Theses Doctoral

The neural circuit basis of learning

Kaifosh, Patrick William John

The astounding capacity for learning ranks among the nervous system’s most impressive features. This thesis comprises studies employing varied approaches to improve understanding, at the level of neural circuits, of the brain’s capacity for learning.
The first part of the thesis contains investigations of hippocampal circuitry – both theoretical work and experimental work in the mouse Mus musculus – as a model system for declarative memory. To begin, Chapter 2 presents a theory of hippocampal memory storage and retrieval that reflects nonlinear dendritic processing within hippocampal pyramidal neurons. As a prelude to the experimental work that comprises the remainder of this part, Chapter 3 describes an open source software platform that we have developed for analysis of data acquired with in vivo Ca2+ imaging, the main experimental technique used throughout the remainder of this part of the thesis. As a first application of this technique, Chapter 4 characterizes the content of signaling at synapses between GABAergic neurons of the medial septum and interneurons in stratum oriens of hippocampal area CA1. Chapter 5 then combines these techniques with optogenetic, pharmacogenetic, and pharmacological manipulations to uncover inhibitory circuit mechanisms underlying fear learning.
The second part of this thesis focuses on the cerebellum-like electrosensory lobe in the weakly electric mormyrid fish Gnathonemus petersii, as a model system for non-declarative memory. In Chapter 6, we study how short-duration EOD motor commands are recoded into a complex temporal basis in the granule cell layer, which can be used to cancel Purkinje-like cell firing to the longer duration and temporally varying EOD-driven sensory responses. In Chapter 7, we consider not only the temporal aspects of the granule cell code, but also the encoding of body position provided from proprioceptive and efference copy sources. Together these studies clarify how the cerebellum-like circuitry of the electrosensory lobe combines information of different forms and then uses this combined information to predict the complex dependence of sensory responses on body position and timing relative to electric organ discharge.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Losonczy, Attila
Abbott, Laurence F.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 24, 2016