News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Chiot and colleagues investigated whether peripheral macrophages play a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) pathology, finding that macrophages along peripheral motor neuron axons react to neurodegeneration. Modifying reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling in peripheral macrophages, using bone marrow cell replacement, reduces both macrophage and microglia inflammatory response, delays pathology and increases survival in ALS mouse models.

    • P. Hande Özdinler
  • News & Views |

    By building a richer behavioral vocabulary, Wiltschko et al. tease apart subtle differences in how pharmacological agents affect animal behavior, mapping on- and off-target effects of drugs with improved precision.

    • Ann Kennedy
  • News & Views |

    Abrupt spatial changes in anatomic and functional properties of the brain demarcate boundaries between discrete functional areas. While previous work has identified these boundaries in cortex, a new study by Tian et al. applies this approach for the first time to subcortical structures within the in vivo human brain.

    • Evan M. Gordon
  • News & Views |

    A new study shows that, immediately after axon injury, glycolysis is increased in Schwann cells to provide axons with energy and prevent them from degenerating. The authors also identify possible therapeutic targets that could be modulated to promote axonal protection.

    • Amelia Trimarco
    •  & Carla Taveggia
  • News & Views |

    Sleep is controlled by a cocktail of neurotransmitters, but it is difficult to measure these in the brain. A new study by Tamaki et al. reveals how the balance between excitation and inhibition oscillates as the brain moves through sleep stages and how this impacts upon memory consolidation and stabilization.

    • Sofia I. R. Pereira
    •  & Penelope A. Lewis
  • News & Views |

    Pathological tau disrupts the association between nitric oxide (NO) synthase and PSD95, impairing NO signaling and neurovascular coupling before causing neurodegeneration. Stopping production of pathological tau rescues NO signaling, neurovascular coupling and neuronal function, but doesn’t remove tangles, suggesting that (like amyloid-β) soluble tau is an important driver of early neurovascular dysfunction and subsequent neuronal damage.

    • Orla Bonnar
    •  & Catherine N. Hall
  • News & Views |

    A new technique developed by Garcia-Marques and colleagues uses CRISPR–Cas9 editing to activate an ordered sequence of fluorescent markers in stem cells and their progeny. These tools represent a new way to probe the spatial and temporal patterns of cell lineage progression.

    • Clayton M. Carey
    •  & James A. Gagnon
  • News & Views |

    Following learning, memories for events are reorganized in a time-dependent manner in distributed hippocampal–cortical networks. While previous studies have focused on neural contributions to this process of systems consolidation, a new study by Kol et al. reveals that astrocytes play crucial modulatory roles in the formation of remote memories.

    • Paul W. Frankland
    •  & Sheena A. Josselyn
  • News & Views |

    Poll and colleagues examined the historical activity of hippocampal CA1 neurons during learning and memory recall using longitudinal two-photon in vivo imaging, providing evidence that extra neural ensemble activity disrupts memory recall in a mouse model of early Alzheimer’s disease.

    • Ryang Kim
    • , Naoki Yamamoto
    •  & Takashi Kitamura
  • News & Views |

    Citation count has become one of the most important methods to evaluate a scientist’s contributions. In an extensive analysis of citations from a number of leading neuroscience journals, Dworkin and colleagues find evidence of gender bias in citation practices that can have an adverse impact on women’s careers.

    • Adrienne L. Fairhall
    •  & Eve Marder
  • News & Views |

    Our light environment can strongly influence our mental health. Kai An and colleagues dissect the neuronal circuit mediating depression-related behaviors induced by mistimed light input in mice, implicating the nucleus accumbens as the downstream target of the neural pathway between intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells and the perihabenular nucleus.

    • Tara A. LeGates
    •  & Mark D. Kvarta
  • News & Views |

    Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) was linked to dementia long ago, but subsequently, Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles have received more attention. A new proteome-wide association study unveils molecular links between intracranial atherosclerosis and dementia, independent of other pathologies, providing new evidence for one of the oldest suspected causes of dementia.

    • Costantino Iadecola
  • News & Views |

    General anesthetics during surgery are presumed to block pain by dampening brain activity and promoting loss-of-consciousness. A new study shows that anesthetics activate an endogenous analgesia neural ensemble in the central nucleus of the amygdala.

    • Nora M. McCall
    • , Jessica A. Wojick
    •  & Gregory Corder
  • News & Views |

    One hallmark of sleep is the slow oscillation, which is often synchronous across the neocortical mantle. How this synchrony is achieved remains unclear. A new study by Narikiyo et al. demonstrates how the claustrum may play a key role in the global control of this rhythm.

    • Igor Timofeev
    •  & Sylvain Chauvette
  • News & Views |

    At the heart of C9ORF72-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia (ALS /FTD) research lies the mechanistic question of whether disease is caused by toxic gain of function related to the repeat expansion, loss of endogenous C9ORF72 expression, or both. New findings provide insights to this question.

    • Cathleen Lutz
  • News & Views |

    A new study shows that mapping neural signals directly to word sequences produces lower error rates in speech decoding than previous methods that use motor or auditory based features. This suggests that using higher-level language goals can aid decoding algorithms for neural speech prostheses.

    • Gregory B. Cogan
  • News & Views |

    Motor learning is composed of explicit ‘strategic’ components and implicit ‘automatic’ components. Miyamoto and colleagues reveal how these components work together during visuomotor adaptation, providing evidence that an implicit component corrects for a noisy explicit process.

    • Olivier Codol
    • , Giacomo Ariani
    •  & Jonathan A. Michaels
  • News & Views |

    Three new studies show that activity-dependent formation of myelin contributes to memory consolidation and recall, possibly by increasing functional coupling between neuronal ensembles encoding experience.

    • R. Douglas Fields
    •  & Olena Bukalo
  • News & Views |

    Postmortem studies have previously suggested that adult olfactory neurogenesis occurs in humans. In new research, Durante and colleagues obtained fresh tissue from healthy adult humans via endoscopic nasal surgery and used single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to identify the entire neurogenic trajectory in the olfactory epithelium, confirming the existence of human olfactory neurogenesis.

    • Thomas Berger
    • , Hyunah Lee
    •  & Sandrine Thuret
  • News & Views |

    Recent findings unveil a viral-like mechanism for the transmission of synaptic plasticity signals involving the activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc). Arc forms capsid-like particles that package RNA and are transported across synapses. Here Erlendsson et al. present a high-resolution structural representation of Arc capsids, enabling deeper analysis of their function.

    • Vivian Budnik
    •  & Travis Thomson
  • News & Views |

    Rewards direct behavioral adaptation through midbrain dopamine signaling, though the timing of those effects is often ambiguous. Lee and colleagues find that different subpopulations of dopamine neurons obey similar constraints, indirectly regulating reward-related behavior through learning mechanisms restricted to a brief time window following reward.

    • Luke T. Coddington
  • News & Views |

    A new study shows that the enzyme monoamine oxidase funnels a byproduct of dopamine metabolism, H2O2, directly into the mitochondrial electron transport chain, stimulating ATP production. This alternative energy pathway may protect dopaminergic neurons from the toxicity induced by dopamine metabolism while supporting phasic firing.

    • Rongmin Chen
    •  & Elizabeth A. Jonas
  • News & Views |

    Humans and animals are drawn to others in an altered affective state, whether sad or happy. A study published in this issue of Nature Neuroscience shows that a specific population of interneurons in the brain is critical for discrimination of affective states.

    • Toni-Lee Sterley
    •  & Jaideep S. Bains
  • News & Views |

    Behavior is more than the motor outputs that we can directly measure. Here Calhoun and colleagues devise a novel method for inferring the internal states that affect how fruit flies process sensory information during courtship, providing a new framework for understanding the neural encoding of behavior.

    • Kanishk Jain
    •  & Gordon J. Berman
  • News & Views |

    Reitich-Stolero and Paz examined multineuron correlates of Pavlovian learning in the primate amygdala. They found repeating patterns of activity across neurons that may mediate synaptic-level plasticity mechanisms. This extends the notion of replay, often examined relative to navigation in the hippocampus, to aversive learning in the amygdala.

    • Bruno B. Averbeck
  • News & Views |

    Unexpected experiences often lead to strong memories. A new study by Krabbe and Paradiso et al. shows that vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)-expressing interneurons of the basolateral amygdala control associative learning and memory formation by gating aversive stimuli scaled by their unexpectedness.

    • Panna Hegedüs
    • , Sergio Martínez-Bellver
    •  & Balázs Hangya
  • News & Views |

    Two new studies demonstrate the importance of awake imaging to investigate microglia–neuron interactions. These studies show that microglial dynamics are influenced by neuronal activity, and they provide evidence that norepinergic signaling plays an important role in this effect.

    • Dilek Mercan
    •  & Michael T. Heneka
  • News & Views |

    Astrocytes are crucial contributors to brain homeostasis. Yet the lack of ad hoc analysis tools has prevented in-depth characterization of astrocyte-derived signals. In a new study, the authors present an image-analysis toolbox that captures the complexity of astrocyte activity and enables our understanding of astrocytic physiology.

    • Jennifer Romanos
    • , Laetitia Thieren
    •  & Mirko Santello
  • News & Views |

    Using data from 45,615 people, Kaufmann et al. compare the gaps between brain age and chronological age in a number of brain disorders and study the relationship of these gaps with genetics. Their research shows that the brains of individuals with a range of different brain disorders, such as dementia and schizophrenia, are aging faster than normal.

    • Janine Bijsterbosch
  • News & Views |

    We express decisions through movements, but not all movements matter to the outcome. For example, fidgeting is a common yet ‘nonessential’ behavior we exhibit. New evidence suggests that this non-task-related movement profoundly shapes neural activity in expert mice performing tasks.

    • Mackenzie Weygandt Mathis
  • News & Views |

    A new study sheds light on how sensitivity to communication sounds is established in the brain. Juvenile finches raised with tutors of either the same or different species always learned the tutors’ songs. Cortical neurons developed selectivity for the learned song by tuning for its secondary acoustic features.

    • Aaron Williams
    •  & Maria N. Geffen
  • News & Views |

    Chronic pain is associated with anxio-depressive comorbidities, but the neuroanatomical substrates remain unknown. A specific serotonergic pathway from the dorsal raphe nucleus to the lateral habenula via the central amygdala is now uncovered as a key neural circuit governing comorbid depressive symptoms in chronic pain.

    • Anke Tappe-Theodor
    •  & Rohini Kuner
  • News & Views |

    Repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) translation generates toxic repeat proteins from pathological repeat expansions found in certain neurodegenerative disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. How to suppress RAN translation has so far been unknown. A new study now reports a selective regulator of RAN translation identified in a genetic screen in yeast.

    • Saskia Hutten
    •  & Dorothee Dormann
  • News & Views |

    Misfolded protein aggregates are a classical hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases. By combining a mouse model of misfolded protein injection and a brain network model of misfolded protein diffusion, a study now finds a strong link between the stereotypical spreading patterns of neurodegeneration, protein expression and anatomical connectivity.

    • Ellen Kuhl
  • News & Views |

    Mosquito-borne virus infections, such as West Nile and Zika, have debilitating cognitive effects that persist despite recovery from encephalitis. Garber et al. identify mechanisms by which antiviral T cell persistence after recovery from infection leads to impairments in cognition via virus-specific mediation of microglial synapse elimination.

    • Karen Krukowski
    •  & Susanna Rosi
  • News & Views |

    Shahmoradian and colleagues report that the structure of Lewy bodies in Parkinson’s disease consists of α-synuclein and lipid vesicle clusters instead of the long-assumed amyloid fibril core. This finding has implications for our understanding of the underlying pathogenesis of synucleinopathies.

    • Tim Bartels
  • News & Views |

    The creation of a murine Cre driver specific to CNS capillary pericytes has opened a major bottleneck in brain microvascular research. Using this tool, pericyte loss in the adult brain is shown to induce neuronal loss due to concurrent microcirculatory failure and depletion of the protective trophic factor pleiotrophin.

    • Andrée-Anne Berthiaume
    •  & Andy Y. Shih
  • News & Views |

    A new study by Owen et al. shows that widely used optogenetic light delivery can heat brain tissue and produce changes in neural activity and behavior in the absence of opsins. How will this finding influence experimental design in the optical age of neuroscience?

    • Daniel F. Cardozo Pinto
    •  & Stephan Lammel
  • News & Views |

    Selecting the most rewarding action and performing it accurately are two separable brain functions that are thought to rely upon different neural systems. New evidence suggests that the cerebellum could learn to do both.

    • Javier F. Medina
  • News & Views |

    How to know when to hunt or when to lay low? Surprisingly, new research shows that activity in the medial zona incerta specifically initiates predation in the mouse. The medial zona incerta integrates visual motion and tactile stimulation sent from the intermediate superior colliculus to motivate hunting.

    • Nicole Procacci
    •  & Jennifer L. Hoy
  • News & Views |

    The CNS harbors distinct subsets of macrophages, including parenchymal microglia and macrophages residing at border regions (for example, meninges and the choroid plexus). In this issue of Nature Neuroscience, Van Hove and colleagues elegantly demonstrate the diversity and dynamics of non-parenchymal macrophages and identify a unique microglial subtype within the choroid plexus.

    • Sebastian G. Utz
    •  & Melanie Greter
  • News & Views |

    Using light-activated ion channels to stimulate sensory and motivational pathways, Vetere and colleagues constructed fully artificial memories in mice. Mice preferred or avoided an odor they had never smelled before, depending on the pattern of stimulation.

    • Mark G. Baxter
    •  & Nicholas A. Upright
  • News & Views |

    DNA damage or cellular stresses can induce senescence, and increased senescence with aging contributes to age-associated tissue damage, inflammation and disease. Zheng and colleagues report increased senescent oligodendrocyte progenitor cells around amyloid plaques. Therapeutically eliminating these senescent cells may influence the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

    • David Holtzman
    •  & Jason Ulrich
  • News & Views |

    Robust conclusions require rigorous statistics. In 2009 a seminal paper described the dangers and prevalence of double-dipping in neuroscience. Ten years on, I consider progress toward statistical rigor in neuroimaging.

    • Katherine S. Button
  • News & Views |

    A new study reveals an unexpected mechanism underlying behavioral abnormalities in the neurodevelopmental disorder Williams syndrome. A deficit in myelination, resulting from the deletion of a Williams syndrome-associated gene in forebrain excitatory neurons, causes hypersociability by impairing action potential conduction. Accordingly, rescuing myelination or conduction normalizes this behavior.

    • Lindsay A. Osso
    •  & Jonah R. Chan
  • News & Views |

    Noninvasive delivery of alternating electrical currents to temporal and prefrontal brain regions improves working memory and reverses age-related changes in brain dynamics in the elderly, report Reinhart and Nguyen in this issue of Nature Neuroscience. They also report a similar effect in young adults with poor working memory performance.

    • Romain Quentin
    •  & Leonardo G. Cohen
  • News & Views |

    The ventrolateral and medial orbitofrontal cortices are involved in selecting actions based on the value of expected outcomes. Malvaez and colleagues reveal that these brain regions are specialized in value encoding (ventrolateral orbitofrontal cortices) versus value memory retrieval (medial orbitofrontal cortices) and that they interact with the basolateral amygdala to orchestrate goal-oriented reward-seeking.

    • Shannon L. Gourley
  • News & Views |

    When choosing whether to act altruistically, people may compare the current option to an idiosyncratic ideal. Prosocial individuals seem to represent deviations from that ideal in the amygdala, but selfish individuals do not. Oxytocin administration makes selfish individuals look more like prosocial individuals, behaviorally and neurally.

    • Ian D. Roberts
    • , Yi Yang Teoh
    •  & Cendri A. Hutcherson
  • News & Views |

    The cell of origin for malignant brain tumors remains uncertain, but de-differentiation from mature cells in the CNS has always been considered a strong possibility. In this issue of Nature Neuroscience, Alcantara Llaguno and colleagues report that differentiated neurons resist transformation by glioblastoma-associated mutations, pointing to neural stem cells or immature progenitors as the most likely cells of origin for these tumors, rather than cells of a relatively mature neuronal lineage.

    • Peter B. Dirks