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The aim of this page is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work on the brain published in Nature Communications. We cover a wide variety of areas and organisms, ranging from neurophysiological and neurodevelopmental studies in model organisms to systems neuroscience to cognitive neuroscience and psychology.
The authors present a viral vector-delivery optrode system to integrate optogenetics and electrophysiology. The flexible microelectrode filaments and fiber optics self-assemble in a nanoliter-scale, viral vector-delivery polymer carrier for localized delivery and expression of opsin genes at microelectrode-tissue interfaces.
Scoliosis due to trunk muscle paralysis frequently requires surgical treatment in children with spinal cord injury. The authors demonstrate the safety and efficacy of transcutaneous spinal stimulation to enable upright sitting posture in 7/8 children with trunk control impairment in a within-subjects, repeated measures pilot clinical trial.
Models of brain organisation can overlook the role of the autonomic nervous system in cognitive processes. Here the authors show a link between the ascending arousal system and both low dimensional neural dynamics and internal shifts in conscious awareness.
Using a closed-loop virtual reality system for fish, the authors show that zebrafish are capable of assigning rules to the scenery they see, and of generating a state prediction error by comparing reality with a prediction derived from an internal model.
Single-cell profiling has led to the identification of diverse cell types. Here, the authors generate a harmonized cell atlas of the mouse post-natal spinal cord. They also provide spatial analysis of the distribution of the identified cell types and an open-source cell type classifier.
Distinct brain regions are claimed to respond selectively to faces, places and bodies, but what counts as a face, place or body is less well defined. Here we build computational models that accurately predict the response of these regions to novel images, enabling stronger tests and confirmation of their selectivity.
Coordinated patterns of brain activity reflect cognitive processes. Here the authors use a mathematical framework for describing dynamic patterns in brain networks to show they organize in a fractal-like hierarchy during story listening.
Identifying causal interactions between brain regions is important to understand its computations. Here the authors present optoMEG, a platform for combining optogenetic techniques with high-resolution magnetic source imaging in nonhuman primates to map network activation.
Models of decision making have so far been unable to account for how humans’ choices can be flexible yet efficient. Here the authors present a linear reinforcement learning model which explains both flexibility, and rare limitations such as habits, as arising from efficient approximate computation
Microglia are important for brain homeostasis and plasticity. The mechanisms underlying microglia-neuron interactions are still unclear. Here, the authors show that microglia preferentially interact with the nodes of Ranvier along axons. This interaction is modulated by neuronal activity and contributes to remyelination in mice.
The mechanisms stimulating adult neurogenesis are unclear. Here, the authors show the contribution of cholinergic and GABAergic signalling within the locomotor network to spinal cord neurogenesis during homeostasis and regeneration, showing neurogenesis depends on circuit activity in the adult zebrafish.
The authors provide a comprehensive, single base resolution view of association between genetic variation and DNA methylation in human brain. They also show that heritability attributed to schizophrenia GWAS-associated variants reflects the epigenetic plasticity of the brain.
Myelination patterns of different neurons in grey matter have not been fully defined. Here, the authors show that axon diameter and neuronal identity influence myelination patterns in the intact mouse somatosensory cortex. In vivo imaging revealed that remyelination altered myelin patterns but restored overall myelin content on distinct neuron subtypes.
In Parkinson’s disease (PD), beta frequency oscillations are synchronised across the cortico-basal-ganglia circuit. The authors show in human participants that high beta frequencies propagate from the cortex to the basal ganglia via the hyperdirect pathway, indicating a pathophysiological role for this pathway in PD.
The preoptic area (POA) is critical for sleep regulation but its role in acute, non-circadian, light effects on sleep are unclear. The authors show that intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells provide substantial input into the POA and through these modulate the amount of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) neurons that synthesize and release the stress neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor drive binge alcohol drinking and anxiety. The authors describe a complex feedforward inhibitory PVTVGLUT2-BNSTCRF circuit in mice that plays sex-dependent roles in alcohol drinking and avoidance behavior.
Microbial rhodopsins can be used to control action potentials, while animal opsins can be used to control intracellular signaling pathways. The authors identify Opn7b as constitutively active Gi/o coupled receptor that can be deactivated by light and used to modulate neuronal activity.
Chronic use of mTORC1 inhibitors produces undesirable side effects in humans which limit their value for CNS disorders treatment. The authors present a binary drug strategy to protects mTORC1 activity in the periphery and show its potential utility in preclinical models of alcohol use disorder.
Brain organoids derived from human pluripotent stem cells can model human brain development and disease, though current culture systems fail to ensure reliable production of high-quality organoids. Here the authors combine human brain extracellular matrix and culture in a microfluidic device to promote structural and functional maturation of human brain organoids.
Making a decision requires one to differentiate between choice options, committing to one and leaving the other behind. Here, the authors show that decision-making paradoxically binds options together, such that the outcome of the choice ends up changing the value of both the chosen and the unchosen options, in opposite directions.
Here, the authors show that microglia depletion results in unstable wakefulness and altered levels of ceramide, influencing microglia in the mouse thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN). Stable wakefulness can be restored by activation of the TRN or inhibition of ceramide production in the mouse brain.
Scintillators emit visible luminescence when irradiated with X-rays and may enable remote optogenetic control of neurons deep in the brain. The authors inject an inorganic scintillator to activate and inhibit midbrain dopamine neurons in freely moving mice by X-ray irradiation to modulate place preference behavior.
Astrocytes are important players in brain development, homeostasis, and disease. Here, the authors compare the transcriptional profiles of human and mouse astrocytes. They report species-specific susceptibility to oxidative stress and response to hypoxic and inflammatory conditions.
The formation of large-scale brain networks represents crucial developmental processes that can drive individual differences in cognition and which are associated with multiple neurodevelopmental conditions. Here, the authors use generative network modelling to provide a computational framework for understanding neurodevelopmental diversity.
Attentional lapses occur in many forms such as mind-wandering or mindblanking. Here the authors show different types of attentional lapse are accompanied by slow waves, neural activity that is characteristic of transitions into sleep.
Despite the profound knowledge of sex pheromones, little is known about the coevolutionary mechanisms and constraints on their production and detection. Whole-genome sequences from 99 drosophilids, with chemical and behavioural data, show that sex pheromones and their cognate olfactory channels evolve rapidly and independently.
Axonal swellings have been found on Purkinje cell axons in the cerebellum both during development and disease. The authors show that axons with swellings propagate action potentials with higher fidelity than those without and that mice with more axonal swellings learn cerebellar-related tasks better.
Photocaged molecules have advantages in terms of temporal and spatial control compared to conventional pharmacological compounds. The authors present a synthetic saxitoxin derivative affixed to a photocleavable group for precise modulation of Na channels.
Schinzel-Giedion syndrome (SGS) is a fatal developmental syndrome characterized by severe intellectual and physical deficits due, at least in part, to early neurodegeneration. Here the authors introduce a human SGS model that displays disease-relevant phenotypes to demonstrate that neuronal death in SGS originates from developmental alterations mainly in safeguarding cell identity and homeostasis.
Surface two-photon imaging of the brain cannot access somatic calcium signals of neurons from deep layers of the macaque cortex. Here, the authors present an implant and imaging system for chronic motion-stabilized two-photon imaging of dendritic calcium signals to drive an optical brain-computer interface in macaques.
Voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDI) is a powerful technique for measuring membrane potential dynamics of neurons but the effective resolution is limited. Here, the authors developed an in silico model of VSDI to probe activity in a biologically detailed reconstruction of rodent neocortical microcircuits.
Animal studies have shown that insulo-opercular network function is critical in gustation and in behaviour based on anticipated food availability. The authors describe activities within the human insulo-opercular cortex which underlie anticipatory food evaluation in both controlled and naturalistic settings.
Humans consciously experience their surrounding environment and can reflect upon it. Here, the authors use single-neuron recordings, electroencephalographic recordings, and computational methods to show that both conscious experience and self-reflection are related to a common mechanism of evidence accumulation in the posterior parietal cortex.
The Atr-Check1 pathway is involved in cell cycle and the DNA damage response. Here, the authors show that the Atr-Check1 pathway can inhibit axon regeneration in response to Piezo-mediated mechanosensation, affecting functional recovery.
Lysosomal storage disorders, characterized by altered metabolism of heparan sulfate, cause autistic symptoms followed by dementia in children. Here, the authors show that embryonic dopaminergic neurodevelopmental defects due to altered function of heparan sulfate cause autistic behaviours in mice.
Pupariation in Drosophila is triggered by the steroid-hormone ecdysone and requires coordination between associated behavioral and body-reshaping motor subprograms. The authors show that coordination requires ecdysone-dependent Dilp8-Lgr3 signaling between the cuticle epidermis and interneurons.
Here, the authors test the ability of groups to predict real world geopolitical events using online content, and provide evidence suggesting that group diversity helps forecasting ability as a function of group size.
Patterned movements in animals are achieved through combinations of contraction and delayed relaxation of muscles. Here, the authors identify a class of cholinergic higher-order premotor interneurons that regulates muscular relaxation during backward locomotion of Drosophila larvae.
Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) combines the high tissue penetration of X-rays with specificity to periodic nanostructures. The authors use SAXS tensor tomography (SAXS-TT) on intact mouse and human brain tissue samples, to quantify myelin levels and determine myelin integrity, myelinated axon orientation, and fibre tracts non-destructively.
Post‐tetanic potentiation (PTP) is a major form of plasticity at hippocampal mossy fiber synapses and is considered an entirely presynaptic phenomenon. The authors show that mossy fiber PTP not only lacks associativity, but rather shows anti‐associative induction properties, implementing a brake on mossy fiber detonation.
Liquid–liquid phase separation may be a mechanism for organizing the presynaptic nerve terminal. Here, the authors show that PKC-mediated phosphorylation of Liprin-α3 triggers phase separation in cell lines and modulates active zone structure and function in primary hippocampal neurons.
Identifying enriched gene sets in transcriptomic data is routine analysis. Here, the authors show that conventional gene category enrichment analysis (GCEA) applied to brain-wide atlas data yields biased results and develop a flexible ensemble-based null model framework to enable appropriate inference in GCEA.
The Tachykinin 2 (Tac2) pathway in the central amygdala is sufficient and necessary for modulating fear memory consolidation. The authors show that silencing Tac2 neurons in the amygdala of male mice reduces fear expression, while fear expression in female mice is increased when manipulations are made during proestrus.
Repeated head impact exposure can cause memory and behavioural impairments but the physiological changes in the brain are not well understood. Here, the authors reveal synaptic adaptations as a potential mechanism for early abnormal behavioural events observed after mild and high-frequency head impact.
Low-intensity transcranial focused ultrasound (tFUS) is a non-invasive neuromodulation technique with high spatial specificity. The authors show that excitatory and inhibitory neurons respond differently to tFUS, suggesting the possibility of preferentially targeting specific neuron types via noninvasive tFUS.
Parasitoids exploit host bodies for reproduction, selecting for host defences. A new host defence is reported, in which adult Drosophila accelerate mating behaviour at the sight of certain parasitoid wasps, mediated by the upregulation of a nervous system gene that encodes a 41-amino acid micropeptide.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is typically associated with hippocampal and cortical pathology, although hippocampal sparing and limbic predominant forms exist. The authors use transcriptomic analysis and neuropathology to identify genes associated with selective hippocampal vulnerability in AD.
Multiple sclerosis is a heterogeneous progressive disease. Here, the authors use an unsupervised machine learning algorithm to determine multiple sclerosis subtypes, progression, and response to potential therapeutic treatments based on neuroimaging data.
Hedonic feeding occurs in the absence of metabolic need and plays a critical role in the excessive feeding that underlies obesity. The authors show that optogenetic manipulation of NAc inputs from the prefrontal cortex versus inputs from the anterior paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus has opposite effects on high fat intake.