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- Gamma oscillations as integrators of local competition for activity and global competition for coherence (2009)
- Poster presentation: Introduction Rhythmic synchronization of neural activity in the gamma-frequency range (30–100 Hz) was observed in many brain regions; see the review in [1]. The functional relevance of these oscillations remains to be clarified, a task that requires modeling of the relevant aspects of information processing. The temporal correlation hypothesis, reviewed in [2], proposes that the temporal correlation of neural units provides a means to group the neural units into so-called neural assemblies that are supposed to represent mental objects. Here, we approach the modeling of the temporal grouping of neural units from the perspective of oscillatory neural network systems based on phase model oscillators. Patterns are assumed to be stored in the network based on Hebbian memory and assemblies are identified with phase-locked subset of these patterns. Going beyond foregoing discussions, we demonstrate the combination of two recently discussed mechanisms, referred to as "acceleration" [3] and "pooling" [4]. The combination realizes in a complementary manner a competition for activity on a local scale, while providing a competition for coherence among different assemblies on a non-local scale. ...

- A comparison of spike time prediction and receptive field mapping with point process generalized linear models, Wiener-Voltera kernels, and spike-triggered averaging methods (2009)
- Poster presentation: Characterizing neuronal encoding is essential for understanding information processing in the brain. Three methods are commonly used to characterize the relationship between neural spiking activity and the features of putative stimuli. These methods include: Wiener-Volterra kernel methods (WVK), the spike-triggered average (STA), and more recently, the point process generalized linear model (GLM). We compared the performance of these three approaches in estimating receptive field properties and orientation tuning of 251 V1 neurons recorded from 2 monkeys during a fixation period in response to a moving bar. The GLM consisted of two formulations of the conditional intensity function for a point process characterization of the spiking activity: one with a stimulus only component and one with the stimulus and spike history. We fit the GLMs by maximum likelihood using GLMfit in Matlab. Goodness-of-fit was assessed using cross-validation with Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) tests based on the time-rescaling theorem to evaluate the accuracy with which each model predicts the spiking activity of individual neurons and for each movement direction (4016 models in total, for 251 neurons and 16 different directions). The GLMs that considered spike history of up to 35 ms, accurately predicted neuronal spiking activity (95% confidence intervals for KS test) with a performance of 97.0% (3895/4016) for the training data, and 96.5% (3876/4016) for the test data. If spike history was not considered, performance dropped to 73,1% in the training and 71.3% in the testing data. In contrast, the WVF and the STA predicted spiking accurately for 24.2% and 44.5% of the test data examples respectively. The receptive field size estimates obtained from the GLM (with and without history), WVF and STA were comparable. Relative to the GLM orientation tuning was underestimated on average by a factor of 0.45 by the WVF and the STA. The main reason for using the STA and WVF approaches is their apparent simplicity. However, our analyses suggest that more accurate spike prediction as well as more credible estimates of receptive field size and orientation tuning can be computed easily using GLMs implemented in Matlab with standard functions such as GLMfit.

- Mathematical modeling of the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (2009)
- Poster presentation: An important challenge in neuroscience is understanding how networks of neurons go about processing information. Synapses are thought to play an essential role in cellular information processing however quantitative and mathematical models of the underlying physiologic processes that occur at synaptic active zones are lacking. We are generating mathematical models of synaptic vesicle dynamics at a well-characterized model synapse, the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction. This synapse's simplicity, accessibility to various electrophysiological recording and imaging techniques, and the genetic malleability intrinsic to Drosophila system make it ideal for computational and mathematical studies. We have employed a reductionist approach and started by modeling single presynaptic boutons. Synaptic vesicles can be divided into different pools; however, a quantitative understanding of their dynamics at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction is lacking [4]. We performed biologically realistic simulations of high and low release probability boutons [3] using partial differential equations (PDE) taking into account not only the evolution in time but also the spatial structure in two dimensions (the extension to three dimensions will be implemented soon). PDEs are solved using UG, a program library for the calculation of multi-dimensional PDEs solved using a finite volume approach and implicit time stepping methods leading to extended linear equation systems be solvedwith multi-grid methods [3,4]. Numerical calculations are done on multi-processor computers for fast calculations using different parameters in order to asses the biological feasibility of different models. In preliminary simulations, we modeled vesicle dynamics as a diffusion process describing exocytosis as Neumann streams at synaptic active zones. The initial results obtained with these models are consistent with experimental data. However, this should be regarded as a work in progress. Further refinements will be implemented, including simulations using morphologically realistic geometries which were generated from confocal scans of the neuromuscular junction using NeuRA (a Neuron Reconstruction Algorithm). Other parameters such as glutamate diffusion and reuptake dynamics, as well as postsynaptic receptor kinetics will be incorporated as well.

- Auto-structure of spike trains matters for testing on synchronous activity (2009)
- Poster presentation: Coordinated neuronal activity across many neurons, i.e. synchronous or spatiotemporal pattern, had been believed to be a major component of neuronal activity. However, the discussion if coordinated activity really exists remained heated and controversial. A major uncertainty was that many analysis approaches either ignored the auto-structure of the spiking activity, assumed a very simplified model (poissonian firing), or changed the auto-structure by spike jittering. We studied whether a statistical inference that tests whether coordinated activity is occurring beyond chance can be made false if one ignores or changes the real auto-structure of recorded data. To this end, we investigated the distribution of coincident spikes in mutually independent spike-trains modeled as renewal processes. We considered Gamma processes with different shape parameters as well as renewal processes in which the ISI distribution is log-normal. For Gamma processes of integer order, we calculated the mean number of coincident spikes, as well as the Fano factor of the coincidences, analytically. We determined how these measures depend on the bin width and also investigated how they depend on the firing rate, and on rate difference between the neurons. We used Monte-Carlo simulations to estimate the whole distribution for these parameters and also for other values of gamma. Moreover, we considered the effect of dithering for both of these processes and saw that while dithering does not change the average number of coincidences, it does change the shape of the coincidence distribution. Our major findings are: 1) the width of the coincidence count distribution depends very critically and in a non-trivial way on the detailed properties of the inter-spike interval distribution, 2) the dependencies of the Fano factor on the coefficient of variation of the ISI distribution are complex and mostly non-monotonic. Moreover, the Fano factor depends on the very detailed properties of the individual point processes, and cannot be predicted by the CV alone. Hence, given a recorded data set, the estimated value of CV of the ISI distribution is not sufficient to predict the Fano factor of the coincidence count distribution, and 3) spike jittering, even if it is as small as a fraction of the expected ISI, can falsify the inference on coordinated firing. In most of the tested cases and especially for complex synchronous and spatiotemporal pattern across many neurons, spike jittering increased the likelihood of false positive finding very strongly. Last, we discuss a procedure [1] that considers the complete auto-structure of each individual spike-train for testing whether synchrony firing occurs at chance and therefore overcomes the danger of an increased level of false positives.

- A model for the joint evaluation of burstiness and regularity in oscillatory spike trains (2009)
- Poster presentation: Introduction The ability of neurons to emit different firing patterns is considered relevant for neuronal information processing. In dopaminergic neurons, prominent patterns include highly regular pacemakers with separate spikes and stereotyped intervals, processes with repetitive bursts and partial regularity, and irregular spike trains with nonstationary properties. In order to model and quantify these processes and the variability of their patterns with respect to pharmacological and cellular properties, we aim to describe the two dimensions of burstiness and regularity in a single model framework. Methods We present a stochastic spike train model in which the degree of burstiness and the regularity of the oscillation are described independently and with two simple parameters. In this model, a background oscillation with independent and normally distributed intervals gives rise to Poissonian spike packets with a Gaussian firing intensity. The variability of inter-burst intervals and the average number of spikes in each burst indicate regularity and burstiness, respectively. These parameters can be estimated by fitting the model to the autocorrelograms. This allows to assign every spike train a position in the two-dimensional space described by regularity and burstiness and thus, to investigate the dependence of the firing patterns on different experimental conditions. Finally, burst detection in single spike trains is possible within the model because the parameter estimates determine the appropriate bandwidth that should be used for burst identification. Results and Discussion We applied the model to a sample data set obtained from dopaminergic substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area neurons recorded extracellularly in vivo and studied differences between the firing activity of dopaminergic neurons in wildtype and K-ATP channel knock-out mice. The model is able to represent a variety of discharge patterns and to describe changes induced pharmacologically. It provides a simple and objective classification scheme for the observed spike trains into pacemaker, irregular and bursty processes. In addition to the simple classification, changes in the parameters can be studied quantitatively, also including the properties related to bursting behavior. Interestingly, the proposed algorithm for burst detection may be applicable also to spike trains with nonstationary firing rates if the remaining parameters are unaffected. Thus, the proposed model and its burst detection algorithm can be useful for the description and investigation of neuronal firing patterns and their variability with cellular and experimental conditions.

- Detection of task-related synchronous firing patterns (2009)
- Poster presentation: Background To test the importance of synchronous neuronal firing for information processing in the brain, one has to investigate if synchronous firing strength is correlated to the experimental subjects. This requires a tool that can compare the strength of the synchronous firing across different conditions, while at the same time it should correct for other features of neuronal firing such as spike rate modulation or the auto-structure of the spike trains that might co-occur with synchronous firing. Here we present the bi- and multivariate extension of previously developed method NeuroXidence [1,2], which allows for comparing the amount of synchronous firing between different conditions. ...

- Spectroscopical investigations to determine RNA-ligand interactions and RNA dynamics (2009)
- This thesis describes the structural characterization of interactions between biological relevant ribonucleic acid biomacromolecules (RNAs) and selected ligands to optimize the methodologies for the design of pharmacological lead compounds. To achieve this aim, not only the structures of the RNA, the ligand and their complexes need to be known, but also information about the inherent dynamics, especially of the target RNA, are necessary. To determine the structure and dynamics of these molecules and their complexes, liquid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) is a suitable and powerful method. The necessity for these investigations arises from the lack of knowledge in RNA-ligand interactions, e.g. for the development of new medicinal drugs targeting crucial RNA sequences. In the first chapters of this thesis (Chapters II to IV), an introduction into RNA research is given with a focus on RNA structural features (Chapter II), into the interacting molecules, the biology of the specific RNA targets and the further development of their ligands (Chapter III) and into the NMR theory and methodologies used within this thesis (Chapter IV). Chapter II begins with a description of RNA characteristics and functions, placing the focus on the increasing attention that these biomacromolecules have attracted in recent years due to their diverse biological functionalities. This is followed by a detailed description of general structural features of RNA molecules. The biological functions of the RNAs investigated in this thesis (Human immunodeficiency virus PSI- and TAR-RNA and Coxsackievirus B3 Stemloop D in the 5’-cloverleaf element), together with their known structural characteristics are introduced in Chapter III. Furthermore, a description of the investigated ligands is given, focusing on the methods how their affinity and specificity were determined. The introduction is completed in Chapter IV, where the relevant NMR theory and methodologies are explained. First, kinetics and thermodynamics of ligand binding are summarized from an NMR point of view. Subsequently, a detailed description of the resonance assignment procedures for RNAs and peptidic ligands is given. This procedure mainly concentrates on the assignment of the proton resonances, which are essential for the later structure calculation from NMR restraints. The procedure for NMR structure calculation of RNA and its complexes follows with a short introduction into the programs ARIA and HADDOCK. The final part of this chapter explains the relaxation theory and the methodology to extract dynamic information from autocorrelated relaxation rates via the model-free formalism. In the Chapters V to VII of this thesis, the original publications are included and grouped into three topics. Chapter V comprehends the publications on the investigations of HIV PSI-RNA and its hexapeptidic ligand. These three publications[1-3] focus on the characterization of the ligand and its binding properties, its structure and the optimization of its composition aiming to improve its usage for further spectroscopic investigations.

- Detection of single trial power coincidence for the identification of distributed cortical processes in a behavioral context (2009)
- Poster presentation: The analysis of neuronal processes distributed across multiple cortical areas aims at the identification of interactions between signals recorded at different sites. Such interactions can be described by measuring the stability of phase angles in the case of oscillatory signals or other forms of signal dependencies for less regular signals. Before, however, any form of interaction can be analyzed at a given time and frequency, it is necessary to assess whether all potentially contributing signals are present. We have developed a new statistical procedure for the detection of coincident power in multiple simultaneously recorded analog signals, allowing the classification of events as 'non-accidental co-activation'. This method can effectively operate on single trials, each lasting only for a few seconds. Signals need to be transformed into time-frequency space, e.g. by applying a short-time Fourier transformation using a Gaussian window. The discrete wavelet transform (DWT) is used in order to weight the resulting power patterns according to their frequency. Subsequently, the weighted power patterns are binarized via applying a threshold. At this final stage, significant power coincidence is determined across all subgroups of channel combinations for individual frequencies by selecting the maximum ratio between observed and expected duration of co-activation as test statistic. The null hypothesis that the activity in each channel is independent from the activity in every other channel is simulated by independent, random rotation of the respective activity patterns. We applied this procedure to single trials of multiple simultaneously sampled local field potentials (LFPs) obtained from occipital, parietal, central and precentral areas of three macaque monkeys. Since their task was to use visual cues to perform a precise arm movement, co-activation of numerous cortical sites was expected. In a data set with 17 channels analyzed, up to 13 sites expressed simultaneous power in the range between 5 and 240 Hz. On average, more than 50% of active channels participated at least once in a significant power co-activation pattern (PCP). Because the significance of such PCPs can be evaluated at the level of single trials, we are confident that this procedure is useful to study single trial variability with sufficient accuracy that much of the behavioral variability can be explained by the dynamics of the underlying distributed neuronal processes.

- A mechanism for achieving zero-lag long-range synchronization of neural activity (2009)
- Poster presentation: How can two distant neural assemblies synchronize their firings at zero-lag even in the presence of non-negligible delays in the transfer of information between them? Neural synchronization stands today as one of the most promising mechanisms to counterbalance the huge anatomical and functional specialization of the different brain areas. However, and albeit more evidence is being accumulated in favor of its functional role as a binding mechanism of distributed neural responses, the physical and anatomical substrate for such a dynamic and precise synchrony, especially zero-lag even in the presence of non-negligible delays, remains unclear. Here we propose a simple network motif that naturally accounts for zero-lag synchronization of spiking assemblies of neurons for a wide range of temporal delays. We demonstrate that when two distant neural assemblies do not interact directly but relaying their dynamics via a third mediating single neuron or population and eventually achieve zero-lag coherent firing. Extensive numerical simulations of populations of Hodgkin-Huxley neurons interacting in such a network are analyzed. The results show that even with axonal delays as large as 15 ms the distant neural populations can synchronize their firings at zero-lag in a millisecond precision after the exchange of a few spikes. The role of noise and a distribution of axonal delays in the synchronized dynamics of the neural populations are also studied confirming the robustness of this sync mechanism. The proposed network module is densely embedded within the complex functional architecture of the brain and especially within the reciprocal thalamocortical interactions where the role of indirect pathways mimicking direct cortico-cortical fibers has been already suggested to facilitate trans-areal cortical communication. In summary the robust neural synchronization mechanism presented here arises as a consequence of the relay and redistribution of the dynamics performed by a mediating neuronal population. In opposition to previous works, neither inhibitory, gap junctions, nor complex networks need to be invoked to provide a stable mechanism of zero-phase correlated activity of neural populations in the presence of large conduction delays.

- Self-generated neural activity : models and perspective (2009)
- Poster presentation: The brain is autonomously active and this self-sustained neural activity is in general modulated, but not driven, by the sensory input data stream [1,2]. Traditionally one has regarded this eigendynamics as resulting from inter-modular recurrent neural activity [3]. Understanding the basic modules for cognitive computation is, in this view, the primary focus of research and the overall neural dynamics would be determined by the the topology of the intermodular pathways. Here we examine an alternative point of view, asking whether certain aspects of the neural eigendynamics have a central functional role for overall cognitive computation [4,5]. Transiently stable neural activity is regularly observed on the cognitive time-scale of 80–100 ms, with indications that neural competition [6] plays an important role in the selection of the transiently stable neural ensembles [7], also denoted winning coalitions [8]. We report on a theory approach which implements these two principles, transient-state dynamics and neural competition, in terms of an associative neural network with clique encoding [9]. A cognitive system [10] with a non-trivial internal eigendynamics has two seemingly contrasting tasks to fulfill. The internal processes need to be regular and not chaotic on one side, but sensitive to the afferent sensory stimuli on the other side. We show, that these two contrasting demands can be reconciled within our approach based on competitive transient-state dynamics, when allowing the sensory stimuli to modulate the competition for the next winning coalition. By testing the system with the bars problem, we find an emerging cognitive capability. Only based on the two basic architectural principles, neural competition and transient-state dynamics, with no explicit algorithmic encoding, the system performs on its own a non-linear independent component analysis of input data stream. The system has rudimentary biological features. All learning is local Hebbian-style, unsupervised and online. It exhibits an ever-ongoing eigendynamics and at no time is the state or the value of synaptic strengths reset or the system restarted; there is no separation between training and performance. We believe that this kind of approach – cognitive computation with autonomously active neural networks – to be an emerging field, relevant both for system neuroscience and synthetic cognitive systems.