Manipulating neural activity in physiologically classified neurons: triumphs and challenges.

Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

PubMedID: 26240431

Gore F, Schwartz EC, Salzman CD. Manipulating neural activity in physiologically classified neurons: triumphs and challenges. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B, Biol Sci. 2015;370(1677):.
Understanding brain function requires knowing both how neural activity encodes information and how this activity generates appropriate responses. Electrophysiological, imaging and immediate early gene immunostaining studies have been instrumental in identifying and characterizing neurons that respond to different sensory stimuli, events and motor actions. Here we highlight approaches that have manipulated the activity of physiologically classified neurons to determine their role in the generation of behavioural responses. Previous experiments have often exploited the functional architecture observed in many cortical areas, where clusters of neurons share response properties. However, many brain structures do not exhibit such functional architecture. Instead, neurons with different response properties are anatomically intermingled. Emerging genetic approaches have enabled the identification and manipulation of neurons that respond to specific stimuli despite the lack of discernable anatomical organization. These approaches have advanced understanding of the circuits mediating sensory perception, learning and memory, and the generation of behavioural responses by providing causal evidence linking neural response properties to appropriate behavioural output. However, significant challenges remain for understanding cognitive processes that are probably mediated by neurons with more complex physiological response properties. Currently available strategies may prove inadequate for determining how activity in these neurons is causally related to cognitive behaviour.