I liked two from this month’s issue.
1. This one looks like a huge winner. If you are partial to thinking of neurons as sending information to one another the way African drum talkers do (did), this article looks great. Says that in addition to rate coding (drumming faster or slower) neurons in cerebellum also use what we’d call “beats” – spatiotemporal patterns – to encode information. Obviously this must all converge on the final common pathway of the recipient’s membrane potential, but at first glance they don’t appear to spend much energy on this.
Chris I. De Zeeuw & Sebastiaan K. Koekkoek (Omega). Spatiotemporal firing patterns in the cerebellum. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 12, 327-344 (June 2011)
Abstract: Neurons are generally considered to communicate information by increasing or decreasing their firing rate. However, in principle, they could in addition convey messages by using specific spatiotemporal patterns of spiking activities and silent intervals. Here, we review expanding lines of evidence that such spatiotemporal coding occurs in the cerebellum, and that the olivocerebellar system is optimally designed to generate and employ precise patterns of complex spikes and simple spikes during the acquisition and consolidation of motor skills. These spatiotemporal patterns may complement rate coding, thus enabling precise control of motor and cognitive processing at a high spatiotemporal resolution by fine-tuning sensorimotor integration and coordination.
2.Ooyen is interested in how computer models of nervous system development can augment what we learn from in vitro and in vivo studies. The first half of the article looks at neural tube development and folding. The second half looks at how neurons “choose” which neurites will become their axons, how the axons reach their targets, how dendritic branching occurs, and how pruning even during gestation works. A lovely review, looks like it will reward an hour or two’s study.
Arjen van Ooyen. Using theoretical models to analyse neural development. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 12, 311-326 (June 2011)
Abstract: The development of the nervous system is an extremely complex and dynamic process. Through the continuous interplay of genetic information and changing intra- and extracellular environments, the nervous system constructs itself from precursor cells that divide and form neurons, which migrate, differentiate and establish synaptic connections. Our understanding of neural development can be greatly assisted by mathematical and computational modelling, because it allows us to bridge the gap between system-level dynamics and the lower level cellular and molecular processes. This Review shows the potential of theoretical models to examine many aspects of neural development.Follow @peterfreed