An Introduction to Field Neuroscience

Danbee Kim

Pronouns: she/her, they/them

Neuronautas Session 1: 26 April 2019

Abstract:

In the last decade, basic neuroscience research has shown a heavy and growing bias (>75% of the total research effort) towards studying rats, mice, and humans. These three species represent about 0.0001% of the total diversity of nervous systems, yet neuroscientists routinely extrapolate findings from laboratory rodents to humans, or even to all species. Historically, neuroscience research has studied a wide diversity of animal species, choosing model systems that best suit a particular, well-defined scientific question. Squid, chickens, frogs, pigeons, canaries, dogs, cats, flatworms, crabs, fish, and monkeys, to name just a few, have made crucial contributions to our understanding of the basic functions and structures of nervous systems. So why has current neuroscience research converged on a handful of standard model organisms? What can we gain from a diversity of model organisms and a comparative approach to both basic and translational research? And if the time has come for a methodological revolution, what will it take?

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The birth of modern neuroscience

Current challenges in neuroscience research:

Diversity of our model organisms

Complexity of worlds we test in the lab

Field Neuroscience: Neuroscience in the Wild!

Here’s an outline of what the talk will cover.

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The birth of modern neuroscience

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The birth of modern neuroscience

Santiago Ramon y Cajal

Medical anatomist and pathologist

Charles Scott Sherrington

Medical surgeon and physiologist

Jean-Martin Charcot

Neurologist and professor of anatomical pathology

Ross Granville Harrison

Biologist and anatomist

Late 1800s - Early 1900s

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The birth of modern neuroscience

Kenneth Stewart Cole

Physicist and electrical engineer

Alan Lloyd Hodgkin

Biologist and chemist

Bernard Katz

Physician and biophysicist

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Neurobiologist

Sanford Louis Palay

Physician and teacher

1939-1954

Cole: as a child, obsessed with electricity. Majored in physics, visited Woods Hole to study membrane capacity of sea-urchin eggs, became interested in electrical properties of cell membranes. Collaborated deeply with Howard J Curtis, with whom he did electrode work on squid giant axon, met Hodgkin when he visited US and taught him to dissect squid axons. Did the first “voltage-clamp” on squid giant axon (nerve fiber), but he didn’t like the term “voltage-clamp”. Told Hodgkin (met earlier on a visit to England) about these experiments in a letter. During WWII was responsible for biological aspects of safety in the Manhatten project; voted against dropping the first bomb.

Hodgkin: Born into a family of historians but loved natural history so chose to study biology and chemistry.

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The birth of modern neuroscience

Francis Otto Schmitt

1962: Neuroscience Research Program, MIT

Katherine “Kay” Cusick’s silver bowl, presented as thanks for her years of service as Executive Director, Administration and Finance at the NRP. The bowl is signed by 6 Nobel Laureates and 9 Presidents of the Neuroscience Research Society, who were all associates of the NRP.

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Annual Review of Neuroscience 1978, Vol 1

One of the more remarkable developments in Biology in the last two decades has been …

the gradual emergence of a new, interdisciplinary approach to the study of the nervous system which has come to be known as Neuroscience.

- Preface, W.M. Cowan, Annual Review of Neuroscience 1978, Vol 1

https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ne.1.072606.100001

...perhaps the most significant, contributory factor has been the growing appreciation by both scientists and those who support their work, that few things are more important than understanding how the nervous system controls behavior.

Connecting nervous system to behaviour

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8 Feb 2017

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Challenge #1:

Diversity of our model organisms

A history of diverse model organisms

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A history of diverse model organisms

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27 Oct 2017

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~0.0001% of total diversity of nervous systems

Tree of Life diagram by Neal Olander, integrating cladistics (here, horizontal axis) with deep time (vertical axis).

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

tellapallet.com

The big red box is all of the life on our planet that uses neurons. The small, brighter red box contains humans and rodents.

Pros and cons of converging on fewer model organisms

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Pros:

Cons:

...and we aren’t managing to replicate each others data, so we’re not using that potential benefit of convergence to its maximum potential.

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Challenge #2:

Complexity of laboratory worlds

Reduction and precision in the lab

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Terry P, Herbert BA, Oakley DA. Anomalous patterns of response learning and transfer in decorticate rats. Behavioural brain research. 1989 May 1;33(1):105-9.

Video credit: Adam Kampff

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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Gonçalo Lopes

https://doi.org/10.1101/058917

https://youtu.be/t81Gtzq27tE

Figure 2. An obstacle course for rodents. (A) Schematic of the apparatus and summary of the different

conditions in the behaviour protocol. Animals shuttle back and forth between two reward ports at either end of

the enclosure. (B) Schematic of the locking mechanism that allows each individual step to be made stable or

unstable on a trial-by-trial basis. (C) Example video frame from the behaviour tracking system. Coloured

overlays represent regions of interest and feature traces extracted automatically from the video.

Behaviour can reveal brain function

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kampff-lab.org

Behaviour can reveal brain function

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kampff-lab.org

Behaviour can reveal brain function

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kampff-lab.org

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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kampff-lab.org

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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kampff-lab.org

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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kampff-lab.org

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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kampff-lab.org

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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kampff-lab.org

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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kampff-lab.org

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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www.everymind.online/CuttleShuttle/

Increasing the complexity of laboratory worlds

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www.everymind.online/CuttleShuttle/

How to tackle these challenges?

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Field Neuroscience = Neuroscience in the wild

Diversity of our model organisms

Complexity of worlds we test

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How do we study Neuroscience in the Wild?

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But sometimes the world changes very suddenly, and you have to act quickly without ever having trained for that moment. These are moments we like to talk about as a moment where you “don’t have time to think”, but I’m going to argue that these kinds of moments actually place the greatest demand on cognition, because we have to keep interacting with the world, and we must quickly deploy a response to that sudden change in the environment. The response that follows such a sudden change, discrepancy, unexpected event, etc, I would like to call a rapid psychomotor response, or RPR. Here, a skier deploys an RPR to escape a huge avalanche.

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Here a man is walking down the street, when all of the sudden a car appears! Notice how he doesn’t go any further into the street than he needs to avoid the out-of-control vehicle, and he immediately sling-shots back to the sidewalk.

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And lastly, my favorite example - a family goes for a walk along a cliff, and one of the children nearly falls off the edge. But her father quickly grabs her by the dress to save her, all while wearing flipflops and also carrying another child on his shoulders. There’s no way that this father practiced this exact scenario in order to drill the correct action for this particular situation - but he uses his awareness of his own physical capabilities, modulates them to fit the needs of the current context, and deploys all of this in a matter of seconds.

The three examples I just showed you are all situations that are difficult to replicate in a laboratory...

Tools that can face the unknown

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www.everymind.online/SurprisingMinds/

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Tools that can face the unknown

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Tools that can face the unknown

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Motion) Sensor

Analog Gas Sensor

Analog Flame Sensor

Analog Temperature Sensor

Analog Ambient Light Sensor

Crash sensors

Digital Push Buttons

Analog Rotation Sensor

Digital LED Lights

Tools that can face the unknown

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Gonçalo Lopes

bonsai-rx.org

MINDS that can face the unknown

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...further advances in the field are most likely to be made by those who can address problems without the prejudices and limitations that derive from a technique-bound perspective.

- Preface, W.M. Cowan, Annual Review of Neuroscience 1978, Vol 1

https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ne.1.072606.100001

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It is not true that "the laboratory can never be like life." The

laboratory must be like life!

- James J Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (1979)

https://archive.org/details/pdfy-u5hmFOvOM2Civ4Gz/page/n9

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Thank You!

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Neuronautas: An Introduction to Field Neuroscience - Google Slides