Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sensory processing in mouse motor cortex

Over at Nature's neuroscience group, I wrote up a summary and discussion of the excellent paper Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Cortical Sensorimotor Integration in Behaving Mice by by Ferezou et al.. You can find the original paper here, and my summary is here.

Here is the conclusion paragraph of my summary:
Ferezou et al. showed that subthreshold responses to whisker stimulation can be quite broadly distributed, often extending into M1. This suggests that M1 does not have a purely motor function, but serves also to process sensory information. While M1 projects directly to the brain stem and spinal cord to coordinate motor activity, its tight link with S1 opens up interesting questions about its role in sensory processing and sensorimotor transformations. Also, the sensory response in S1 and M1 depends on the behavioral state of the animal, suggesting that sensory processing isn’t a stationary process, but is sensitive to the context in which a stimulus is delivered. So, when someone asks how a mouse’s cortex would respond to a given stimulus, you probably have to ask, “What is the critter doing?”

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Frontiers in Neuroscience

A new neuroscience journal, Frontiers in Neuroscience, recently published its inaugural issue. It has a big-name editorial board including Larry Abbot,Henry Markram, and my postdoctoral advisor Miguel Nicolelis.

They are taking a big risk with this journal, as it flouts the traditional business model of the big journals like Nature (expensive, for profit journals with access only to paid subscribers). Just like its successful cousin, PLOS, Frontiers is open access, authors have copyright control and can distribute the article as they see fit. With these guys, you won't be directed to any annoying web pages asking you to pay $50.00 for an article you need.

What makes the Frontiers journals even more interesting is their novel policy for article reviewers. Reviewers are not anonymous, but rather "the Referee remains anonymous only during the review period. After the review, the screen is lifted and the Referees are disclosed and acknowledged on the published paper." No more annoying reviews by lazy referees who obviously haven't read the paper closely.

Also, if you review a paper that is ultimately accepted for publication you will have the option of writing up "a one-page summary of the paper co-authored by all participating Referees. These commentaries are referenced and citable and are major incentive for Referees because the current trend is for readers to read more meta-papers before going to the deeper original studies."

This is a very interesting experiment in publication practices. On one hand, writers are almost guaranteed to get constructive and helpful criticisms rather than half-thought-out potshots. On the other hand, if you are a small fish reviewing the paper of a "big name" lab, you might be tempted to hold your punches so as not to incur the wrath of someone with a lot of power in your subfield. Also, referees might be tempted to accept publications so they can get their summary published, thereby packing their CV.

Time will tell whether this radical experiment in open access journals has legs. The first issue has some very interesting articles. The first four are:
1.Shaul Druckmann, Yoav Banitt, Albert A. Gidon, Felix Schürmann, Henry Markram and Idan Segev A Novel Multiple Objective Optimization Framework for Constraining Conductance-Based Neuron Models by Experimental Data.
2.Alex Thomson and Christophe M. Lamy Functional maps of neocortical local circuitry.
3.Sidarta Ribeiro, Xinwu Shi, Matthew Engelhard, Yi Zhou, Hao Zhang, Damien Gervasoni, Shih-Chieh Lin, Kazuhiro Wada, Nelson A. Lemo and Miguel A. Nicolelis Novel experience induces persistent sleep-dependent plasticity in the cortex but not in the hippocampus.
4.Nestor Parga and Larry Abbott Network model of spontaneous activity exhibiting synchronous transitions between up and down states.