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Volume 563 Issue 7729, 1 November 2018

Action potential

Two papers in this week’s issue examine the remarkable diversity found among neurons in the brain. Bosiljka Tasic and her colleagues used deep, single-cell RNA-sequencing on 23,822 cells from across the visual and motor cortices in mice to reveal 133 cell types based on gene-expression profiles. They found that nearly all types of inhibitory neurons were shared across the two regions, whereas most types of excitatory neurons were area-specific. In related work, Karel Svoboda, Michael Economo and their colleagues demonstrate that several of these cell types, those corresponding to pyramidal tract neurons (pictured) — a particular subpopulation of excitatory neurons — differ in other ways beyond gene expression. They showed that different pyramidal tract cell types each connect to a unique set of brain regions and communicate specific signals involved in the preparation and initiation of motion, respectively. Together, these studies demonstrate the power of such data sets to reveal the intricate details of neuronal function.

Cover image: Michael Economo/Jayaram Chandrashekar

This Week

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News in Focus

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  • News & Views

    • A single-cell sequencing study reveals how different types of neuron are distributed in the brain. An analysis then demonstrates how these data can improve our understanding of neuronal functions.

      • Aparna Bhaduri
      • Tomasz J. Nowakowski
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    • The control of quantum systems offers great potential for advanced information-processing and sensing applications. An approach has been demonstrated that enables such control over the motion of mechanical oscillators.

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    • The parasite Trypanosoma brucei causes sleeping sickness. It evades human defences by changing the version of a protein that coats its surface. Analysis of its genome and nuclear structure clarifies this variation process.

      • Steve Kelly
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      News & Views
    • During development, some synaptic connections between neurons are removed by immune cells called microglia, and others are retained. The discovery of a ‘don’t eat me’ signal that prevents excess pruning sheds light on this process.

      • Serge Rivest
      News & Views
    • An analysis of data from the Gaia space observatory suggests that stars in the inner halo of the Milky Way originated in another galaxy. This galaxy is thought to have collided with the Milky Way about ten billion years ago.

      • Kim Venn
      News & Views
    • A new technique, in which forebrain-precursor cells are ablated from early-stage mouse embryos and replaced with embryonic stem cells, promises to facilitate our ability to study the central nervous system.

      • Jimena Andersen
      • Sergiu P. Pașca
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  • Brief Communications Arising

  • Reviews

  • Articles

    • The displacement of a mechanical resonator is measured to within 35% of the Heisenberg uncertainty limit, enabling feedback cooling to the quantum ground state, nine decibels below the quantum-backaction limit.

      • Massimiliano Rossi
      • David Mason
      • Albert Schliesser
    • Responses from more than two million people to an internet-based survey of attitudes towards moral dilemmas that might be faced by autonomous vehicles shed light on similarities and variations in ethical preferences among different populations.

      • Edmond Awad
      • Sohan Dsouza
      • Iyad Rahwan

      Nature Outlook:

    • Single-cell transcriptomics of more than 20,000 cells from two functionally distinct areas of the mouse neocortex identifies 133 transcriptomic types, and provides a foundation for understanding the diversity of cortical cell types.

      • Bosiljka Tasic
      • Zizhen Yao
      • Hongkui Zeng
    • Transcriptional profiling and axonal reconstructions identify two types of pyramidal tract neuron in the motor cortex: one type projects to thalamic regions and produces early and persistent preparatory activity, and the other type projects to motor centres in the medulla and produces motor commands.

      • Michael N. Economo
      • Sarada Viswanathan
      • Karel Svoboda
  • Letters

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Amendments & Corrections

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  • Cities are the ideal setting for scientific exploration. They attract bright and diverse minds, are abuzz with creative activity, and can summon the capital to realize big ideas. Nature Index 2018 Science Cities profiles five science cities that are leaders in their regions. But each is contending with problems of equity and engagement that need to be addressed to keep them strong.

    Nature Index
  • Meet the neuroscientists breaking the walls around their discipline.

  • China’s former ancient capital of Xi’an stands to gain from the Belt and Road initiative, a government scheme to link the country across land and sea to Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia.

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