BL-OG: Selective, minimally invasive and activity dependent self-regulation of thalamic bursting

2014 Scientific Innovations Award
Christopher I. Moore, Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience
Brown University

A “burst” is a brief period of high-frequency activity in a neuron, an event that can have a powerful impact on brain circuits. Overly-exuberant bursting—for example, when bursts occur repeatedly in the same cell at a high rate—is thought to be a major contributor to symptoms in diseases like Parkinson’s or epilepsy. Here, Dr. Moore and his lab describe a set of studies to test a new method by which cells can detect and regulate their own bursting. They employ a natural form of light production— bioluminescence—to have individual cells signal when they express a burst. These ‘emitters’ are paired with optogenetic sensors, elements that sit in the cell membrane and decrease burst probability when they detect light. Using this entirely biological strategy, cells can provide their own ‘deep brain stimulation,’ changing ongoing activity only when they detect they are entering into a maladaptive pattern, obviating the need for chronic electrode implants. Such self-regulation could lead to new strategies for treating altered activity patterns in disease, and would be a powerful tool for testing the impact of these activity patterns on behavior and/or brain circuit function.

Other Awards

James J DiCarlo, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Using Computer Models of the Neural Mechanisms of Visual Processing to Non-Invasively Modulate Brain States
DiCarlo’s research team is exploring an innovative approach to address emotional challenges, such as anxiety and depression. Traditional treatments for these disorders can be complex and often cause unpleasant side effects,…
Eiman Azim, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Learning from Error: Defining how Cerebellar Circuits Drive Adaptation in a Changing World
The ability to move effectively through the world is one of the most important functions of the brain. However, the world and the body are constantly changing, meaning the signals…
Hillel Adesnik, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
All Optically Probing the Neural Codes of Perception in the Primate Brain
How patterns of action potentials in space and time give rise to sensory experience is among the most enduring mysteries of biology. Despite decades of experiments correlating brain activity patterns…
Chaolin Zhang, Ph.D., Columbia University
Human-specific Alternative Splicing, Brain
Development, and Ciliopathies
Like movie frames needing to be edited to tell an engaging story, pieces of genetic information stored in DNA for each gene need to be sliced and rejoined, through a…