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Volume 17 Issue 4, April 2014

Astrocytes provide essential support for and modulate synaptic transmission between neurons. In this issue, Pannasch and colleagues show that non-channel functions of connexin 30, a gap-junction subunit, control the synaptic coverage of astroglial processes and regulate glutamate clearance, synaptic strength and memory function. The cover shows a three-dimensional model reconstructed from serial transmission electron microscopy images of a synaptic contact (red) on the dendritic spine (gray), closely surrounded by an astrocytic process (green).p 549


  • Marijuana use is expected to increase as its legalization spreads. With more marijuana users, we should prioritize research on this pervasive, but relatively understudied, drug.



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News & Views

  • A finding now suggests that the brain's response to heartbeats is influential in guiding reported visual experience, such that the ability to accurately report the presence or absence of a visual target is influenced by the brain's heartbeat-evoked activity.

    • Joel S Winston
    • Geraint Rees
    News & Views
  • CNS white matter injury may cause sustained demyelination despite the persistence of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). A study suggests that dysregulated Wnt signaling disrupts self-renewal to yield OPC maturation arrest.

    • Steven A Goldman
    • Joana Osorio
    News & Views
  • A study now shows that granule cells deep in the olfactory bulb exhibit wildly different response dynamics depending on behavioral state, suggesting they could configure network changes across behavioral states.

    • Sasha Devore
    • Dmitry Rinberg
    News & Views
  • The internal dynamics of recurrent cortical circuits is crucial to brain function. We now learn that simply increasing the strengths of recurrent connections shifts neural dynamics to a potentially powerful computational regime.

    • Vishwa Goudar
    • Dean V Buonomano
    News & Views
  • A simple cued-approach training procedure can bias economic choices toward specific goods. It appears to work by drawing overt attention toward trained items, scaling up their judged value.

    • Joseph T McGuire
    • Joseph W Kable
    News & Views
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  • The authors examine papers in high profile journals and find that while collection of multiple observations from a single research object is common practice, such nested data are often analyzed using inappropriate statistical techniques. The authors show that this results in increased Type I error rates, and propose multilevel modelling to address this issue.

    • Emmeke Aarts
    • Matthijs Verhage
    • Sophie van der Sluis
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Review Article

  • It has been argued that the fundamental bridge from basic research to education is cognitive psychology, not neuroscience. Here the authors argue that brain science has much to offer education, discussing specific cases in which neuroscience has broadened our understanding of the mind in a way that is highly relevant to educational practice.

    • Mariano Sigman
    • Marcela Peña
    • Sidarta Ribeiro
    Review Article
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Brief Communication

  • The authors show that sharp-wave events recorded in mouse hippocampal slices are more likely to involve neurons that have been activated during a recent behavioral episode. The excitation/inhibition balance of the synaptic inputs received by these cells during sharp waves is biased toward excitation, suggesting a potential mechanism for their preferential recruitment into these network events.

    • Mika Mizunuma
    • Hiroaki Norimoto
    • Yuji Ikegaya
    Brief Communication
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  • Much of what we know about the signal transduction machinery of the canonical Wnt pathway comes from studying the colon, where low- versus high-activity Wnt signaling states are known to distinguish normal colon epithelium turnover from colorectal cancer. Here, Fancy et al. demonstrate that a pathological Wnt activity state akin to that in colon cancer exists in oligodendrocyte precursor cells in human neonatal white matter injury, which leads to detrimental maturation arrest of these cells. These oligodendrocyte precursors in human newborn brain injury express multiple genes in common with colon cancer, demonstrating a pathological Wnt tone in non-genetic human disease.

    • Stephen P J Fancy
    • Emily P Harrington
    • David H Rowitch
  • In this study, the authors show that cell-autonomous expression of mutant Huntingtin in microglia can elicit alterations in the transcriptional profile and activation state of the cells. In particular, there is an upregulation of pro-inflammatory and myeloid lineage factors and an increased ability to promote neuronal death after inflammatory insult.

    • Andrea Crotti
    • Christopher Benner
    • Christopher K Glass
  • This study shows that activity-dependent palmitoylation of δ-catenin stabilizes the cell adhesion molecule N-cadherin at the excitatory synapse and that this post-translational modification is important for GluA1- and GluA2-mediated synaptic and structural plasticity.

    • G Stefano Brigidi
    • Yu Sun
    • Shernaz X Bamji
  • Changes in brain gene expression by cocaine are known to involve epigenetic machineries. The histone methyltransferase G9a is a mediator of cocaine-induced structural and behavioral plasticity in the nucleus accumbens of mouse. This study finds cocaine-induced, G9a-mediated gene repression in both direct and indirect pathway medium spiny neurons (MSNs). The study also uses cell type–specific overexpression and conditional knockout of G9a in each MSN cell type and shows that G9a influences the developmental specification of striatal MSN subtypes, which in turn affects behavioral response to cocaine.

    • Ian Maze
    • Dipesh Chaudhury
    • Eric J Nestler
  • In this study, the authors show that there are multiple forms of opioid-induced long-term depression (OP-LTD) in the dorsal striatum, each mediated by the mu, delta or kappa opioid receptor. The mu and delta OP-LTD are presynaptic and can summate, but only mu OP-LTD occludes endocannabinoid-induced LTD. Furthermore, mu OP-LTP, but not kappa or delta OP-LTP, is blocked by the analgesic oxycodone.

    • Brady K Atwood
    • David A Kupferschmidt
    • David M Lovinger
  • Astrocytes provide essential support for and modulate synaptic transmission between neurons. Here the authors show that non-channel functions of connexin 30, a gap-junction subunit, control the synaptic coverage of astroglial processes and regulate glutamate clearance, synaptic strength and memory function.

    • Ulrike Pannasch
    • Dominik Freche
    • Nathalie Rouach
  • Sparse coding is thought to facilitate pattern separation for associative memory, but behavioral evidence is scant. The authors show that in Drosophila, feedback inhibition enforces sparse odor coding in Kenyon cells, the neurons that store olfactory associations. Disrupting this sparsening mechanism impairs learned discrimination of similar, but not dissimilar, odors.

    • Andrew C Lin
    • Alexei M Bygrave
    • Gero Miesenböck
  • The authors recorded from granule cells (GCs) in the main olfactory bulb of anesthetized and awake mice. Odor responses in GCs of awake mice were more robust and broadly tuned than under anesthesia. Unlike in anesthetized mice, odor coding in GCs in awake mice was not coupled to the respiratory cycle.

    • Brittany N Cazakoff
    • Billy Y B Lau
    • Stephen D Shea
  • The authors show that rostral ventral pallidum projections to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are activated during cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking, and DREADD inhibition of these projections blocks this behavior. In contrast, projections from the caudal ventral pallidum are necessary for cocaine-primed, but not cue-induced, reinstatement of cocaine seeking.

    • Stephen V Mahler
    • Elena M Vazey
    • Gary Aston-Jones
  • In this study, the authors identify a population of deep dorsal horn interneurons that receive inputs from both sensory neurons and the descending motor tracts and that can evoke activity from functionally related motor pools. These cells may represent the central node for coordinating motor output programs in the spinal cord.

    • Ariel J Levine
    • Christopher A Hinckley
    • Samuel L Pfaff
  • Here the author shows that an unstructured, sparsely connected network of model spiking neurons can display two different types of asynchronous activity: one in which an external input leads to a highly redundant response of different neurons that favors information transmission and another in which the firing rates of individual neurons fluctuate strongly in time and across neurons to provide a substrate for complex information processing.

    • Srdjan Ostojic
  • Simultaneous performance of two tasks often leads to deficits in the component tasks, an effect thought to depend on the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC). Here, the authors recorded single-neuron activities in monkey LPFC during two simultaneous tasks, providing direct neurophysiological evidence for models of dual-task interference and capacity limitation.

    • Kei Watanabe
    • Shintaro Funahashi
  • Here, using magnetoencephalography, the authors show that in humans, neural events locked to heartbeats before stimulus onset predict the detection of a faint visual grating in the posterior right inferior parietal lobule and ventral anterior cingulate cortex, two regions with multiple functional correlates that belong to the same resting-state network.

    • Hyeong-Dong Park
    • Stéphanie Correia
    • Catherine Tallon-Baudry
  • The authors examine magnetoencephalographic recordings during relevant- and irrelevant-feature processing in a visual attention task. As participants attend to stimulus color or motion, a temporal sequence of relevant followed by irrelevant feature activations may bind an attended object's features into a unitary percept.

    • Mircea A Schoenfeld
    • Jens-Max Hopf
    • Steven A Hillyard
  • The subjective values of stimuli can be changed through reward-based learning, but here the authors show that the value of food items can be modulated by the concurrent presentation of an irrelevant auditory cue to which subjects must make a motor response. The effects of this pairing lasted at least 2 months, and neuroimaging revealed increased preference-related activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

    • Tom Schonberg
    • Akram Bakkour
    • Russell A Poldrack
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Technical Report

  • In this Technical Report, the authors describe a new technique for the unambiguous lineage tracing of specific Drosophila neuroblasts. This methodology involves the use of lineage-restricted drivers and a modification to GAL4 expression such that it is now permanent and heritable to all descendant cells, directing reporter expression based on neuroblast identity rather than terminal neuronal characteristics.

    • Takeshi Awasaki
    • Chih-Fei Kao
    • Tzumin Lee
    Technical Report
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