Distinct lines of research in both humans and animals point to a specific role of the hippocampus in both spatial and episodic memory function. The discovery of concept cells in the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe (MTL) regions suggests that the MTL maps physical and semantic spaces with a similar neural architecture. Here, we studied the emergence of such maps using MTL microwire recordings from 20 patients (9 female, 11 male) navigating a virtual environment featuring salient landmarks with established semantic meaning. We present several key findings. The array of local field potentials in the MTL contains sufficient information for above-chance decoding of subjects' instantaneous location in the environment. Closer examination revealed that as subjects gain experience with the environment the field potentials come to represent both the subjects' locations in virtual space and in high-dimensional semantic space. Similarly, we observe a learning effect on temporal sequence coding. Over time, field potentials come to represent future locations, even after controlling for spatial proximity. This predictive coding of future states, more so than the strength of spatial representations per se, is linked to variability in subjects' navigation performance. Our results thus support the conceptualization of the MTL as a memory space, representing both spatial- and nonspatial information to plan future actions and predict their outcomes.
This content will become publicly available on April 15, 2024
Investigations into how individual neurons encode behavioral variables of interest have revealed specific representations in single neurons, such as place and object cells, as well as a wide range of cells with conjunctive encodings or mixed selectivity. However, as most experiments examine neural activity within individual tasks, it is currently unclear if and how neural representations change across different task contexts. Within this discussion, the medial temporal lobe is particularly salient, as it is known to be important for multiple behaviors including spatial navigation and memory, however the relationship between these functions is currently unclear. Here, to investigate how representations in single neurons vary across different task contexts in the medial temporal lobe, we collected and analyzed single‐neuron activity from human participants as they completed a paired‐task session consisting of a passive‐viewing visual working memory and a spatial navigation and memory task. Five patients contributed 22 paired‐task sessions, which were spike sorted together to allow for the same putative single neurons to be compared between the different tasks. Within each task, we replicated concept‐related activations in the working memory task, as well as target‐location and serial‐position responsive cells in the navigation task. When comparing neuronal activity between tasks, we first established that a significant number of neurons maintained the same kind of representation, responding to stimuli presentations across tasks. Further, we found cells that changed the nature of their representation across tasks, including a significant number of cells that were stimulus responsive in the working memory task that responded to serial position in the spatial task. Overall, our results support a flexible encoding of multiple, distinct aspects of different tasks by single neurons in the human medial temporal lobe, whereby some individual neurons change the nature of their feature coding between task contexts.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- p. 600-615
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTUsing rare microwire recordings, we studied the representation of spatial, semantic, and temporal information in the human MTL. Our findings demonstrate that subjects acquire a cognitive map that simultaneously represents the spatial and semantic relations between landmarks. We further show that the same learned representation is used to predict future states, implicating MTL cell assemblies as the building blocks of prospective memory functions.
Humans and other animals have a remarkable capacity to translate their position from one spatial frame of reference to another. The ability to seamlessly move between top-down and first-person views is important for navigation, memory formation, and other cognitive tasks. Evidence suggests that the medial temporal lobe and other cortical regions contribute to this function. To understand how a neural system might carry out these computations, we used variational autoencoders (VAEs) to reconstruct the first-person view from the top-down view of a robot simulation, and vice versa. Many latent variables in the VAEs had similar responses to those seen in neuron recordings, including location-specific activity, head direction tuning, and encoding of distance to local objects. Place-specific responses were prominent when reconstructing a first-person view from a top-down view, but head direction–specific responses were prominent when reconstructing a top-down view from a first-person view. In both cases, the model could recover from perturbations without retraining, but rather through remapping. These results could advance our understanding of how brain regions support viewpoint linkages and transformations.more » « less
Decision-making in complex environments relies on flexibly using prior experience. This process depends on the medial frontal cortex (MFC) and the medial temporal lobe, but it remains unknown how these structures implement selective memory retrieval. We recorded single neurons in the MFC, amygdala, and hippocampus while human subjects switched between making recognition memory–based and categorization-based decisions. The MFC rapidly implemented changing task demands by using different subspaces of neural activity and by representing the currently relevant task goal. Choices requiring memory retrieval selectively engaged phase-locking of MFC neurons to amygdala and hippocampus field potentials, thereby enabling the routing of memories. These findings reveal a mechanism for flexibly and selectively engaging memory retrieval and show that memory-based choices are preferentially represented in the frontal cortex when required.more » « less
Cognitive impairment often impacts quality of life in epilepsy even if seizures are controlled. Word‐finding difficulty is particularly prevalent and often attributed to etiological (static, baseline) circuit alterations. We sought to determine whether interictal discharges convey significant superimposed contributions to word‐finding difficulty in patients, and if so, through which cognitive mechanism(s).
Twenty‐three patients undergoing intracranial monitoring for drug‐resistant epilepsy participated in multiple tasks involving word production (auditory naming, short‐term verbal free recall, repetition) to probe word‐finding difficulty across different cognitive domains. We compared behavioral performance between trials with versus without interictal discharges across six major brain areas and adjusted for intersubject differences using mixed‐effects models. We also evaluated for subjective word‐finding difficulties through retrospective chart review.
Subjective word‐finding difficulty was reported by the majority (79%) of studied patients preoperatively. During intracranial recordings, interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) in the medial temporal lobe were associated with long‐term lexicosemantic memory impairments as indexed by auditory naming (
p= .009), in addition to their established impact on short‐term verbal memory as indexed by free recall ( p= .004). Interictal discharges involving the lateral temporal cortex and lateral frontal cortex were associated with delayed reaction time in the auditory naming task ( p= .016 and p= .018), as well as phonological working memory impairments as indexed by repetition reaction time ( p= .002). Effects of IEDs across anatomical regions were strongly dependent on their precise timing within the task. Significance
IEDs appear to act through multiple cognitive mechanisms to form a convergent basis for the debilitating clinical word‐finding difficulty reported by patients with epilepsy. This was particularly notable for medial temporal spikes, which are quite common in adult focal epilepsy. In parallel with the treatment of seizures, the modulation of interictal discharges through emerging pharmacological means and neurostimulation approaches may be an opportunity to help address devastating memory and language impairments in epilepsy.
INTRODUCTION Neurons are by far the most diverse of all cell types in animals, to the extent that “cell types” in mammalian brains are still mostly heterogeneous groups, and there is no consensus definition of the term. The Drosophila optic lobes, with approximately 200 well-defined cell types, provides a tractable system with which to address the genetic basis of neuronal type diversity. We previously characterized the distinct developmental gene expression program of each of these types using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), with one-to-one correspondence to the known morphological types. RATIONALE The identity of fly neurons is determined by temporal and spatial patterning mechanisms in stem cell progenitors, but it remained unclear how these cell fate decisions are implemented and maintained in postmitotic neurons. It was proposed in Caenorhabditis elegans that unique combinations of terminal selector transcription factors (TFs) that are continuously expressed in each neuron control nearly all of its type-specific gene expression. This model implies that it should be possible to engineer predictable and complete switches of identity between different neurons just by modifying these sustained TFs. We aimed to test this prediction in the Drosophila visual system. RESULTS Here, we used our developmental scRNA-seq atlases to identify the potential terminal selector genes in all optic lobe neurons. We found unique combinations of, on average, 10 differentially expressed and stably maintained (across all stages of development) TFs in each neuron. Through genetic gain- and loss-of-function experiments in postmitotic neurons, we showed that modifications of these selector codes are sufficient to induce predictable switches of identity between various cell types. Combinations of terminal selectors jointly control both developmental (e.g., morphology) and functional (e.g., neurotransmitters and their receptors) features of neurons. The closely related Transmedullary 1 (Tm1), Tm2, Tm4, and Tm6 neurons (see the figure) share a similar code of terminal selectors, but can be distinguished from each other by three TFs that are continuously and specifically expressed in one of these cell types: Drgx in Tm1, Pdm3 in Tm2, and SoxN in Tm6. We showed that the removal of each of these selectors in these cell types reprograms them to the default Tm4 fate. We validated these conversions using both morphological features and molecular markers. In addition, we performed scRNA-seq to show that ectopic expression of pdm3 in Tm4 and Tm6 neurons converts them to neurons with transcriptomes that are nearly indistinguishable from that of wild-type Tm2 neurons. We also show that Drgx expression in Tm1 neurons is regulated by Klumpfuss, a TF expressed in stem cells that instructs this fate in progenitors, establishing a link between the regulatory programs that specify neuronal fates and those that implement them. We identified an intronic enhancer in the Drgx locus whose chromatin is specifically accessible in Tm1 neurons and in which Klu motifs are enriched. Genomic deletion of this region knocked down Drgx expression specifically in Tm1 neurons, leaving it intact in the other cell types that normally express it. We further validated this concept by demonstrating that ectopic expression of Vsx (visual system homeobox) genes in Mi15 neurons not only converts them morphologically to Dm2 neurons, but also leads to the loss of their aminergic identity. Our results suggest that selector combinations can be further sculpted by receptor tyrosine kinase signaling after neurogenesis, providing a potential mechanism for postmitotic plasticity of neuronal fates. Finally, we combined our transcriptomic datasets with previously generated chromatin accessibility datasets to understand the mechanisms that control brain wiring downstream of terminal selectors. We built predictive computational models of gene regulatory networks using the Inferelator framework. Experimental validations of these networks revealed how selectors interact with ecdysone-responsive TFs to activate a large and specific repertoire of cell surface proteins and other effectors in each neuron at the onset of synapse formation. We showed that these network models can be used to identify downstream effectors that mediate specific cellular decisions during circuit formation. For instance, reduced levels of cut expression in Tm2 neurons, because of its negative regulation by pdm3 , controls the synaptic layer targeting of their axons. Knockdown of cut in Tm1 neurons is sufficient to redirect their axons to the Tm2 layer in the lobula neuropil without affecting other morphological features. CONCLUSION Our results support a model in which neuronal type identity is primarily determined by a relatively simple code of continuously expressed terminal selector TFs in each cell type throughout development. Our results provide a unified framework of how specific fates are initiated and maintained in postmitotic neurons and open new avenues to understanding synaptic specificity through gene regulatory networks. The conservation of this regulatory logic in both C. elegans and Drosophila makes it likely that the terminal selector concept will also be useful in understanding and manipulating the neuronal diversity of mammalian brains. Terminal selectors enable predictive cell fate reprogramming. Tm1, Tm2, Tm4, and Tm6 neurons of the Drosophila visual system share a core set of TFs continuously expressed by each cell type (simplified). The default Tm4 fate is overridden by the expression of a single additional terminal selector to generate Tm1 ( Drgx ), Tm2 ( pdm3 ), or Tm6 ( SoxN ) fates.more » « less