Preconfigured, skewed distribution of firing rates in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.
ABSTRACT: Despite the importance of the discharge frequency in neuronal communication, little is known about the firing-rate patterns of cortical populations. Using large-scale recordings from multiple layers of the entorhinal-hippocampal loop, we found that the firing rates of principal neurons showed a lognormal-like distribution in all brain states. Mean and peak rates within place fields of hippocampal neurons were also strongly skewed. Importantly, firing rates of the same neurons showed reliable correlations in different brain states and testing situations, as well as across familiar and novel environments. The fraction of neurons that participated in population oscillations displayed a lognormal pattern. Such skewed firing rates of individual neurons may be due to a skewed distribution of synaptic weights, which is supported by our observation of a lognormal distribution of the efficacy of spike transfer from principal neurons to interneurons. The persistent skewed distribution of firing rates implies that a preconfigured, highly active minority dominates information transmission in cortical networks.
Project description:Two recent experimental observations pose a challenge to many cortical models. First, the activity in the auditory cortex is sparse, and firing rates can be described by a lognormal distribution. Second, the distribution of nonzero synaptic strengths between nearby cortical neurons can also be described by a lognormal distribution. Here we use a simple model of cortical activity to reconcile these observations. The model makes the experimentally testable prediction that synaptic efficacies onto a given cortical neuron are statistically correlated, i.e., it predicts that some neurons receive stronger synapses than other neurons. We propose a simple Hebb-like learning rule that gives rise to such correlations and yields both lognormal firing rates and synaptic efficacies. Our results represent a first step toward reconciling sparse activity and sparse connectivity in cortical networks.
Project description:Neurons fire at highly variable intrinsic rates and recent evidence suggests that low- and high-firing rate neurons display different plasticity and dynamics. Furthermore, recent publications imply possibly differing rate-dependent effects in hippocampus versus neocortex, but those analyses were carried out separately and with potentially important differences. To more effectively synthesize these questions, we analyzed the firing rate dynamics of populations of neurons in both hippocampal CA1 and frontal cortex under one framework that avoids the pitfalls of previous analyses and accounts for regression to the mean (RTM). We observed several consistent effects across these regions. While rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was marked by decreased hippocampal firing and increased neocortical firing, in both regions firing rate distributions widened during REM due to differential changes in high- versus low-firing rate cells in parallel with increased interneuron activity. In contrast, upon non-REM (NREM) sleep, firing rate distributions narrowed while interneuron firing decreased. Interestingly, hippocampal interneuron activity closely followed the patterns observed in neocortical principal cells rather than the hippocampal principal cells, suggestive of long-range interactions. Following these undulations in variance, the net effect of sleep was a decrease in firing rates. These decreases were greater in lower-firing hippocampal neurons but also higher-firing frontal cortical neurons, suggestive of greater plasticity in these cell groups. Our results across two different regions, and with statistical corrections, indicate that the hippocampus and neocortex show a mixture of differences and similarities as they cycle between sleep states with a unifying characteristic of homogenization of firing during NREM and diversification during REM.
Project description:Sleep exerts many effects on mammalian forebrain networks, including homeostatic effects on both synaptic strengths and firing rates. We used large-scale recordings to examine the activity of neurons in the frontal cortex of rats and first observed that the distribution of pyramidal cell firing rates was wide and strongly skewed toward high firing rates. Moreover, neurons from different parts of that distribution were differentially modulated by sleep substates. Periods of nonREM sleep reduced the activity of high firing rate neurons and tended to upregulate firing of slow-firing neurons. By contrast, the effect of REM was to reduce firing rates across the entire rate spectrum. Microarousals, interspersed within nonREM epochs, increased firing rates of slow-firing neurons. The net result of sleep was to homogenize the firing rate distribution. These findings are at variance with current homeostatic models and provide a novel view of sleep in adjusting network excitability.
Project description:The medial septum implements cortical theta oscillations, a 5-12 Hz rhythm associated with locomotion and paradoxical sleep reflecting synchronization of neuronal assemblies such as place cell sequence coding. Highly rhythmic burst-firing parvalbumin-positive GABAergic medial septal neurons are strongly coupled to theta oscillations and target cortical GABAergic interneurons, contributing to coordination within one or several cortical regions. However, a large population of medial septal neurons of unidentified neurotransmitter phenotype and with unknown axonal target areas fire with a low degree of rhythmicity. We investigated whether low-rhythmic-firing neurons (LRNs) innervated similar or different cortical regions to high-rhythmic-firing neurons (HRNs) and assessed their temporal dynamics in awake male mice. The majority of LRNs were GABAergic and parvalbumin-immunonegative, some expressing calbindin; they innervated interneurons mostly in the dentate gyrus (DG) and CA3. Individual LRNs showed several distinct firing patterns during immobility and locomotion, forming a parallel inhibitory stream for the modulation of cortical interneurons. Despite their fluctuating firing rates, the preferred firing phase of LRNs during theta oscillations matched the highest firing probability phase of principal cells in the DG and CA3. In addition, as a population, LRNs were markedly suppressed during hippocampal sharp-wave ripples, had a low burst incidence, and several of them did not fire on all theta cycles. Therefore, CA3 receives GABAergic input from both HRNs and LRNs, but the DG receives mainly LRN input. We propose that distinct GABAergic LRNs contribute to changing the excitability of the DG and CA3 during memory discrimination via transient disinhibition of principal cells.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT For the encoding and recall of episodic memories, nerve cells in the cerebral cortex are activated in precisely timed sequences. Rhythmicity facilitates the coordination of neuronal activity and these rhythms are detected as oscillations of different frequencies such as 5-12 Hz theta oscillations. Degradation of these rhythms, such as through neurodegeneration, causes memory deficits. The medial septum, a part of the basal forebrain that innervates the hippocampal formation, contains high- and low-rhythmic-firing neurons (HRNs and LRNs, respectively), which may contribute differentially to cortical neuronal coordination. We discovered that GABAergic LRNs preferentially innervate the dentate gyrus and the CA3 area of the hippocampus, regions important for episodic memory. These neurons act in parallel with the HRNs mostly via transient inhibition of inhibitory neurons.
Project description:The anterior olfactory nucleus (AON) is positioned to coordinate activity between the piriform cortex and olfactory bulbs, yet the physiology of AON principal neurons has been little explored. Here, we examined the membrane properties and excitatory synapses of AON principal neurons in brain slices of PND22-28 mice and compared their properties to principal cells in other olfactory cortical areas. AON principal neurons had firing rates, spike rate adaptation, spike widths, and I-V relationships that were generally similar to pyramidal neurons in piriform cortex, and typical of cerebral cortex, consistent with a role for AON in cortical processing. Principal neurons in AON had more hyperpolarized action potential thresholds, smaller afterhyperpolarizations, and tended to fire doublets of action potentials on depolarization compared with ventral anterior piriform cortex and the adjacent epileptogenic region preendopiriform nucleus (pEN). Thus, AON pyramidal neurons have enhanced membrane excitability compared with surrounding subregions. Interestingly, principal neurons in pEN were the least excitable, as measured by a larger input conductance, lower firing rates, and more inward rectification. Afferent and recurrent excitatory synapses onto AON pyramidal neurons had small amplitudes, paired pulse facilitation at afferent synapses, and GABA(B) modulation at recurrent synapses, a pattern similar to piriform cortex. The enhanced membrane excitability and recurrent synaptic excitation within the AON, together with its widespread outputs, suggest that the AON can boost and distribute activity in feedforward and feedback circuits throughout the olfactory system.
Project description:How do neuronal populations in the auditory cortex represent acoustic stimuli? Although sound-evoked neural responses in the anesthetized auditory cortex are mainly transient, recent experiments in the unanesthetized preparation have emphasized subpopulations with other response properties. To quantify the relative contributions of these different subpopulations in the awake preparation, we have estimated the representation of sounds across the neuronal population using a representative ensemble of stimuli. We used cell-attached recording with a glass electrode, a method for which single-unit isolation does not depend on neuronal activity, to quantify the fraction of neurons engaged by acoustic stimuli (tones, frequency modulated sweeps, white-noise bursts, and natural stimuli) in the primary auditory cortex of awake head-fixed rats. We find that the population response is sparse, with stimuli typically eliciting high firing rates (>20 spikes/second) in less than 5% of neurons at any instant. Some neurons had very low spontaneous firing rates (<0.01 spikes/second). At the other extreme, some neurons had driven rates in excess of 50 spikes/second. Interestingly, the overall population response was well described by a lognormal distribution, rather than the exponential distribution that is often reported. Our results represent, to our knowledge, the first quantitative evidence for sparse representations of sounds in the unanesthetized auditory cortex. Our results are compatible with a model in which most neurons are silent much of the time, and in which representations are composed of small dynamic subsets of highly active neurons.
Project description:The hippocampus constructs a map of the environment. How this "cognitive map" is utilized by other brain regions to guide behavior remains unexplored. To examine how neuronal firing patterns in the hippocampus are transmitted and transformed, we recorded neurons in its principal subcortical target, the lateral septum (LS). We observed that LS neurons carry reliable spatial information in the phase of action potentials, relative to hippocampal theta oscillations, while the firing rates of LS neurons remained uninformative. Furthermore, this spatial phase code had an anatomical microstructure within the LS and was bound to the hippocampal spatial code by synchronous gamma frequency cell assemblies. Using a data-driven model, we show that rate-independent spatial tuning arises through the dynamic weighting of CA1 and CA3 cell assemblies. Our findings demonstrate that transformation of the hippocampal spatial map depends on higher-order theta-dependent neuronal sequences. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Project description:Memory is thought to be encoded by sparsely distributed neuronal ensembles in memory-related regions. However, it is unclear how memory-eligible neurons react during learning to encode trace fear memory and how they retrieve a memory. We implemented a fiber-optic confocal fluorescence endomicroscope to directly visualize calcium dynamics of hippocampal CA1 neurons in freely behaving mice subjected to trace fear conditioning. Here we report that the overall activity levels of CA1 neurons showed a right-skewed lognormal distribution, with a small portion of highly active neurons (termed Primed Neurons) filling the long-tail. Repetitive training induced Primed Neurons to shift from random activity to well-tuned synchronization. The emergence of activity synchronization coincided with the appearance of mouse freezing behaviors. In recall, a partial synchronization among the same subset of Primed Neurons was induced from random dynamics, which also coincided with mouse freezing behaviors. Additionally, training-induced synchronization facilitated robust calcium entry into Primed Neurons. In contrast, most CA1 neurons did not respond to tone and foot shock throughout the training and recall cycles. In conclusion, Primed Neurons are preferably recruited to encode trace fear memory and induction of activity synchronization among Primed Neurons out of random dynamics is critical for trace memory formation and retrieval.
Project description:When and how hippocampal neuronal ensembles first organize to support encoding and consolidation of memory episodes, a critical cognitive function of the brain, are unknown. We recorded electrophysiological activity from large ensembles of hippocampal neurons starting on the first day after eye opening as naïve rats navigated linear environments and slept. We found a gradual age-dependent, navigational experience-independent assembly of preconfigured trajectory-like sequences from persistent, location-depicting ensembles during postnatal week 3. Adult-like compressed binding of adjacent locations into trajectories during navigation and their navigational experience-dependent replay during sleep emerged in concert from spontaneous preconfigured sequences only during early postnatal week 4. Our findings reveal ethologically relevant distinct phases in the development of hippocampal preconfigured and experience-dependent sequential patterns thought to be important for episodic memory formation.
Project description:Imagine how flicking through your photo album and seeing a picture of a beach sunset brings back fond memories of a tasty cocktail you had that night. Computational models suggest that upon receiving a partial memory cue ('beach'), neurons in the hippocampus coordinate reinstatement of associated memories ('cocktail') in cortical target sites. Here, using human single neuron recordings, we show that hippocampal firing rates are elevated from ~ 500-1500 ms after cue onset during successful associative retrieval. Concurrently, the retrieved target object can be decoded from population spike patterns in adjacent entorhinal cortex (EC), with hippocampal firing preceding EC spikes and predicting the fidelity of EC object reinstatement. Prior to orchestrating reinstatement, a separate population of hippocampal neurons distinguishes different scene cues (buildings vs. landscapes). These results elucidate the hippocampal-entorhinal circuit dynamics for memory recall and reconcile disparate views on the role of the hippocampus in scene processing vs. associative memory.