Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 619 Views Jun 20, 2023

A fascinating question in neuroscience is how sensory stimuli evoke calcium dynamics in neurons. Caenorhabditis elegans is one of the most suitable models for optically recording high-throughput calcium spikes at single-cell resolution. However, calcium imaging in C. elegans is challenging due to the difficulties associated with immobilizing the organism. Currently, methods for immobilizing worms include entrapment in a microfluidic channel, anesthesia, or adhesion to a glass slide. We have developed a new method to immobilize worms by trapping them in sodium alginate gel. The sodium alginate solution (5%), polymerized with divalent ions, effectively immobilizes worms in the gel. This technique is especially useful for imaging neuronal calcium dynamics during olfactory stimulation. The highly porous and transparent nature of alginate gel allows the optical recording of cellular calcium oscillations in neurons when briefly exposed to odor stimulation.

0 Q&A 1377 Views Jul 20, 2022

Aging and neuronal deterioration constitute important risk factors for the development of neuronal-related diseases, such as different dementia. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has emerged as a popular model system for studying neurodegeneration diseases, due to its complete neuronal connectivity map. DiI is a red fluorescent dye that can fill the worm amphid neurons and enables the visualization of their neurodegeneration over time. This protocol provides an efficient, fast, and safe method to stain worm amphid neurons to highlight the chemosensory structures of live nematodes.

0 Q&A 3757 Views Apr 20, 2020
A key component of combating substance use disorders is understanding the neural mechanisms that support drug reward. Tasks such as self-administration assess the reinforcing properties of a drug using a learned behavior but require numerous training sessions and surgery. In comparison, the conditioned place preference (CPP) task assesses reward with little training, without costly surgeries, and confounds that accompany the use of anesthesia or pain-relieving drugs. The CPP task contains three phases: pretest, conditioning, and posttest. During the pretest, mice are allowed to explore a three-compartment apparatus. The two outer compartments contain unique olfactory, tactile, and visual cues whereas the middle compartment is used as an entrance and exit for the mice on test days. During conditioning, mice receive cocaine before being confined to one of the outer compartments. The following day, mice are given saline then confined to the other outer compartment. These pairings are then repeated once. At posttest, mice are permitted to freely explore all compartments in a drug-free state while the time spent in each compartment is recorded. A CPP score is calculated for both the pretest and posttest by comparing the time spent in the cocaine-paired and saline-paired compartments. Enhancements in the CPP score from the pretest to the posttest serve as a measure of the rewarding property of the cocaine. This task offers several notable advantages: 1) the simultaneous recording of locomotor activity and reward, which may utilize different neural mechanisms, 2) the three-compartment CPP setup removes the bias that can be observed in a two-compartment design, and 3) use of multimodal cues support the acquisition of a robust preference in a variety of mouse strains.
0 Q&A 5310 Views Aug 20, 2019
Recently developed gene editing technologies based on engineered CRISPR/Cas9 systems enables researchers to disrupt genes in a cell type-specific manner in the adult mouse brain. Using these technologies, we recently showed that the dopamine beta-hydroxylase gene in Locus Coeruleus (LC) norepinephrine neurons plays a vital role in the maintenance of wakefulness. Our method consists of four steps, (1) crossing Cre-dependent spCas9 knockin mice with a Cre-driver mouse line to express spCas9 in the target neural populations, (2) cloning of sgRNA, (3) construction of an AAV (adeno associated virus) vector expressing dual sgRNA, and (4) virus packaging and stereotaxic injection of the virus into the target brain area. Here, we describe a detailed protocol of AAV vector construction for cell type-specific CRISPR gene editing in the adult mouse brain. The method adopts a dual-sgRNA strategy for efficient disruption of the target gene. At first, a few different sgRNAs targeting the same gene are cloned into a plasmid expressing spCas9. After evaluation of the sgRNAs by a T7 endonuclease assay, the two most efficient sgRNAs are cloned in tandem into an AAV vector using the Gibson Assembly method.
1 Q&A 6054 Views Jun 5, 2019
Habituation is the process whereby perceptual changes alter the value of environmental stimuli, enabling salience filtering. This behavioral response decrement is a form of non-associative learning, where the subject learns about the stimulus and does not involve sensory adaptation, sensory or motor fatigue. The range of behavioral responses in D. melanogaster led to the development of a number of habituation paradigms addressing various sensory modalities. Habituation of osmotactic responses has previously been measured with the Y-maze test and required 30 min of odor exposure. Here, we describe an olfactory habituation assay utilizing the widely used in associative learning paradigms T-maze. Continuous or repetitive odor exposure for 4 min is adequate to attenuate osmotactic responses both to attractive and aversive odors. Importantly, the decreased response conforms to habitation parameters, presenting dishabituation and spontaneous recovery. This assay allows the study of habituation after brief odor exposure, but also discriminates between the two distinct phases of the response, an initial habituation latency period followed by habituation. In addition, the characterization of the neuronal circuits implicated in each phase facilitates further study of the molecular components underlying this process.
0 Q&A 4535 Views Sep 20, 2018
Research in the area of in vivo olfactory physiology benefits from having direct access to the nasal airways through which odorants can be presented. Ordinarily, the passage of odorants through the airways is controlled by respiratory rhythm. This fact makes it difficult to control the timing and strength of an olfactory stimulus, since animals must breathe regularly, and the act of breathing itself also controls odorant presentation. However, using an artificial inhalation preparation allows us to decouple breathing from olfaction. With this technique we present oxygen and anesthetic (if desired) to the lungs directly and independently control odorant access to the nasal passages. This technique allows for direct control of odorant presentation in vivo, enabling more precise control of parameters of stimulation when investigating olfactory processing. This technique may have additional applications, for example in aerosolized drug delivery.
0 Q&A 6277 Views May 20, 2018
When injected into the motor cortex of rats, anterograde tracers label fibers of the associated descending corticospinal tract (CST) that originate from pyramidal neurons in the tracer-injected cortex. These fibers can be assessed at the level of the spinal cord to determine the integrity of the descending CST and the spatial distribution of axons in the spinal grey matter. Here we provide detailed methods on the minimally invasive stereotaxic injection of anterograde tracers into the forelimb sensorimotor representation in the rat cortex. In addition, we detail the fixing and processing of spinal tissue for assessment of CST integrity and branching into spinal grey matter.
0 Q&A 10970 Views Dec 5, 2017
In studies of brain function, it is essential to understand the underlying neuro-architecture. Very young zebrafish larvae are widely used for neuroarchitecture studies, due to their size and natural transparency. However, this model system has several limitations, due to the immaturity, high rates of development and limited behavioral repertoire of the animals used.

We describe here a modified version of the passive clearing technique (PACT) (Chung et al., 2013; Tomer et al., 2014; Yang et al., 2014; Treweek et al., 2015), which facilitates neuroanatomical studies on large specimens of aquatic species. This method was initially developed for zebrafish (Danio rerio) (Frétaud et al., 2017; Mayrhofer et al., 2017; Xavier et al., 2017), but has also been successfully tested on other fish, such as medaka (Oryzias latipes) (Dambroise et al., 2017), Mexican cave fish (Astyanax mexicaus) and African zebra mbuna (Metriaclima zebra), and on other aquatic species, such as Xenopus spp. (Xenopus laevis, Xenopus tropicalis) (Fini et al., 2017). This protocol, based on the CLARITY method developed and modified by Deisseroth’s laboratory and others (Chung et al., 2013; Tomer et al., 2014; Yang et al., 2014), was adapted for use in aquatic species, including zebrafish in particular (zPACT).

This protocol is designed to render zebrafish specimens optically transparent while preserving the overall architecture of the tissue, through crosslinking in a polyacrylamide/formaldehyde mesh. Most of the lipids present in the specimen are then removed by SDS treatment, to homogenize the refractive index of the specimen by eliminating light scattering at the water/lipid interface, which causes opacity. The final clearing step, consists of the incubation of the specimen in a fructose-based mounting medium (derived from SeeDB) (Ke et al., 2013), with a refractive index matching that of the objective lens of the microscope. The combination of this technique with the use of genetically modified zebrafish in which green fluorescent protein (GFP) is expressed in specific cell populations provides opportunities to describe anatomical details not visible with other techniques.
1 Q&A 12810 Views Nov 20, 2017
Gelatin embedding of whole brains for sectioning is a critical procedure used in neuroscience to ensure all morphological and spatial details are preserved intact. Here, we describe an inexpensive, reproducible and efficient means to embed post-fixed brains ready for sectioning in gelatin within a week’s time. The sections obtained are distortion-free and their fragile internal structures preserved which can be used for serial reconstructions for lesion studies and mapping of viral expression after stereotaxic injections. In addition, the separation of adjacent slices into a series of 3-4 vials facilitates subsequent organization and assembly of serial sections at the mounting step.
0 Q&A 18107 Views Jun 20, 2017
Site-specific lesions are invaluable methods for investigating the function of brain regions within the central nervous system and can be used to study neural mechanisms of behaviors. Precise stereotaxic surgery is required to lesion small regions of the brain such as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which harbors the master circadian clock. In this protocol, we describe stereotaxic surgery optimized for bilateral lesion of the mouse SCN by loading electric current. Success of the SCN lesion is verified histologically and behaviorally by monitoring arrhythmic locomotor activity. The SCN-lesioned mouse allows for the evaluation of behavioral, biochemical, and physiological consequences of ablation of the master circadian clock.

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