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Stanley Lab Demonstrates How Our Brain Controls Our Muscles at Scott Elementary Science and Technology Festival

As part of The Kids Interested In Technology, Engineering, and Science (KITES) festival, members of the Stanley Lab visited Scott Elementary to teach several classes of students about neuroscience and muscle physiology. The demonstration, organized by lab member Audrey Sederberg, involved using a Backyard Brains EMG Kit and custom-built software to demonstrate the measurable electrical activity associated with muscle movement and student-lead experimental design to test questions about these signals. Lab members also discussed their paths into neuroscience research with students and emphasized the importance of life-long learning.

(left to right) Adam Willats, Pete Borden, and Mia Lu examine muscle neuron action potentials at Scott Elementary

(left to right) Adam Willats, Pete Borden, and Mia Lu examine muscle neuron action potentials at Scott Elementary

Scott Elementary students practice quantitative reasoning and experiment desing skills by plotting recorded electrical signals from muscles when lifting different weights

 

Congratulations to Elaida Dimwamwa for being selected as NSF Pre-Doctoral Fellow!

1st year PhD student Elaida Dimwamwa was awarded the NSF pre-doctoral fellowship and plans to investigate the role of cortico-thalamic feedback in shaping tactile perception.

 

New Publication – Primary tactile thalamus spiking reflects cognitive signals

Abstract: Little is known about whether information transfer at primary sensory thalamic nuclei is modified by behavioral context. Here we studied the influence of previous decisions/rewards on current choices and preceding spike responses of ventro-posterior medial thalamus (VPm, the primary sensory thalamus in the rat whisker-related tactile system). We trained head-fixed rats to detect a ramp-like deflection of one whisker interspersed within ongoing white noise stimulation. Using generative modeling of behavior, we identify two task-related variables that are predictive of actual decisions. The first reflects task engagement on a local scale (‘trial history’- defined as the decisions and outcomes of a small number of past trials), while the other captures behavioral dynamics on a global scale (‘satiation’- slow dynamics of the response pattern along an entire session). While satiation brought about a slow drift from Go to NoGo decisions during the session, trial history was related to local (trial-by-trial) patterning of Go and NoGo decisions. A second model that related the same predictors first to VPm spike responses, and from there to decisions, indicated that spiking, in contrast to behavior, is sensitive to trial history but relatively insensitive to satiation. Trial history influences VPM spike rates and regularity such that a history of Go decisions would predict fewer noise-driven spikes (but more regular ones), and more ramp-driven spikes. Neuronal activity in VPm, thus, is sensitive to local behavioral history, and may play an important role in higher order cognitive signaling.

Significance statement: It is an important question for perceptual and brain functions to find out whether cognitive signals modulate the sensory signal stream and if so, where in the brain this happens. This study provides evidence that decision and reward history can already be reflected in the ascending sensory pathway, on the level of first order sensory thalamus. Cognitive signals are relayed very selectively such that only local trial history (spanning a few trials) but not global history (spanning an entire session) are reflected.

C. WaiblingerC.J. WhitmireA. SederbergG.B. StanleyC. Schwarz

Megan McDonnell wins President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA)

Megan McDonnell, a BME freshman conducting research in the Stanley Lab since January 2018 was awarded a PURA Salary Award, which will allow her to continue her work on the anatomical and functional correlates of the sense of touch during the summer.

Find out more about the PURA here

Stanley Lab participates in Science.Art.Wonder

Olivia Cox presents her two paintings “Tickle” and “Optogenetics”

Olivia Cox, a Georgia Tech freshman paired with Aurélie Pala, a postdoc in the Stanley Lab, to create two paintings, entitled “Tickle” and “Optogenetics” illustrating her current research. The project started in the fall of 2017 as part of the Science.Art.Wonder intiative and culminated in a showcase at the Atlanta Science Festival in March 2018.

Read more about Science.Art.Wonder here. See more art from the event here.

 

 

 

 

The painting, Tickle, shows two different paths the electrical activity takes to travel from one side of the brain to the other. The background shows the electrical activity measured at different locations within the outermost part of the brain. The foreground is a representation of a section through the brain, with two populations of brain cells involved in the transfer of electrical activity identified through their labeling with fluorescent molecules

“Optogenetics” by Olivia Cox