Lower limb paralysis from spinal cord injury (SCI) or neurological disease carries a poor prognosis for recovery and remains a large societal burden. Neurophysiological and neu-roprosthetic research have the potential to improve quality of life for these patients; however, the lack of an ethical and sustainable nonhuman primate model for paraplegia hinders their advancement. Therefore, our multidisciplinary team developed a way to induce temporary paralysis in awake behaving macaquesby creating a fully implantable lumbar epidural catheter-subcutaneous port system that enables easy and reliable targeted drug delivery for sensorimotor blockade. During treadmill walking, aliquots of 1.5% lidocaine with 1: 200,000 epinephrine were percutaneously injected into the ports of three rhesus macaques while surface electromyography (EMG) recorded muscle activity from their quadriceps and gastrocnemii. Diminution of EMG amplitude, loss of voluntary leg movement, and inability to bear weight were achieved for 60-90 min in each animal, followed by a complete recovery of function. The monkeys remained alert and cooperative during the paralysis trials and continued to take food rewards, and the ports remained functional after several months. This technique will enable recording from the cortex and/or spinal cord in awake behaving nonhuman primates during the onset, maintenance, and resolution of paraplegia for the first time, thus opening the door to answering basic neurophysiological questions about the acute neurological response to spinal cord injury and recovery. It will also negate the need to permanently injure otherwise high-value research animals for certain experimental paradigms aimed at developing and testing neural interface decoding algorithms for patients with lower extremity dysfunction. NEW & NOTEWORTHY A novel implantable lumbar epidural catheter-subcutaneous port system enables targeted drug delivery and induction of temporary paraplegia in awake, behaving nonhuman primates. Three macaques displayed loss of voluntary leg movement for 60-90 min after injection of lidocaine with epinephrine, followed by a full recovery. This technique for the first time will enable ethical live recording from the proximal central nervous system during the acute onset, maintenance, and resolution of paraplegia.
In the ventral tegmental area (VTA), interactions between dopamine (DA) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurons are critical for regulating DA neuron activity and thus DA efflux. To provide a mechanistic explanation of how GABA neurons influence DA neuron firing, we developed a circuit model of the VTA. The model is based on feed-forward inhibition and recreates canonical features of the VTA neurons. Simulations revealed that gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor (GABAR) stimulation can differentially influence the firing pattern of the DA neuron, depending on the level of synchronization among GABA neurons. Asynchronous activity of GABA neurons provides a constant level of inhibition to the DA neuron and, when removed, produces a classical disinhibition burst. In contrast, when GABA neurons are synchronized by common synaptic input, their influence evokes additional spikes in the DA neuron, resulting in increased measures of firing and bursting. Distinct from previous mechanisms, the increases were not based on lowered firing rate of the GABA neurons or weaker hyperpolarization by the GABAR synaptic current. This phenomenon was induced by GABAmediated hyperpolarization of the DA neuron that leads to decreases in intracellular calcium (Ca2+) concentration, thus reducing the Ca2+ dependent potassium (K+) current. In this way, the GABA-mediated hyperpolarization replaces Ca2+-dependent K+ current; however, this inhibition is pulsatile, which allows the DA neuron to fire during the rhythmic pauses in inhibition. Our results emphasize the importance of inhibition in the VTA, which has been discussed in many studies, and suggest a novel mechanism whereby computations can occur locally.
How do human brain networks react to dynamic changes in the sensory environment? We measured rapid changes in brain network organization in response to brief, discrete, salient auditory stimuli. We estimated network topology and distance parameters in the immediate central response period, <1 s following auditory presentation of standard tones interspersed with occasional deviant tones in a mismatch-negativity (MMN) paradigm, using magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure synchronization of high-frequency (gamma band; 33-64 Hz) oscillations in healthy volunteers. We found that global small-world parameters of the networks were conserved between the standard and deviant stimuli. However, surprising or unexpected auditory changes were associated with local changes in clustering of connections between temporal and frontal cortical areas and with increased interlobar, long-distance synchronization during the 120- to 250-ms epoch (coinciding with the MMN-evoked response). Network analysis of human MEG data can resolve fast local topological reconfiguration and more long-range synchronization of high-frequency networks as a systems-level representation of the brain's immediate response to salient stimuli in the dynamically changing sensory environment.
The digit span is one of the most widely used memory tests in clinical and experimental neuropsychology for reliably measuring short-term memory capacity. In the forward version, sequences of digits of increasing length have to be reproduced in the order in which they are presented, whereas in the backward version items must be reproduced in the reversed order. Here, we assessed whether transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) increases the memory span for digits of young and midlife adults. Imperceptibly weak electrical currents in the alpha (10 Hz), beta (20 Hz), theta (5 Hz) and gamma (40 Hz) range, as well as a sham stimulation, were delivered over the left posterior parietal cortex, a cortical region thought to sustain maintenance processes in short-term memory through oscillatory brain activity in the beta range. We showed a frequency-specific effect of beta-tACS that robustly increased the forward memory span of young, but not middle-aged, healthy individuals. The effect correlated with age: the younger the subjects, the greater the benefit arising from parietal beta stimulation. Our results provide evidence of a short-term memory capacity improvement in young adults by online frequency-specific tACS application.
A part of the auditory system automatically detects changes in the acoustic environment. This preattentional process has been studied extensively, yet its cerebral origins have not been determined with sufficient accuracy to allow comparison to established anatomical and functional parcellations. Here we used event-related functional MRI and EEG in a parametric experimental design to determine the cortical areas in individual brains that participate in the detection of acoustic changes. Our results suggest that automatic change processing consists of at least three stages: initial detection in the primary auditory cortex, detailed analysis in the posterior superior temporal gyrus and planum temporale, and judgment of sufficient novelty for the allocation of attentional resources in the mid-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.
It has been long known that neural activity, recorded with electrophysiological methods, contains rich information about a subject's motor intentions, sensory experiences, allocation of attention, action planning, and even abstract thoughts. All these functions have been the subject of neurophysiological investigations, with the goal of understanding how neuronal activity represents behavioral parameters, sensory inputs, and cognitive functions. The field of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) strives for a somewhat different goal: it endeavors to extract information from neural modulations to create a communication link between the brain and external devices. Although many remarkable successes have been already achieved in the BMI field, questions remain regarding thepossibility of decoding high-order neural representations, such as decision making. Could BMIs be employed to decode the neural representations of decisions underlying goal-directed actions? In this review we lay out a framework that describes the computations underlying goal-directed actions as a multistep process performed by multiple cortical and subcortical areas. We then discuss how BMIs could connect to different decision-making steps and decode the neural processing ongoing before movements are initiated. Such decision-making BMIs could operate as a system with prediction that offers many advantages, such as shorter reaction time, better error processing, and improved unsupervised learning. To present the current state of the art, we review several recent BMIs incorporating decisionmaking components.
Inhibitory interneurons interconnected via electrical and chemical (GABAA receptor) synapses form extensive circuits in several brain regions. They are thought to be involved in timing and synchronization through fast feedforward control of principal neurons. Theoretical studies have shown, however, that whereas self-inhibition does indeed reduce response duration, lateral inhibition, in contrast, may generate slow response components through a process of gradual disinhibition. Here we simulated a circuit of interneurons (stellate and basket cells) of the molecular layer of the cerebellar cortex and observed circuit time constants that could rise, depending on parameter values, to >1 s. The integration time scaled both with the strength of inhibition, vanishing completely when inhibition was blocked, and with the average connection distance, which determined the balance between lateral and self-inhibition. Electrical synapses could further enhance the integration time by limiting heterogeneity among the interneurons and by introducing a slow capacitive current. The model can explain several observations, such as the slow time course of OFF-beam inhibition, the phase lag of interneurons during vestibular rotation, or the phase lead of Purkinje cells. Interestingly, the interneuron spike trains displayed power that scaled approximately as 1/f at low frequencies. In conclusion, stellate and basket cells in cerebellar cortex, and interneuron circuits in general, may not only provide fast inhibition to principal cells but also act as temporal integrators that build a very short-term memory.
This is a review study. The physiological responses of simple and complex cells in the primary visual cortex (V1) have been studied extensively and modeled at different levels. At the functional level, the divisive normalization model (DNM; Heeger DJ. Vis Neurosci 9: 181–197, 1992) has accounted for a wide range of single-cell recordings in terms of a combination of linear filtering, nonlinear rectification, and divisive normalization. We propose standardizing the formulation of the DNM and implementing it in software that takes static grayscale images as inputs and produces firing rate responses as outputs. We also review a comprehensive suite of 30 empirical phenomena and report a series of simulation experiments that qualitatively replicate dozens of key experiments with a standard parameter set consistent with physiological measurements. This systematic approach identifies novel falsifiable predictions of the DNM. We show how the model simultaneously satisfies the conflicting desiderata of flexibility and falsifiability. Our key idea is that, while adjustable parameters are needed to accommodate the diversity across neurons, they must be fixed for a given individual neuron. This requirement introduces falsifiable constraints when this single neuron is probed with multiple stimuli. We also present mathematical analyses and simulation experiments that explicate some of these constraints.
Haptic illusions serve as important tools for studying neurocognitive processing of touch and can be utilized in practical contexts. We report a new spatiotemporal haptic illusion that involves mislocalization when the order of vibrotactile intensity is manipulated. We tested two types of motors mounted in a 4 × 4 array in the lower thoracic region. We created apparent movement with two successive vibrotactile stimulations of varying distance (40, 20, or 0 mm) and direction (up, down, or same) while changing the temporal order of stimulation intensity (strong-weak vs. weak-strong). Participants judged the perceived direction of movement in a 2-alternative forced-choice task. The results suggest that varying the temporal order of vibrotactile stimuli with different intensity leads to systematic localization errors: when a strong-intensity stimulus was followed by a weak-intensity stimulus, the probability that participants perceived a downward movement increased, and vice versa. The illusion is so strong that the order of the strength of stimulation determined perception even when the actual presentation movement was the opposite. We then verified this “intensity order illusion” using an open response format where observers judged the orientation of an imaginary line drawn between two sequential tactor activations. The intensity order illusion reveals a strong bias in vibrotactile perception that has strong implications for the design of haptic information systems.