The laboratories of Dr. Losonczy at Columbia University in New York, and ours, Dr. Poirazi at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB) of FORTH, joined forces in order to explain how neurons flexibly lay down or recall memories. The study, which was recently published in Neuron, is the first to provide visual evidence that a particular type of neurons –the so called VIP interneurons- makes this flexibility possible.
More specifically, the brain's headquarters for learning and memory is the hippocampus, and it can be divided into distinct areas that process memory-related information. For this study, the researchers focused on area CA1, which encodes an animal's location -- as discovered by researchers who won the 2014 Nobel Prize. In 2016, Dr. Losonczy's lab found that CA1 neurons can act like a homing beacon; when a mouse looked for something, like water, neural activity spiked as the animal got close.
The current study investigated how this activity increased preferentially as the animal got closer to the reward. It did so using a battery of techniques, ranging from molecular, cellular, imaging and behavioral experiments to detailed computational modeling of different cell types found in this area.
Excerpt taken from the IMBB-FORTH press release.
Turi G.F., Li W.K., Chavlis S., Pandi I., O’Hare J., Priestley J.B., Grosmark A.D., Liao Z., Ladow M., Zhang J.F., Zemelman B.V., Poirazi P., Losonczy A., Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide-Expressing Interneurons in the Hippocampus Support Goal-Oriented Spatial Learning, Neuron, 2019.
Relevant links: https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(19)30010-8
See also the CreteTV's coverage, including interviews with Dr. Poirazi and lab-member co-authors: