Congratulations to Sam Gershman

February 15, 2018
Sloan Fellows

Cholinergic Sensorimotor Integration Regulates Olfactory Steering.

December 21, 2017

Liu H, Yang W, Wu T, Duan F, Soucy E, Jin X, Zhang Y

Sensorimotor integration regulates goal-directed movements. We study the signaling mechanisms underlying sensorimotor integration in C. elegans during olfactory steering, when the sinusoidal movements of the worm generate an in-phase oscillation in the concentration of the sampled odorant. We show that cholinergic neurotransmission encodes the oscillatory sensory response and the motor state of head undulations by acting through an acetylcholine-gated channel and a muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, respectively. These signals converge on two axonal domains of an interneuron RIA, where the sensory-evoked signal suppresses the motor-encoding signal to transform the spatial information of the odorant into the asymmetry between the axonal activities. The asymmetric synaptic outputs of the RIA axonal domains generate a directional bias in the locomotory trajectory. Experience alters the sensorimotor integration to generate specific behavioral changes. Our study reveals how cholinergic neurotransmission, which can represent sensory and motor information in the mammalian brain, regulates sensorimotor integration during goal-directed locomotions.


Cellular and Molecular Analysis of Dendritic Morphogenesis in a Retinal Cell Type That Senses Color Contrast and Ventral Motion.

December 13, 2017

Liu J, Sanes JR

As neuronal dendrites develop, they acquire cell-type-specific features including characteristic size, shape, arborization, location and synaptic patterns. These features, in turn, are major determinants of type-specific neuronal function. Because neuronal diversity complicates the task of relating developmental programs to adult structure and function, we analyzed dendritic morphogenesis in a single retinal ganglion cell (RGC) type in mouse called J-RGC. We documented the emergence of five dendritic features that underlie J-RGC physiology: (1) dendritic field size, which approximate receptive field size; (2) dendritic complexity, which affects how J-RGCs sample space; (3) asymmetry, which contributes to direction-selectivity; (4) restricted lamination within the inner plexiform layer (IPL), which renders J-RGCs responsive to light decrements; and (5) distribution of synaptic inputs, which generate a color-opponent receptive field. We found dendritic growth in J-RGCs is accompanied by a refinement in dendritic self-crossing. Asymmetry arises by a combination of selective pruning and elaboration, whereas laminar restriction results from biased outgrowth toward the outermost IPL. Interestingly, asymmetry develops in a protracted dorsoventral wave, whereas lamination does so in a rapid centrifugal wave. As arbors mature, they acquire excitatory and inhibitory synapses, with the latter forming first and being concentrated in proximal dendrites. Thus, distinct mechanisms operate in different spatiotemporal dimensions of J-RGC dendritic patterning to generate the substrate for specific patterns of synaptogenesis. Finally, we asked whether the defining molecular signature of J-RGCs, the adhesion molecule JAM-B, regulates morphogenesis, and showed that it promotes dendro-dendritic interactions. Our results reveal multiple mechanisms that shape a dendritic arbor.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Visual perception begins in the retina, where distinct types of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are tuned to specific visual features such as direction of motion. The features to which each RGC type responds are determined largely by the number and type of synaptic inputs it receives, and these, in turn, are greatly influenced by the size, shape, arborization pattern, and location of its dendrites. We analyzed dendritic morphogenesis in a functionally characterized RGC type, the J-RGC, demonstrating distinct mechanisms that operate in different dimensions to generate the dendritic scaffold and synaptic patterns for feature detection. Our work elucidates cellular and molecular mechanisms that shape dendritic arbors and synaptic distribution, enabling J-RGC connectivity and thus, function.

Development of self-protective biases in response to social evaluative feedback.

November 27, 2017

Rodman AM, Powers KE, Somerville LH

Adolescence is a developmental period marked by heightened attunement to social evaluation. While adults have been shown to enact self-protective processes to buffer their self-views from evaluative threats like peer rejection, it is unclear whether adolescents avail themselves of the same defenses. The present study examines how social evaluation shapes views of the self and others differently across development. N = 107 participants ages 10-23 completed a reciprocal social evaluation task that involved predicting and receiving peer acceptance and rejection feedback, along with assessments of self-views and likability ratings of peers. Here, we show that, despite equivalent experiences of social evaluation, adolescents internalized peer rejection, experiencing a feedback-induced drop in self-views, whereas adults externalized peer rejection, reporting a task-induced boost in self-views and deprecating the peers who rejected them. The results identify codeveloping processes underlying why peer rejection may lead to more dramatic alterations in self-views during adolescence than other phases of the lifespan.

Ten-month-old infants infer the value of goals from the costs of actions.

November 24, 2017

Liu S, Ullman TD, Tenenbaum JB, Spelke ES

Infants understand that people pursue goals, but how do they learn which goals people prefer? We tested whether infants solve this problem by inverting a mental model of action planning, trading off the costs of acting against the rewards actions bring. After seeing an agent attain two goals equally often at varying costs, infants expected the agent to prefer the goal it attained through costlier actions. These expectations held across three experiments that conveyed cost through different physical path features (height, width, and incline angle), suggesting that an abstract variable-such as "force," "work," or "effort"-supported infants' inferences. We modeled infants' expectations as Bayesian inferences over utility-theoretic calculations, providing a bridge to recent quantitative accounts of action understanding in older children and adults.