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Week of October 24, 2021

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Lecture
Nonoscillatory coding and multiscale representation of very large environments in the bat hippocampus by Tamir Eliav and There is Chemistry in Social Chemistry by Inbal Ravreby
10/26/2021
23:49

Nonoscillatory coding and multiscale representation of very large environments in the bat hippocampus by Tamir Eliav and There is Chemistry in Social Chemistry by Inbal Ravreby

Tamir Eliav, Prof. Nachum Ulanovsky Lab and Inbal Ravreby, Prof. Noam Sobel Lab, Dept of Brain Sciences |

Tue, Oct 26, 12:30 | Gerhard M.J. Schmidt Lecture Hall

Nonoscillatory coding and multiscale representation of very large environments in the bat hippocampus Abstract: The hippocampus plays a key role in memory and navigation, and forms a cognitive map of the world: hippocampal ‘place cells’ encode the animal’s location by activating whenever the animal passes a particular region in the environment (the neuron’s ‘place field’). Over the last 50 years of hippocampal research, almost all studies have focused on rodents as animal models, using small laboratory experimental setups. In my research, I explored hippocampal representations in a naturalistic settings, in a unique animal model – the bat. My talk will outline two main stories: (i) In rodents, hippocampal activity exhibits ‘theta oscillations’. These oscillations were proposed to support multiple functions, including memory and sequence formation. However, absence of clear theta in bats and humans has questioned these proposals. Surprisingly, we found that in bats hippocampal neurons exhibited nonoscillatory phase-coding. This highlights the importance of phase-coding, but not oscillations per se, for hippocampal function across species – including humans. (ii) Real-world navigation requires spatial representation of very large environments. To investigate this, we wirelessly recorded from hippocampal dorsal CA1 neurons of bats flying in a long tunnel (200 meters). Place cells displayed a multifield multiscale code: Individual neurons exhibited multiple place fields of diverse sizes, ranging from 0.6 to 32 meters, and the fields of the same neuron differed up to 20-fold in size. Theoretical analysis showed that the multiscale code allows representing large environments with much better accuracy than other codes. Thus, by increasing the spatial scale, we uncovered a neural code that is radically different from classical spatial codes. Together, these results highlight the power of the comparative approach, and demonstrate that studying the brain under naturalistic settings and behavior enables discovering new unknown aspects of the neural code. There is Chemistry in Social Chemistry Abstract: Non-human terrestrial mammals constantly sniff themselves and each-other, and based on this decide who is friend or foe. Humans also constantly sniff themselves and each-other, but the functional significance of this behavior is unknown. Given that humans seek friends who are similar to themselves, we hypothesized that humans may be smelling themselves and others to subconsciously estimate body-odor similarity, and that this may then promote friendship. To test this hypothesis, we recruited non-romantic same-sex friend dyads who had initially bonded instantaneously, or so called click-friends, and harvested their body-odor. In a series of experiments, we then found that objective ratings obtained with an electronic nose, and subjective ratings obtained from independent human smellers, converged to suggest that click-friends smell more similar to each other than random dyads. To then estimate whether this similarity was merely a consequence of friendship, or a driving force of friendship, we recruited complete strangers, smelled them with an electronic nose, and engaged them in non-verbal same-sex dyadic interactions. Remarkably, we observed that dyads who smelled more similar had better dyadic interactions. In other words, we could predict social bonding with an electronic nose. This result implies that body-odor similarity is a causal factor in social interaction, or in other words, there is indeed chemistry in social chemistry.