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From brain to behaviour

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.

Featured articles

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Deep brain stimulation and epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord enable locomotion in humans with spinal cord injury (SCI) but the potential synergy between both approaches is unclear. The authors show that a complex technological approach is required to enable volitional walking in rats with SCI.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Non-invasive measurement of fast neural activity with spatial precision in humans is difficult. Here, the authors show how fMRI can be used to detect sub-second neural sequences in a localized fashion and report fast replay of images in visual cortex that occurred independently of the hippocampus.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The contribution of distinct types of dorsal root ganglion neurons to chronic pain is unclear. Here, the authors molecularly profile non-human primate sensory neurons and show that genome-wide associations converge on two neuronal types with different genetic susceptibilities for chronic pain.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Schwann cells (SCs) can acquire a repair phenotype following nerve injury. Here, the authors show that stromal SCs in ganglioneuromas express nerve-repair genes. Importantly, neuroblastoma cells respond to repair-related SCs increasing neuronal differentiation and reducing proliferation via EGFL8.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Cooperative species, like humans, can display spontaneously prosocial behaviour. Experiments on a monogamous fish with biparental care shows that pair bonded males are prosocial to both their long-term mates and to strange females, but make antisocial choices if their mate is watching, or if another male is the potential recipient.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications