Focus |

From Brain to Behaviour

Brittany Cardwell: human behaviour.

Fiona Carr: neurological disease.

Sachin Ranade: systems and computational neuroscience.

Christian Schnell: neurophysiology and neurotechnologies.

Welcome to the Nature Communications Editors’ Highlights webpage, 'From Brain to Behaviour'. Each month our editors select a small number of Articles recently published in Nature Communications that they believe are particularly interesting or important.

The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting neuroscience research published at Nature Communications.

Make sure to check the Editors' Highlights page each month for new featured articles.

Brittany Cardwell

Having a rich negative emotion vocabulary is assumed to help cope with adversity. Here, the authors show that emotion vocabularies simply mirror life experiences, with richer negative emotion vocabularies reflecting lower mental health, and richer positive emotion vocabularies reflecting higher mental health.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The current Syrian conflict is considered a major humanitarian crisis. Here, the authors show a decline in population well-being with the onset of the conflict, and show how this decline compares to other populations experiencing wars, civil unrest or natural disasters.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

People regularly punish norm violations using gossip and direct confrontation. Here, the authors show that the use of gossip versus direct confrontation is context sensitive, with confrontation used more when punishers have more to gain, and gossip used more when the costs of retaliation loom large.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Local participatory experiences can influence broader democratic attitudes and participation. Here, in two field experiments in US and China, the authors find that participatory work meetings led workers to be less authoritarian and more critical about societal authority and justice, and more willing to participate in political and social decision-making.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Although the feeling of being stressed is ubiquitous and clinically significant, the underlying neural mechanisms are unclear. Using a novel predictive modeling approach, the authors show that functional hippocampal networks specifically and consistently predict the feeling of stress.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Humans explore the world by optimistically directing choices to less familiar options and by choosing more randomly when options are uncertain. Here, the authors show that these two exploration strategies rely on distinct uncertainty estimates represented in different parts of the prefrontal cortex.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

People often prioritize their own interests, but also like to see themselves as moral. Here the authors show how distortions in memory might resolve this tension by demonstrating that people tend to remember being more generous in the past than they actually were.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Fiona Carr

Previous work showed that the caspase 1 inhibitor VX-765 rescued cognitive deficits in the J20 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, and this may occur via reduced inflammation. Here the authors show that administration of the drug prior to onset of cognitive deficits and pathology in mice delays the onset of deficits.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The vCA1-BA projection is enriched in shock responsive neurons, which are necessary for fear memory encoding and become correlated with a network of neurons during retrieval. Here the authors show that the magnitude of vCA1 correlated activity is proportional to memory strength and requires the shock response during encoding.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Disruption of autophagy function in cellular and animal models of tauopathy increases tau aggregation. Here, the authors describe a small-molecule screen to identify compounds that promote autophagy clearance of tau and rescue disease-relevant phenotypes in tauopathy patient-derived neurons.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The consequences of postnatal Zika infection are not fully understood. Here, the authors show that postnatal Zika infection in infant rhesus macaques alters neurodevelopment resulting in social, cognitive and motor impairments, as well as structural and functional changes in the brain.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Dysfunction of GABAergic neurons in the prefrontal cortex has been reported in schizophrenia. Here, the authors use the apomorphine-susceptible rat, which displays some schizophrenia-like behaviors, and show that interneurons in the medial prefrontal cortex are hypomyelinated, which may contribute to this behavioral phenotype.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Sachin Ranade

In value-based decision-making, single prefrontal neurons represent multiple variables at different times in the decision process. Here, the authors show these representations to be separable and stable at the population level, allowing read out of specific variables at behaviorally relevant times.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Circadian activity modulation in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is a network-level emergent property that requires neuropeptide VIP signaling, yet the precise cellular mechanisms are unknown. Patton et al. show that cells expressing VIP or its receptor VPAC2 together determine these emergent properties of the SCN.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Extensive research in primates shows that attention to space improves behavioural performance as well as neural responses to stimuli in that location. Here, the authors establish a visual spatial attention task in mice and report on attentional modulation of behaviour, as well as neural correlates from subthreshold responses in single cells to spikes and LFP at network level.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

How the brain represents 3D space is poorly understood but important for understanding spatial cognition. Here the authors record place cells in rats climbing through a 3D environment and report that they represent this space with 3D fields that are elongated along the axes of the environment and encode the vertical dimension less accurately.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The prefrontal attention spotlight dynamically explores space at 7–12 Hz, enhancing sensory encoding and behavior, in the absence of eye movements. This alpha-clocked sampling of space is under top-down control and implements an alternation in exploration and exploitation of the visual environment.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The neural circuits through which the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) exerts its role in epilepsy control are not known. Here the authors reveal that a long-range SNr-parafascicular nucleus disinhibitory circuit participates in regulating seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy and inhibition of this circuit can alleviate severity of epileptic seizures.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Christian Schnell

Cell groups in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic clock contribute to the genesis of circadian rhythms. The authors identified two populations of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-expressing neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus which regulate locomotor circadian rhythm in mice.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Psychomotor stimulants increase dopamine levels in the striatum and promote locomotion but their effects on striatal pathways in vivo remain unclear. The authors show that cocaine increases the activity of direct and indirect pathway striatal neurons of awake mice via the orbitofrontal cortex.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The neuronal mechanisms underlying recognition of written letters remain unknown. Here, the authors show that populations of neurons in the ventral visual pathway of macaque monkeys encode orthographic stimuli, indicating that this pathway might be a precursor of orthographic processing abilities.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Astrocytes respond to neurotransmitters with calcium transients stimulating the release of gliotransmitters that regulate synaptic and neuronal functions. Here, the authors show that cortical astrocytes also respond to sensory inputs and regulate sensory-evoked neuronal network activity.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Antenatal glucocorticoid therapy is indicated for mothers at risk of preterm delivery. Here, the authors show that the circadian phase of antenatal glucocorticoid treatment affects the risk of behavioral disorders later in life in mice and in a retrospective observational study in human infants.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Despite evidence that astrocytes mediate sleep-dependent function, the involved signaling mechanisms are unknown. The authors show that astrocytic Ca2+ signalling exhibits distinct features across the sleep-wake cycle and ablation of this Ca2+ signalling pathway impairs slow wave sleep.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Kinship behavior in rodents has been documented in the laboratory setting but the neural mechanisms that mediate kinship behavior are not known. Here, the authors show that the lateral septum has a key role in organizing mammalian kinship behavior.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications