Focus |

From Brain to Behaviour

Fiona Carr: neurodegeneration and other forms of neurological disease.

Jamie Horder: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging, psychiatric disorders and autism.

Sachin Ranade: systems and computational neuroscience.

Jerome Staal: neurodevelopment, plasticity and molecular neuroscience. 

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.

Fiona Carr

The heat-sensitive ion channel TRPV1 is essential to temperature sensing in mammals and other animals. Here the authors find that the platypus form of TRPV1 does not desensitize, identify the mechanism underlying this property, and show that knock-in of this form of the receptor in mice leads to deficits in heat sensitivity.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Intermittent fasting has been shown to have beneficial effects on hippocampal function in rodents, but the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Here the authors show that the mitochondrial protein SIRT3 contributes to the beneficial cognitive and synaptic effects of intermittent fasting in mice.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

TREM2 is a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and soluble TREM2 (sTREM2) in the CSF correlates with AD progression. Here the authors study the role of sTREM2 in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, and find it reduces amyloid accumulation and increases the numbers of plaque-associated microglia which correlates with improved behavioural function in the mice.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Gamma oscillations in somatosensory areas in humans correlate with pain perception and pain stimulus intensity, but could also reflect cognitive processes such as attention. Here the authors provide evidence in mice that these oscillations causally contribute to pain perception.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

BMP ligands act as retrograde signalling molecules to regulate presynaptic development, and regulation of BMP receptors by endocytosis may be an important component of this signalling pathway. Here, the authors show that Abi-mediated macropinocytosis of BMP receptors in Drosophila larva and contributes to neuromuscular development.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Lymphangiogenesis occurs in the context of systemic inflammation and development but has not been reported for the lymphatics that surround the CNS. Here the authors show that in the context of experimental autoimmune encephatlitis, lymphangiogenesis occurs at the cribriform plate, but not the meninges, and contributes to immune cell and antigen drainage.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Jamie Horder

Humans are often inconsistent when choosing between alternatives, but the neural basis of deviations from economic rationality is unclear. Here, the authors show that irrational choices arise in the same brain regions responsible for value computation, implying that brain ‘noise’ may underlie inconsistency.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

We can recognize an object from one of its features, e.g. hearing a bark leads us to think of a dog. Here, the authors show using fMRI that the brain combines bits of information into object representations, and that presenting a few features of an object activates representations of its other attributes.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in reproductive and social behavior, but the role of oxytocin-related genes in the human brain remains unclear. Here, the authors map oxytocin pathway gene expression and show that it overlaps with brain regions involved in reward and emotional states.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

It has proven difficult to measure the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, in the human brain. Here, the authors introduce and validate a new method that infers dopamine release based on minute-by-minute fluctuations of the positron emission tomography (PET) radioligand [11C]raclopride.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Sachin Ranade

There are two subtypes of hippocampal theta oscillations that differ in frequency range, pharmacology, and behavioural correlates. Here, the authors report that activity of OLM interneurons in the ventral hippocampus mediates type 2 theta, associated with increased risk-taking in the presence of predator threat.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Motor cortical neurons enable performance of a wide range of movements. Here, the authors report that dominant population activity patterns, the neural modes, are largely preserved across various tasks, with many displaying consistent temporal dynamics and reliably mapping onto muscle activity.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

In the ventral basal ganglia circuit, the ventral pallidum (VP) receives major inputs from the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and is involved in reward processing. Here, the authors report that, contrary to the accepted model, signals related to the relative value of reward in VP emerge before NAc and are more robust.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Odorous chemicals broadly activate subsets of olfactory receptors in the nose, but how individual receptors contribute to behavioral sensitivity is not clear. Here, the authors demonstrate that detection thresholds in mice are set solely by the highest affinity receptor for a given odorant.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Hippocampus is necessary for integrating the context with sensory cues to retrieve memory for unique episodes. Here, the authors show that inhibiting topographically organized projections from hippocampus to the anterior olfactory nucleus independently impairs spatial and temporal odour memory recall.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Jerome Staal

Synchronised neuronal activity is essential for cortical function, yet mechanistic insights into this process remain limited. Here, authors use a combination of in vivo imaging and targeted whole-cell recordings to demonstrate that Somatostatin neurons, in the superficial layers of the mouse primary visual cortex, exhibit functional heterogeneity and can be classified into two distinct subtypes characterized as either having type I uncorrelated, or type II highly correlated with network activity.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Mutations in WDR62 are the second most common genetic cause of autosomal recessive primary microcephaly, yet the molecular mechanisms underlying this pathogenesis remain unclear. Here, authors demonstrate that WDR62 depletion leads to neural precursor cell depletion and microcephaly via WDR62-CEP170-KIF2A pathway that promotes cilium disassembly.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The mechanisms of contextual modulation in direction selective ganglion cells in the retina remain unclear. Here, the authors find that that On-Off direction-selective ganglion cells are differentially sensitive to discontinuities of dark and bright moving edges in the visual environment and, using synapse-specific genetic manipulations with functional measurements, reveal the microcircuits underlying this contextual sensitivity.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The potential role of TET proteins in adult neurogenesis is unknown. In this study, authors show that TET3 is essentially required for the maintenance of the NSC pool in the adult subventricular zone niche by preventing premature differentiation of NSCs, via direct binding and repression of the paternal transcribed allele of the imprinted gene Snrpn

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Synaptic plasticity ensures functionality during perturbations and enables memory formation. Here, the authors describe homeostatic functional and nano-modular active zone modifications for immediate and long-lasting enhancement of neurotransmitter release, and identify Unc13 as a presynaptic molecular target for homeostatic potentiation and learning.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

In contrast to the extensively studied mechanosensory hair bundle, the cuticular plate is not as well understood. In this study, authors describe the discovery of a hair cell protein called LIM only protein 7, which is localized in the cuticular plate and the cell junction and may play a role in age-related deafness.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

It is unclear if early pathological changes in normal-appearing multiple sclerosis (MS) tissue are reflected by molecular changes in microglia, which might contribute to lesion initiation. Here, authors demonstrate significant intrinsic differences in the human microglial transcriptome between grey and white matter regions, isolated from MS and non-neurological control donors, and show early microglial changes related to MS pathology.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

It is unclear if neuromelanin plays a role in Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis since common laboratory animals lack this pigment. Authors show here that overexpression of human tyrosinase in the substantia nigra of rats resulted in an age-dependent production of human-like neuromelanin within nigral dopaminergic neurons and is associated with a Parkinson’s disease phenotype when allowed to accumulate above a specific threshold.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Do single neurons require sleep and what is the conserved cellular function of sleep? In this paper, the authors use real-time imaging of chromosomes in individual cells within live zebrafish to show that sleep increases chromosome dynamics, which are necessary to reduce DNA damage that is accumulated during wakefulness.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Blocking the PD-1 pathway was shown to be effective in amyloid beta mouse models, yet little is known about its therapeutic potential in models of tauopathy. The authors show here that blocking PD-L1, a PD-1 ligand, is similarly effective, and that both treatments reversed cognitive deficiencies, and modified disease pathology not only in an animal model of AD, but also in the DM-hTAU mouse tauopathy model, through a mechanism that involves monocyte-derived macrophages.

Article | open | | Nature Communications