mostly segregated loops where the basal ganglia receive inputs from

The basal ganglia are four sub-cortical nuclei associated with motor control and reward learning. They are part of numerous larger mostly segregated loops where the basal ganglia receive inputs from specific regions of cortex. Converging on these inputs are dopaminergic neurons that alter their firing based on received and/or predicted rewarding outcomes of a behavior. The basal ganglia's output feeds through the thalamus back to the areas of the cortex where the loop originated. Understanding the dynamic interactions between the various parts of these loops is critical to understanding the basal ganglia's role in motor control and reward based learning. This work developed several experimental techniques that can be applied to further study basal ganglia function. The first technique used micro-volume injections of low concentration muscimol to decrease the firing rates of recorded neurons in a limited area of cortex in rats. Afterwards, an artificial cerebrospinal fluid flush was injected to rapidly eliminate the muscimol's effects. This technique was able to contain the effects of muscimol to approximately a 1 mm radius volume and limited the duration of the drug effect to less than one hour. This technique could be used to temporarily perturb a small portion of the loops involving the basal ganglia and then observe how these effects propagate in other connected regions. The second part applied self-organizing maps (SOM) to find temporal patterns in neural firing rate that are independent of behavior. The distribution of detected patterns frequency on these maps can then be used to determine if changes in neural activity are occurring over time. The final technique focused on the role of the basal ganglia in reward learning. A new conditioning technique was created to increase the occurrence of selected patterns of neural activity without utilizing any external reward or behavior. A pattern of neural activity in the cortex of rats was selected using an SOM. The pattern was then reinforced by being paired with electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle triggering dopamine release in the basal ganglia. Ultimately, this technique proved unsuccessful possibly due to poor selection of the patterns being reinforced.

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Date Created
  • 2014

Severe traumatic brain injury induces cortical remodeling in the pediatric inhibitory network

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Pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in children. When TBI occurs in children it often results in severe cognitive and behavioral deficits.

Pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in children. When TBI occurs in children it often results in severe cognitive and behavioral deficits. Post-injury, the pediatric brain may be sensitive to the effects of TBI while undergoing a number of age-dependent physiological and neurobiological changes. Due to the nature of the developing cortex, it is important to understand how a pediatric brain recovers from a severe TBI (sTBI) compared to an adult. Investigating major cortical and cellular changes after sTBI in a pediatric model can elucidate why pediatrics go on to suffer more neurological damage than an adult after head trauma. To model pediatric sTBI, I use controlled cortical impact (CCI) in juvenile mice (P22). First, I show that by 14 days after injury, animals begin to show recurrent, non-injury induced, electrographic seizures. Also, using whole-cell patch clamp, layer V pyramidal neurons in the peri-injury area show no changes except single-cell excitatory and inhibitory synaptic bursts. These results demonstrate that CCI induces epileptiform activity and distinct synaptic bursting within 14 days of injury without altering the intrinsic properties of layer V pyramidal neurons. Second, I characterized changes to the cortical inhibitory network and how fast-spiking (FS) interneurons in the peri-injury region function after CCI. I found that there is no loss of interneurons in the injury zone, but a 70% loss of parvalbumin immunoreactivity (PV-IR). FS neurons received less inhibitory input and greater excitatory input. Finally, I show that the cortical interneuron network is also affected in the contralateral motor cortex. The contralateral motor cortex shows a loss of interneurons and loss of PV-IR. Contralateral FS neurons in the motor cortex synaptically showed greater excitatory input and less inhibitory input 14 days after injury. In summary, this work demonstrates that by 14 days after injury, the pediatric cortex develops epileptiform activity likely due to cortical inhibitory network dysfunction. These findings provide novel insight into how pediatric cortical networks function in the injured brain and suggest potential circuit level mechanisms that may contribute to neurological disorders as a result of TBI.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Specific functions of ERK/MAPK signaling in brain development and neurocognition

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Development of the cerebral cortex requires the complex integration of extracellular stimuli to affect changes in gene expression. Trophic stimulation activates specialized intracellular signaling cascades to instruct processes necessary for

Development of the cerebral cortex requires the complex integration of extracellular stimuli to affect changes in gene expression. Trophic stimulation activates specialized intracellular signaling cascades to instruct processes necessary for the elaborate cellular diversity, architecture, and function of the cortex. The canonical RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK (ERK/MAPK) cascade is a ubiquitously expressed kinase pathway that regulates crucial aspects of neurodevelopment. Mutations in the ERK/MAPK pathway or its regulators give rise to neurodevelopmental syndromes termed the “RASopathies.” RASopathy individuals present with neurological symptoms that include intellectual disability, ADHD, and seizures. The precise cellular mechanisms that drive neurological impairments in RASopathy individuals remain unclear. In this thesis, I aimed to 1) address how RASopathy mutations affect neurodevelopment, 2) elucidate fundamental requirements of ERK/MAPK in GABAergic circuits, and 3) determine how aberrant ERK/MAPK signaling disrupts GABAergic development.

Here, I show that a Noonan Syndrome-linked gain-of-function mutation Raf1L613V, drives modest changes in astrocyte and oligodendrocyte progenitor cell (OPC) density in the mouse cortex and hippocampus. Raf1L613V mutant mice exhibited enhanced performance in hippocampal-dependent spatial reference and working memory and amygdala-dependent fear learning tasks. However, we observed normal perineuronal net (PNN) accumulation around mutant parvalbumin-expressing (PV) interneurons. Though PV-interneurons were minimally affected by the Raf1L613V mutation, other RASopathy mutations converge on aberrant GABAergic development as a mediator of neurological dysfunction.

I therefore hypothesized interneuron expression of the constitutively active Mek1S217/221E (caMek1) mutation would be sufficient to perturb GABAergic circuit development. Interestingly, the caMek1 mutation selectively disrupted crucial PV-interneuron developmental processes. During embryogenesis, I detected expression of cleaved-caspase 3 (CC3) in the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE). Interestingly, adult mutant cortices displayed a selective 50% reduction in PV-expressing interneurons, but not other interneuron subtypes. PV-interneuron loss was associated with seizure-like activity in mutants and coincided with reduced perisomatic synapses. Mature mutant PV-interneurons exhibited somal hypertrophy and a substantial increase in PNN accumulation. Aberrant GABAergic development culminated in reduced behavioral response inhibition, a process linked to ADHD-like behaviors. Collectively, these data provide insight into the mechanistic underpinnings of RASopathy neuropathology and suggest that modulation of GABAergic circuits may be an effective therapeutic option for RASopathy individuals.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Exploration of neural coding in rat's agranular medial and agranular lateral cortices during learning of a directional choice task

Description

Animals learn to choose a proper action among alternatives according to the circumstance. Through trial-and-error, animals improve their odds by making correct association between their behavioral choices and external stimuli.

Animals learn to choose a proper action among alternatives according to the circumstance. Through trial-and-error, animals improve their odds by making correct association between their behavioral choices and external stimuli. While there has been an extensive literature on the theory of learning, it is still unclear how individual neurons and a neural network adapt as learning progresses. In this dissertation, single units in the medial and lateral agranular (AGm and AGl) cortices were recorded as rats learned a directional choice task. The task required the rat to make a left/right side lever press if a light cue appeared on the left/right side of the interface panel. Behavior analysis showed that rat's movement parameters during performance of directional choices became stereotyped very quickly (2-3 days) while learning to solve the directional choice problem took weeks to occur. The entire learning process was further broken down to 3 stages, each having similar number of recording sessions (days). Single unit based firing rate analysis revealed that 1) directional rate modulation was observed in both cortices; 2) the averaged mean rate between left and right trials in the neural ensemble each day did not change significantly among the three learning stages; 3) the rate difference between left and right trials of the ensemble did not change significantly either. Besides, for either left or right trials, the trial-to-trial firing variability of single neurons did not change significantly over the three stages. To explore the spatiotemporal neural pattern of the recorded ensemble, support vector machines (SVMs) were constructed each day to decode the direction of choice in single trials. Improved classification accuracy indicated enhanced discriminability between neural patterns of left and right choices as learning progressed. When using a restricted Boltzmann machine (RBM) model to extract features from neural activity patterns, results further supported the idea that neural firing patterns adapted during the three learning stages to facilitate the neural codes of directional choices. Put together, these findings suggest a spatiotemporal neural coding scheme in a rat AGl and AGm neural ensemble that may be responsible for and contributing to learning the directional choice task.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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Traumatic brain injury induces rapid enhancement of cortical excitability in juvenile rats

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Following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) 5-50% of patients will develop post traumatic epilepsy (PTE). Pediatric patients are most susceptible with the highest incidence of PTE. Currently, we

Following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) 5-50% of patients will develop post traumatic epilepsy (PTE). Pediatric patients are most susceptible with the highest incidence of PTE. Currently, we cannot prevent the development of PTE and knowledge of basic mechanisms are unknown. This has led to several shortcomings to the treatment of PTE, one of which is the use of anticonvulsant medication to the population of TBI patients that are not likely to develop PTE. The complication of identifying the two populations has been hindered by the ability to find a marker to the pathogenesis of PTE. The central hypothesis of this dissertation is that following TBI, the cortex undergoes distinct cellular and synaptic reorganization that facilitates cortical excitability and promotes seizure development. Chapter 2 of this dissertation details excitatory and inhibitory changes in the rat cortex after severe TBI. This dissertation aims to identify cortical changes to a single cell level after severe TBI using whole cell patch clamp and electroencephalogram electrophysiology. The work of this dissertation concluded that excitatory and inhibitory synaptic activity in cortical controlled impact (CCI) animals showed the development of distinct burst discharges that were not present in control animals. The results suggest that CCI induces early "silent" seizures that are detectable on EEG and correlate with changes to the synaptic excitability in the cortex. The synaptic changes and development of burst discharges may play an important role in synchronizing the network and promoting the development of PTE.

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Date Created
  • 2014