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These boosts are made for walkin'
Date:3/13/2014

operate at less than peak efficiency in less demanding behavioral situations. "When you don't need your visual system to be in a high-gain state, your brain may use a lot less energy in responding," said Stryker. "A change in gain when you're moving is ideally what you'd like to see -- the neuron is doing the same thing that it's always doing, but it's talking louder to the rest of the brain."

In the new research, mice were allowed to walk or run freely on a Styrofoam ball suspended on an air cushion while the scientists used a technique known as two-photon imaging to monitor the activation of cells in the primary visual area of the brain, known as V1.

The researchers found that a subset of V1 neurons, those that contain a substance called vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), were robustly activated in a time-locked fashion purely by locomotion, even in darkness, while other V1 neurons remained largely silent.

The mice were presented with visual stimuli both while motionless and while moving, and measurements showed that walking could increase the response of V1 neurons by more than 30 percent. Moreover, V1 responses to these stimuli increased or declined in tandem with the activity of VIP neurons, and with the starting or stopping of walking by the mice.

To firmly establish that VIP neurons were responsible for these changes, the researchers used optogenetic techniques, inserting light-sensitive proteins exclusively into VIP neurons. Using light to stimulate just this population of cells, the team found that they could emulate the effects of locomotion -- when VIP cells were activated, V1 cells responded more strongly to stimuli, regardless of whether the animals were moving. Conversely, when the researchers specifically targeted and disabled VIP cells, locomotion-induced increases in the response of other V1 cells were abolished.


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Contact: Peter Farley
peter.farley@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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