Three ways of looking at touch coding

20 09 2012

At SfN, a block of three posters by myself, Simon Peron and Daniel O’Connor will showcase three ways to approach the problem of touch coding.

My work on whisker force measurements, and single cell and silicon probe based cortical recordings during active objection localization :

Program#/Poster#: 677.18/KK18
Presentation Title: Encoding whisking-related variables in the mouse barrel cortex during object localization
Location: Hall F-J
Presentation time: Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Janelia Farm Res. Campus, ASHBURN, VA

Simon Peron’s work on recording a complete representation of touch using in-vivo imaging with new G-CaMP variants during a similar behavior :

Program#/Poster#: 677.12/KK12
Presentation Title: Towards imaging complete representations of whisker touch in the mouse barrel cortex
Location: Hall F-J
Presentation time: Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Authors: *S. P. PERON1, V. IYER2, Z. GUO2, T.-W. CHEN2, D. KIM2, D. HUBER3, K. SVOBODA2;

Daniel O’Connor’s work on constructing synthetic perception of touch and object localization via cortical cell-type specific optogenetic stimulation during behavior :

Program#/Poster#: 677.06/KK6
Presentation Title: Neural coding for object location revealed using synthetic touch
Location: Hall F-J
Presentation time: Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Authors: *D. H. O’CONNOR1, S. A. HIRES1, Z. GUO1, Q.-Q. SUN2, D. HUBER1, K. SVOBODA1;

This is a must-see session for people interested in touch coding, the whisker system, in-vivo cortical imaging, or synthetic perception via optogenetics.

I hope to see you there.

Rapid warping of two-photon illumination wavefronts

16 02 2011

A short paper in Optics Express looks interesting.  In A high speed wavefront determination method based on spatial frequency modulations for focusing light through random scattering media, Meng Cui presents a method for rapidly determining the optimal wavefront to ‘cancel out’ the scattering when 785nm light passes through turbid media.  In his example, a glass diffuser was used, but the clear goal for this work is to replace the glass with a brain.

To understand why this is so important for in vivo two-photon imaging, let’s review how 2-p imaging works. Light from a laser is focused to a point and swept across the field in a raster. The resulting fluorescence is of a different wavelength and can thus be filtered out from the excitation light. For each voxel, all the fluorescence that re-enters the objective is collected, regardless of its source.  The total amount of fluorescence collected for that timepoint in the sweep is assigned as the brightness of that voxel. Since the user knows where the laser was being aimed, scattering of fluorescence emission may reduce the brightness but will not blur the image.  However, scattering of the excitation light can dramatically reduce the excitation at the target voxel while increasing the off-target excitation of its neighbors. This causes a rapid increase in background fluorescence and blur at increasing brain depth.

The vasculature was labeled by injecting flourescein dextran into the circulatory stream. The light source was a regenerative amplifier. ‘‘0 mm’’ corresponds to the top of the brain. Left, XZ projection. Right, examples of XY projections. Note the increase in background fluo- rescence deeper than 600 mm in the brain due to out-of-focus 2PE. (Theer et al., 2003)

Previous reports work has shown that one can use adaptive optics to adjust the phase of the wavefront of the excitation light to correct for the scattering of the excitation.  However, determination of the optimal wavefront for a field of view took minutes, which could be problematic for imaging in an awake animal.  Any changes in the precise position of the brain might change the optimal wavefront.  Ideally, one would want a system that could optimize the wavefront every second, or even before every frame of acquisition (typically 4-8 Hz in a raster scan in vivo experiment)

Scattering in the brain warps two-photon excitation light, but adaptive optics can correct this.

I’ll let Meng Cui explain the technique in his own words

Elastic scattering is the dominant factor limiting the optical imaging depth in tissues. Take gray matter as an example, at 800 nm the scattering coefficient is 77 /cm and the absorption coefficient is 0.2 / cm. If there is a way to suppress scattering, the optical imaging depth could be greatly improved. Despite the apparent randomness, scattering is a deterministic process. A properly engineered wave can propagate inside scattering media and form a focus, a well understood phenomenon in the time reversal and optical phase conjugation (OPC) studies…

For applications on biological tissues, acquisition time on the order of one millisecond (ms) per degree of freedom is desired. Deformable mirrors can provide a high modulation speed. However the degrees of freedom are rather limited. A phase-only SLM can provide about one million degrees of freedom at a much lower modulation speed. In this work, I present a novel method, capable of providing as many degrees of freedom as a SLM with a data acquisition time of one ms per degree of freedom. The method was employed to focus light through a random scattering medium with a 400 ms total data acquisition time, ~three orders of magnitude faster than the previous report [25].

The essence of a COAT system is to phase modulate different input spatial modes while detecting the output signal from the target. To greatly improve the operation speed, the experiment requires a device that can provide fast phase modulation and can access a large number of spatial modes very quickly. To meet these two requirements, a pair of scanning Galvanometer mirrors was used to quickly visit different modes in the spatial frequency domain or k space, and a frequency shifted reference beam was provided for a heterodyne detection. The wavefront profile was first determined in k space and then transformed to the spatial domain. The spatial phase profile was displayed on a SLM to focus light onto the target. In such a design, the number of degrees of freedom is limited by the number of pixels on the SLM and the experiment speed is determined by the scanning mirror speed…

Compared to existing techniques, the reported method can provide both a high operation speed and a large number of degrees of freedom. In the current design, the operation speed is limited by the scanning mirror speed and the maximum number of degrees of freedom is limited by the SLM pixel number. In this demonstration, 400 spatial modes in k space were visited and the determined phase profile was displayed on the SLM. Depending on the scattering property of the media, more (up to 1920 x 1080) or less number of degrees of freedom can be used to optimize the focus quality and the operation speed.

Using a stepwise position scanning, the method achieves an operation speed of one ms (400 μs transition time + 600 μs recording time) per spatial mode, ~three orders of magnitude faster than the previous report. Using a continuous position scanning and a faster position scanner such as resonant scanning mirrors, polygon mirror scanners, or acousto-optic deflectors, the operation speed can be potentially increased by at least one order of magnitude. It is anticipated that the reported technique will find a broad range of applications in biomedical deep tissue imaging.

Cameleon-Nanos : High Affinity GECIs

9 08 2010

Takeharu Nagai’s lab has published in Nature Methods, Spontaneous network activity visualized by ultrasensitive Ca2+ indicators, yellow Cameleon-Nano, demonstrating a new set of calcium indicators based on yellow cameleon. Back when he was still Take-san, Take’s ability to churn out and manually screen hundreds of cameleon variants was impressive and inspiring. With high-throughput GECI pipelines now ramping up at Janelia, the idea of laboriously screening 200 variations on a theme (be it cameleons or GluSnFRs), seems a bit archaic. However, this paper is a good example of the progress that can still be made by understanding the needed sensor parameters and fiddling with the primary amino acid structure in a relatively low-throughput way. Take-sensei’s results are another example of the pramatic rule in protein design, “when in doubt, tinker with the linker.”

The cameleon-nano family achieves greater apparent calcium affinity than YC2.60-4.60, reaching levels of up to 15nM.  They did this by increasing the flexibility of the linker by extending the standard Tsien/Miyawaki/Baird Gly-Gly-Ser linker with additional glycines.  In this case, the longer the linker between the CaM and M13 segments, the greater the apparent affinity. Interestingly, improvement by increasing linker flexibility is precisely the opposite the advice Atsushi and Take gave me for achieving high ratio changes with FRET reporters.  Back at RIKEN in 2002, they suggested I use short, stiff linkers to restrict the rotational freedom of the fluorescent pairs.  Then one could find orientations where relative rotation of dipole moment gave much greater FRET changes than would be expected from changes in FP distance alone. Take and Atsushi’s big YC2.60/3.60 paper strongly supported this idea!  However, as our understanding of the ideal parameters of calcium sensor’s for in vivo imaging has grown, development directions have adjusted.

Cameleon-Nanos achieve higher signal/noise for sparse action potentials at the expense of linearity.  Like Fluo-4, the signal saturates at relatively low AP frequencies.  I think the absolute affinities measured for this family (15, 30, 50 and 140nM) should be considered very rough estimates. They extrapolated these values from stopped-flow binding experiments, because

Although we would like to measure the koff of YC2.60 and its high affinity variants such as YC-Nano15, we could not do it because it was very difficult to precisely control free Ca2+ concentration at around few tens of nM as far as we used EGTA (Kd for Ca2+ = 151 nM in 0.1 M ionic strength, pH 7.2 at 25 oC). For this purpose, much stronger Ca2+ chelator with a smaller Kd value was required. However there is no such Ca2+ chelator available now.

I’m not sure why they didn’t just use the higher affinity, Mg++ insensitive, chelator BAPTA to make the Kd measurements the right way, with a linear regression of log-log fluorescence/concentration values.  Due to instrument dead time, and the high affinity, I didn’t like stopped-flow based Kd measurements in the early GCaMP papers, and I don’t like them now.  Also, the apparent calcium Kd will be highly dependent on solution ionic strength and [Mg++] which is unreported. Despite these quibbles, which are important only inasmuch as they give insight into the mechanism of improvement and the direction of future development, the cameleon-nano family looks promising for mammalian brain imaging.  I still wonder if, assuming the reported Kd values are relevant in vivo, YC2.60 would be the best of the bunch, since cortical neurons have a resting Kd of ~50nM, which implies that a single AP transient of say 200nM free [Ca++] increase would push the calcium levels right up into the sweet-spot of YC2.60’s sensitivity.

This is all the more interesting given the recent results in YC3.60 imaging from Maz Hasan’s group.  Previously, he had shown that transgenic YC animals were pretty bad for imaging.  However, AAV-mediated gene delivery of YC3.60 has significantly improved the responses of the YC family. I’m not sure if they are really up to GCaMP3 levels under identical in vivo conditions, but they might have better long-term protein stability (or that might depend on which viral serotype is used.) What about cameleon-nanos, what about YC2.60?

Journal Scan – Calcium Imaging in Auditory and Visual Cortex

4 03 2010

A few papers on in vivo calcium imaging have just come out and are worth a careful read.

The first two examine the fine organization of layer 2/3 of the mouse auditory cortex.  The canonical view of auditory cortex organization is that neurons are arranged in a tonotopic pattern, with a smooth gradient in auditory frequency tuning across the surface of the cortex.  Using two-photon imaging in anesthetized mice, the groups saw that, while there was an overall gradient, the tuning of neighboring neurons was highly variable.  These are similar results to what Sato et al and Kerr et al found in the whisker barrel cortex back in 2007.  Moral of the story : mapping brain organization by microstimulation or sparse sampling (as in the classic papers) can be very misleading.

UPDATE : David Kleinfeld kindly directed me to the 40 year old work by Moshe Abeles and others that showed a similar spread in frequency tuning using microelectrodes…

Now, back to the more recent papers…

Functional organization and population dynamics in the mouse primary auditory cortexRothschild GNelken IMizrahi A. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Mar;13(3):353-60. Epub 2010 Jan 31.

Cortical processing of auditory stimuli involves large populations of neurons with distinct individual response profiles. However, the functional organization and dynamics of local populations in the auditory cortex have remained largely unknown. Using in vivo two-photon calcium imaging, we examined the response profiles and network dynamics of layer 2/3 neurons in the primary auditory cortex (A1) of mice in response to pure tones. We found that local populations in A1 were highly heterogeneous in the large-scale tonotopic organization. Despite the spatial heterogeneity, the tendency of neurons to respond together (measured as noise correlation) was high on average. This functional organization and high levels of noise correlations are consistent with the existence of partially overlapping cortical subnetworks. Our findings may account for apparent discrepancies between ordered large-scale organization and local heterogeneity.

In vivo two-photon calcium imaging from dozens of neurons simultaneously in A1.

Dichotomy of functional organization in the mouse auditory cortexBandyopadhyay SShamma SAKanold PO. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Mar;13(3):361-8. Epub 2010 Jan 31.

The sensory areas of the cerebral cortex possess multiple topographic representations of sensory dimensions. The gradient of frequency selectivity (tonotopy) is the dominant organizational feature in the primary auditory cortex, whereas other feature-based organizations are less well established. We probed the topographic organization of the mouse auditory cortex at the single-cell level using in vivo two-photon Ca(2+) imaging. Tonotopy was present on a large scale but was fractured on a fine scale. Intensity tuning, which is important in level-invariant representation, was observed in individual cells, but was not topographically organized. The presence or near absence of putative subthreshold responses revealed a dichotomy in topographic organization. Inclusion of subthreshold responses revealed a topographic clustering of neurons with similar response properties, whereas such clustering was absent in supra-threshold responses. This dichotomy indicates that groups of nearby neurons with locally shared inputs can perform independent parallel computations in the auditory cortex.

Tonotopy exists in A1 and AAF on a large scale, but not on small spatial scales.

The third paper uses a GECI (YC3.6) to do chronic imaging in visual cortex. Their results are noteworthy in that they look at visual responses to both a passive viewing and an ACTIVE discrimination task in an awake, head-fixed mouse.  The patterns of neural activity between anesthetized, awake but passively receiving sensory input, and awake while paying attention and using the sensory input are likely to be hugely different. Recording from neurons that are actively involved in a discrimination task is essential to understanding how the cortex is actually processing information.  Although this paper is more focused on simply presenting the technique rather than in depth analysis of the activity, we will be seeing more of this style of neuroscience in high-profile journals very soon…

Chronic cellular imaging of mouse visual cortex during operant behavior and passive viewing  –  Andermann ML, Kerlin AM and Reid RC, Front. Cell. Neurosci. 4:3.

Nearby neurons in mammalian neocortex demonstrate a great diversity of cell types and connectivity patterns. The importance of this diversity for computation is not understood. While extracellular recording studies in visual cortex have provided a particularly rich description of behavioral modulation of neural activity, new methods are needed to dissect the contribution of specific circuit elements in guiding visual perception. Here, we describe a method for three-dimensional cellular imaging of neural activity in the awake mouse visual cortex during active discrimination and passive viewing of visual stimuli. Head-fixed mice demonstrated robust discrimination for many hundred trials per day after initial task acquisition. To record from multiple neurons during operant behavior with single-trial resolution and minimal artifacts, we built a sensitive microscope for two-photon calcium imaging, capable of rapid tracking of neurons in three dimensions. We demonstrate stable recordings of cellular calcium activity during discrimination behavior across hours, days, and weeks, using both synthetic and genetically-encoded calcium indicators. When combined with molecular and genetic technologies in mice (e.g., cell-type specific transgenic labeling), this approach allows the identification of neuronal classes in vivo. Physiological measurements from distinct classes of neighboring neurons will enrich our understanding of the coordinated roles of diverse elements of cortical microcircuits in guiding sensory perception and perceptual learning. Further, our method provides a high-throughput, chronic in vivo assay of behavioral influences on cellular activity that is applicable to a wide range of mouse models of neurologic disease.

Mapping visual responses in identified excitatory and inhibitory neurons in awake mice

BrainStorm 1 : The Calcium Memory Sensor

9 01 2009

As mentioned in the previous post, this is the first installment of BrainStorm, a section of ideas I have under development, but don’t have the time to physically work on.  This section will contain organically developed ideas, organized by project.  Reader feedback is encouraged.

How can we identify the group of neurons that encode a particular thought?  

I don’t want to simply see correlations of in activity of a few scattered neurons with a given thought, but identify the entire neuronal ensemble.  Which neurons are active at a precise moment in a task?  How are they wired together? Which are the drivers of activity?

Existing technology is inadequate to identify the entire neural ensemble that encodes a thought. Immediate early gene expression  patterns have not been shown to be precisely correlated with brain activity, and have a temporal resolution on the order of minutes. Genetically encoded calcium sensors (GECIs) have the necessary temporal and spatial resolution, but their response is nearly as fleeting as a thought, making it impossible to simultaneously record from networks of thousands of possible participants with current microscopy techniques.

In BrainStorm 1, I will outline a technology, photoswitchable genetically-encoded calcium memory sensors, that can identify all the neurons in a large network that are active during user-specified, aribitrarly brief or long time periods.  I will propose four potential strategies for construction of these sensors, and detail practical considerations for sensor design, screening and application.

Some interesting posters @ SfN

20 11 2008

Here’s a few posters that caught my eye at SfN.  Click the meeting planner for the full abstract

Optimizing two-photon activation of channelrhodopsin-2 for stimulation at cellular resolution


Spiral pattern of 2-photon excitation can drive neurons to spike.  A low NA objective helps. Need to do piezo-based Z-scanning if you use high NA, don’t with low NA.

In vivo two-photon imaging 1 mm deep into cortical brain tissue with novel microprism probe 


A cute method to image 1mm into cortex with 2-photon imaging. They used 2-6 month old mice. The just took a triangular prism whose hypotenuse was silvered and stuck it in the cortex. Then they internally reflected the beam off the prism and fired it sideways into cortex. Got good SNR to 300um lateral distance.  Some clippling of beam at edges of the prism gave somewhat inconsistent spatial resolution.

Self-complementary adeno-associated viral vectors for fast, efficient labeling of neurons and astrocytes in visual cortex in vivo


AAV is the way to go for expression of GECIs and ChR2 in vivo, but it takes a long time to express at high levels (2 weeks). They show that using a double stranded DNA version of AAV rather than single stranded gets protein expression up high much faster. Very high expression after one week. This is because the virus doesn’t need to take the time to make the second strand before expressing the protein.  See Xiao, X J. Virol 1998

Detection of single action potentials in vitro and in vivo with genetically-encoded Ca2+ sensors


Everything in the poster was in the Nature Methods paper.  Conversation reveled that YC3.60 works as well or better than D3cpv. Only have done up to whisker evoked stimulation, no imaging of spontaneous YC3.60 signals yet.

Characterization of improved probes for the hybrid voltage sensor method of voltage imaging


A nice little sensor optimization poster.  They took the hVOS hybrid voltage sensor of dipicrylamine with membrane tethered GFP and improved it by changing the chromophore to Cerulean, and by using the “membrane-staple” strategy. Having membrane anchors on both the N and C-termini gave better quenching. Fast response, ~0.5ms, and 20% dF/F.

Crystal structure of the genetically encoded calcium indicator gcamp2


Jasper made crystal structures of G-CaMP2 in the apo and bound states.  Bound states crystalized as a heterodimer, but he was able to also crystalize the monomer. The structures show a pore to the chromophore in the apo state that is plugged in the Ca-bound state. Thus, the quenched apo state is due to solvent access to the chromophore.  This structural data should help rational design of better G-CaMP sensors.

Deep & local Channelrhodopsin-2 two-photon activation

17 07 2008

An interesting paper on two-photon activation of channelrhodopsin-2 is out in Biophysical Journal. In In-depth activation of ChR2 sensitized excitable cells with high spatial resolution using two-photon excitation with near-IR laser microbeam, Mohanty et. al show cellular activation with a fast-scanning two-photon laser.

Action potential generation from Channelrhodopsin-2 with a two-photon beam has been difficult to achieve, presumably due to the small activation volume of the 2p spot. They show similar calcium transients in response to 2p stimulation as with one-photon stimulation. As depth increases, the one-photon response attenuates faster than the two-photon. Unfortunately, the supplemental info with  electrophysiology traces are not yet online.  Presumably, they are generating action potentials, but I’d like to see the raw data.  Interestingly, they also show calcium increases when the laser stays in once place.  This would imply that local depolarization causes local voltage-gated calcium channels to open, or that calcium is getting through the ChR2. I was under the impression that ChR2 has a low conductance for calcium, though this study by Caldwell et. al, in press for JBC, uses ChR2 specifically for its calcium permeability.

I’m not sure what to make of the first paper. Are they really able to fire action potentials with two-photon stimulation, at depth?  Or are the calcium traces they are seeing simply the result of localized calcium flux.  I’ll followup once the Supplemental Data becomes available.  Still worth a look if this is the sort of thing you are interested in.