Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. You are sitting on your couch flipping through TV channels trying to decide whether to stay put or get up for a snack. Such everyday decisions about whether to "stay" or to "go" are supported by a brain region called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is part of the prefrontal cortex. Neuroscientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have now identified key circuit elements that contribute to such decisions in the ACC.
CSHL Associate Professor Adam Kepecs and his team today publish results that, for the first time, link specific brain cell types to a particular behavior pattern in mice a "stay or go" pattern called foraging behavior. The paper, published online in Nature, shows that the firing of two distinct types of inhibitory neurons, known as somatostatin (SOM) and parvalbumin (PV) neurons, has a strong correlation with the start and end of a period of foraging behavior.
Linking specific neuronal types to well-defined behaviors has proved extremely difficult. "There's a big gap in our knowledge between our understanding of neuron types in terms of their physical location and their place in any given neural circuit, and what these neurons actually do during behavior," says Kepecs.
Part of the problem is the technical challenge of doing these studies in live, freely behaving mice. Key to solving that problem is a mouse model developed in the laboratory of CSHL Professor Z. Josh Huang. The mouse has a genetic modification that allows investigators to target a specific population of neurons with any protein of interest.
Kepecs' group, led by postdocs Duda Kvitsiani and Sachin Ranade, used this mouse to label specific neuron types in the ACC with a light-activated protein a technique known as optogenetic tagging. Whenever they shone light onto the brains of the mice they were recording from, only the tagged PV and SOM neurons responded promptly with a 'spike' in their activi
|Contact: Peter Tarr|
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory