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Neuron. 2018 Nov 21;100(4):876-890.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.09.042. Epub 2018 Oct 25.

Brain-wide Organization of Neuronal Activity and Convergent Sensorimotor Transformations in Larval Zebrafish.

Author information

1
Harvard University, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA; Harvard University, Center for Brain Science, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA; Boston University, Department of Biology, Boston, MA, 02115, USA. Electronic address: xiuyechen@gmail.com.
2
Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA, 20147, USA.
3
Harvard University, Center for Brain Science, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA; Hebrew University, The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, Jerusalem, Israel.
4
Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurobiology, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
5
Harvard University, Center for Brain Science, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.
6
Boston University, Department of Biology, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
7
Harvard University, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA; Harvard University, Center for Brain Science, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.
8
Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA, 20147, USA. Electronic address: ahrensm@janelia.hhmi.org.

Abstract

Simultaneous recordings of large populations of neurons in behaving animals allow detailed observation of high-dimensional, complex brain activity. However, experimental approaches often focus on singular behavioral paradigms or brain areas. Here, we recorded whole-brain neuronal activity of larval zebrafish presented with a battery of visual stimuli while recording fictive motor output. We identified neurons tuned to each stimulus type and motor output and discovered groups of neurons in the anterior hindbrain that respond to different stimuli eliciting similar behavioral responses. These convergent sensorimotor representations were only weakly correlated to instantaneous motor activity, suggesting that they critically inform, but do not directly generate, behavioral choices. To catalog brain-wide activity beyond explicit sensorimotor processing, we developed an unsupervised clustering technique that organizes neurons into functional groups. These analyses enabled a broad overview of the functional organization of the brain and revealed numerous brain nuclei whose neurons exhibit concerted activity patterns.

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