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Deciphering information representation in the brain

The Inscopix miniature microscope platform gives scientists an edge in investigating how patterned activity in neuronal ensembles represents information about an individual’s environment, needs, actions, and memories in the brain.

By monitoring and disrupting activity in the same cells over months, scientists can gain unprecedented insights into how neural codes emerge and evolve during development, learning, disease, and therapeutic intervention.

Social representation in the brain
Dulac Lab-Li Cell 2017-GIF
Male and female recognition among conspecifics was thought to be represented by hardwired circuits, but the Dulac lab used nVista imaging to show that social experience, and specifically direct contact with the opposite sex, resulted in experience-dependent changes to the neural ensembles representing sex-specific social cues in medial amygdala and the ventromedial hypothalamus. Published in Cell they used nVista to perform calcium imaging of large neuronal populations at the single-cell level over days while naive and experienced males or females interacted with conspecifics.


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Understanding how hippocampal place cells construct
a mental map of space

The perception of location in the physical world is fundamental for our existence, from shaping memories to guiding navigation. By simply analyzing the patterns of activation of hippocampal place cells with nVista, Dr. Mark Schnitzer (Stanford) and colleagues were able to deduce the precise location of a mouse as it was exploring a familiar environment. The scientists tracked calcium dynamics in a record ~1000 place cells over months, and found that place coding in the hippocampus is highly dynamic, with different ensembles of place cells coding for the same location on different days.

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Imaging calcium dynamics in hippocampal place cells (R) of a mouse running on a linear track (L). The circled place cell is active when the mouse is near the top end of the track coding for that location.


Decoding the spatiotemporal patterns of HVC neural activity
that underlie zebrafinch singing

Imaging calcium dynamics in HVC neurons during a zebrafinch singing bout. Play Sound.
Credit: Markowitz et al., PLOS Biology | DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002158; June 3, 2015

The songbird is a model organism for studying learned vocal communication. Dr. Timothy Gardner (BU) and colleagues adapted nVista to image the zebrafinch HVC, a brain region involved  in initiating movements necessary for vocalization during singing. By analyzing calcium dynamics at single-cell resolution during singing bouts, the scientists could dissect how different notes of the zebrafinch song are encoded in the stereotypical sequences of neural activity observed in different ensembles of HVC neurons.

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