Optic nerve regeneration screen identifies multiple genes restricting adult neural repair

March 2, 2021


Adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) trauma interrupts neural networks and, because axonal regeneration is minimal, neurological deficits persist. Repair via axonal growth is limited by extracellular inhibitors and cell-autonomous factors. Based on results from a screen in vitro, we evaluate nearly 400 genes through a large-scale in vivo regeneration screen. Suppression of 40 genes using viral-driven short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) promotes retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axon regeneration after optic nerve crush (ONC), and most are validated by separate CRISPR-Cas9 editing experiments. Expression of these axon-regeneration-suppressing genes is not significantly altered by axotomy. Among regeneration-limiting genes, loss of the interleukin 22 (IL-22) cytokine allows an early, yet transient, inflammatory response in the retina after injury. Reduced IL-22 drives concurrent activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) and dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK) pathways and upregulation of multiple neuron-intrinsic regeneration-associated genes (RAGs). Including IL-22, our screen identifies dozens of genes that limit CNS regeneration. Suppression of these genes in the context of axonal damage could support improved neural repair.


Jane A Lindborg, Nicholas M Tran, Devon M Chenette , Kristin DeLuca, Yram Foli, Ramakrishnan Kannan, Yuichi Sekine, Xingxing Wang, Marius Wollan, In-Jung Kim, Joshua R Sanes, Stephen M Strittmatter

Cortical thickness across the lifespan: Data from 17,075 healthy individuals aged 3-90 years

February 27, 2021

Delineating the association of age and cortical thickness in healthy individuals is critical given the association of cortical thickness with cognition and behavior. Previous research has shown that robust estimates of the association between age and brain morphometry require large-scale studies. In response, we used cross-sectional data from 17,075 individuals aged 3-90 years from the Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium to infer age-related changes in cortical thickness. We used fractional polynomial (FP) regression to quantify the association between age and cortical thickness, and we computed normalized growth centiles using the parametric Lambda, Mu, and Sigma method. Interindividual variability was estimated using meta-analysis and one-way analysis of variance. For most regions, their highest cortical thickness value was observed in childhood. Age and cortical thickness showed a negative association; the slope was steeper up to the third decade of life and more gradual thereafter; notable exceptions to this general pattern were entorhinal, temporopolar, and anterior cingulate cortices. Interindividual variability was largest in temporal and frontal regions across the lifespan. Age and its FP combinations explained up to 59% variance in cortical thickness. These results may form the basis of further investigation on normative deviation in cortical thickness and its significance for behavioral and cognitive outcomes.


Frangou S,…, Buckner RL, et al.

Elastic-instability-enabled locomotion

February 23, 2021


Locomotion of an organism interacting with an environment is the consequence of a symmetry-breaking action in space-time. Here we show a minimal instantiation of this principle using a thin circular sheet, actuated symmetrically by a pneumatic source, using pressure to change shape nonlinearly via a spontaneous buckling instability. This leads to a polarized, bilaterally symmetric cone that can walk on land and swim in water. In either mode of locomotion, the emergence of shape asymmetry in the sheet leads to an asymmetric interaction with the environment that generates movement--via anisotropic friction on land, and via directed inertial forces in water. Scaling laws for the speed of the sheet of the actuator as a function of its size, shape, and the frequency of actuation are consistent with our observations. The presence of easily controllable reversible modes of buckling deformation further allows for a change in the direction of locomotion in open arenas and the ability to squeeze through confined environments--both of which we demonstrate using simple experiments. Our simple approach of harnessing elastic instabilities in soft structures to drive locomotion enables the design of novel shape-changing robots and other bioinspired machines at multiple scales.


Amit Nagarkar, Won-Kyu Lee, Daniel J Preston, Markus P Nemitz, Nan-Nan Deng, George M Whitesides, L Mahadevan 

Distributed chromatic processing at the interface between retina and brain in the larval zebrafish

February 19, 2021


Larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) are an ideal organism for studying color vision, as their retina possesses four types of cone photoreceptors, covering most of the visible range and into the UV.1,2 Additionally, their eye and nervous systems are accessible to imaging, given that they are naturally transparent.3-5 Recent studies have found that, through a set of wavelength-range-specific horizontal, bipolar, and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs),6-9 the eye relays tetrachromatic information to several retinorecipient areas (RAs).10-13 The main RA is the optic tectum, receiving 97% of the RGC axons via the neuropil mass termed arborization field 10 (AF10).14,15 Here, we aim to understand the processing of chromatic signals at the interface between RGCs and their major brain targets. We used 2-photon calcium imaging to separately measure the responses of RGCs and neurons in the brain to four different chromatic stimuli in awake animals. We find that chromatic information is widespread throughout the brain, with a large variety of responses among RGCs, and an even greater diversity in their targets. Specific combinations of response types are enriched in specific nuclei, but there is no single color processing structure. In the main interface in this pathway, the connection between AF10 and tectum, we observe key elements of neural processing, such as enhanced signal decorrelation and improved chromatic decoding.16,17 A richer stimulus set revealed that these enhancements occur in the context of a more distributed code in tectum, facilitating chromatic signal association in this small vertebrate brain.


Drago A Guggiana Nilo, Clemens Riegler, Mark Hübener, Florian Engert 

Human visual motion perception shows hallmarks of Bayesian structural inference

February 12, 2021


Motion relations in visual scenes carry an abundance of behaviorally relevant information, but little is known about how humans identify the structure underlying a scene's motion in the first place. We studied the computations governing human motion structure identification in two psychophysics experiments and found that perception of motion relations showed hallmarks of Bayesian structural inference. At the heart of our research lies a tractable task design that enabled us to reveal the signatures of probabilistic reasoning about latent structure. We found that a choice model based on the task's Bayesian ideal observer accurately matched many facets of human structural inference, including task performance, perceptual error patterns, single-trial responses, participant-specific differences, and subjective decision confidence-especially, when motion scenes were ambiguous and when object motion was hierarchically nested within other moving reference frames. Our work can guide future neuroscience experiments to reveal the neural mechanisms underlying higher-level visual motion perception.


Sichao Yang, Johannes Bill, Jan Drugowitsch, Samuel J Gershman