Secret to interpreting neural code found in pitch-dark maze
All the information the body sends to the brain – like what we can see, hear, smell and feel – gets sent through nerves as electrical impulses called spike trains.
The rulebook for how the brain decodes spike trains is unknown, and working it out is made harder by the fact that the nervous system often carries the same message in many different ways. When the different versions of the same message reach the brain, it interprets all these signals together to decide how to behave. Professor Petri Ala-Laurila and his teams at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki have now been able to link behaviour in a mouse to specific spike-trains originating in its eyes.
The mice had been trained swim towards an extremely faint light in a pitch-dark maze, and the team measured how effective the mice were at finding it. Darkness had to be used because it critically reduces the number of relevant spike trains to the two most sensitive ones to dim light: one called the ON channel and one called the OFF channel. By creating a scenario where there are a limited number of spike trains getting sent for a specific input, the team were able to isolate which individual spike train controlled behaviour.
About Aalto University
AALTO University is a multidisciplinary university in the fields of Science and Technology, Economics, Architecture, and Art and Design. It has 409 faculty members and a student body of 20,000, 70% of which are students in Science and Technology. AALTO University was founded in 2010 by merging three Finnish universities: The Helsinki School of Economics, The University of Art and Design Helsinki, and Helsinki University of Technology. The three schools are all leading institutions in their respective fields and in their own right. Aalto University is a multidisciplinary community where Science and Art meet Technology and Business. The university is committed to identifying and solving grand societal challenges and building an innovative future.