Scientific Papers

My scientific publications are across two fields of neuroscience: molecular and cellular physiology of the neuron and network dynamics in brain slices, awake monkeys and humans.


Coherence potentials encode simple human sensorimotor behavior.

Posted on February 3, 2012 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on Coherence potentials encode simple human sensorimotor behavior.

Recent work has shown that large amplitude negative periods in the local field potential (nLFPs) are able to spread in saltatory manner across large distances in the cortex without distortion in their temporal structure forming ‘coherence potentials’. Here we analysed subdural electrocorticographic (ECoG) signals recorded at 59 sites in the sensorimotor cortex in the left hemisphere of a human subject performing a simple visuomotor task (fist clenching and foot dorsiflexion) to understand how coherence potentials arising in the recordings relate to sensorimotor behavior. In all behaviors we found a particular coherence potential (i.e. a cascade of a particular nLFP wave pattern) arose consistently across all trials with temporal specificity. During contrateral fist clenching, but not the foot dorsiflexion or ipsilateral fist clenching, the coherence potential most frequently originated in the hand representation area in the somatosensory cortex during the anticipation … Read More »


Beta Ca2+/CaM-dependent kinase type II triggers upregulation of GluA1 to coordinate adaptation to synaptic inactivity in hippocampal neurons.

Posted on January 11, 2011 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on Beta Ca2+/CaM-dependent kinase type II triggers upregulation of GluA1 to coordinate adaptation to synaptic inactivity in hippocampal neurons.

Prolonged AMPA-receptor blockade in hippocampal neuron cultures leads to both an increased expression of GluA1 postsynaptically and an increase in vesicle pool size and turnover rate presynaptically, adaptive changes that extend beyond simple synaptic scaling. As a molecular correlate, expression of the β Ca(2+)/CaM-dependent kinase type II (βCaMKII) is increased in response to synaptic inactivity. Here we set out to clarify the role of βCaMKII in the various manifestations of adaptation. Knockdown of βCaMKII by lentiviral-mediated expression of shRNA prevented the synaptic inactivity-induced increase in GluA1, as did treatment with the CaM kinase inhibitor KN-93, but not the inactive analog KN-92. These results demonstrate that, spurred by AMPA-receptor blockade, up-regulation of βCaMKII promotes increased GluA1 expression. Indeed, transfection of βCaMKII, but not a kinase-dead mutant, increased GluA1 expression on dendrites and elevated vesicle turnover (Syt-Ab uptake), mimicking the effect of … Read More »


Postsynaptic GluA1 enables acute retrograde enhancement of presynaptic function to coordinate adaptation to synaptic inactivity.

Posted on December 14, 2010 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on Postsynaptic GluA1 enables acute retrograde enhancement of presynaptic function to coordinate adaptation to synaptic inactivity.

Prolonged blockade of AMPA-type glutamate receptors in hippocampal neuron cultures leads to homeostatic enhancements of pre- and postsynaptic function that appear correlated at individual synapses, suggesting some form of transsynaptic coordination. The respective modifications are important for overall synaptic strength but their interrelationship, dynamics, and molecular underpinnings are unclear. Here we demonstrate that adaptation begins postsynaptically but is ultimately communicated to presynaptic terminals and expressed as an accelerated turnover of synaptic vesicles. Critical postsynaptic modifications occur over hours, but enable retrograde communication within minutes once AMPA receptor (AMPAR) blockade is removed, causing elevation of both spontaneous and evoked vesicle fusion. The retrograde signaling does not require spiking activity and can be interrupted by NBQX, philanthotoxin, postsynaptic BAPTA, or external sequestration of BDNF, consistent with the acute release of retrograde messenger, triggered by postsynaptic Ca(2+) elevation via Ca(2+)-permeable AMPARs.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21098665

Lindskog M, Li … Read More »


Tipping Points in the Brain

Posted on August 1, 2010 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on Tipping Points in the Brain

In his quest to unravel the relationship between brain function and intelligent behaviour, Karl Lashley, an American psychologist, conducted a set of experiments in the 1920s and 30s. The psychologist meticulously destroyed different parts of the cerebral cortex of rats, allowed them to recover from the surgery and then tested their ability to learn and remember certain tasks such as running a maze or distinguishing between two patterns. The degree of impairment depended only on how much of the cortex was destroyed – and not which part. It was not until he had removed at least half the cortex that learning and memory became severely impaired.

“Tipping Points in the Brain” was published in The Scientific American (International Edition), 2010.


Coherence potentials: loss-less, all-or-none network events in the cortex.

Posted on January 12, 2010 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on Coherence potentials: loss-less, all-or-none network events in the cortex.

Transient associations among neurons are thought to underlie memory and behavior. However, little is known about how such associations occur or how they can be identified. Here we recorded ongoing local field potential (LFP) activity at multiple sites within the cortex of awake monkeys and organotypic cultures of cortex. We show that when the composite activity of a local neuronal group exceeds a threshold, its activity pattern, as reflected in the LFP, occurs without distortion at other cortex sites via fast synaptic transmission. These large-amplitude LFPs, which we call coherence potentials, extend up to hundreds of milliseconds and mark periods of loss-less spread of temporal and amplitude information much like action potentials at the single-cell level. However, coherence potentials have an additional degree of freedom in the diversity of their waveforms, which provides a high-dimensional parameter for encoding information and … Read More »


Spontaneous cortical activity in awake monkeys composed of neuronal avalanches.

Posted on September 15, 2009 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on Spontaneous cortical activity in awake monkeys composed of neuronal avalanches.

Spontaneous neuronal activity is an important property of the cerebral cortex but its spatiotemporal organization and dynamical framework remain poorly understood. Studies in reduced systems–tissue cultures, acute slices, and anesthetized rats–show that spontaneous activity forms characteristic clusters in space and time, called neuronal avalanches. Modeling studies suggest that networks with this property are poised at a critical state that optimizes input processing, information storage, and transfer, but the relevance of avalanches for fully functional cerebral systems has been controversial. Here we show that ongoing cortical synchronization in awake rhesus monkeys carries the signature of neuronal avalanches. Negative LFP deflections (nLFPs) correlate with neuronal spiking and increase in amplitude with increases in local population spike rate and synchrony. These nLFPs form neuronal avalanches that are scale-invariant in space and time and with respect to the threshold of nLFP detection. This dimension, … Read More »


The organizing principles of neuronal avalanches: cell assemblies in the cortex?

Posted on March 1, 2007 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on The organizing principles of neuronal avalanches: cell assemblies in the cortex?

Neuronal avalanches are spatiotemporal patterns of neuronal activity that occur spontaneously in superficial layers of the mammalian cortex under various experimental conditions. These patterns reflect fast propagation of local synchrony, display a rich spatiotemporal diversity and recur over several hours. The statistical organization of pattern sizes is invariant to the choice of spatial scale, demonstrating that the functional linking of cortical sites into avalanches occurs on all spatial scales with a fractal organization. These features suggest an underlying network of neuronal interactions that balances diverse representations with predictable recurrence, similar to what has been theorized for cell assembly formation. We propose that avalanches reflect the transient formation of cell assemblies in the cortex and discuss various models that provide mechanistic insights into the underlying dynamics, suggesting that they arise in a critical regime.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17275102

Plenz D, Thiagarajan TC.
Trends Neurosci. 2007 Mar;30(3):101-10. Epub 2007 … Read More »


LTP and adaptation to inactivity: overlapping mechanisms and implications for metaplasticity.

Posted on January 1, 2007 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on LTP and adaptation to inactivity: overlapping mechanisms and implications for metaplasticity.

LTP and other rapidly induced forms of synaptic modification tune individual synaptic weights, whereas slower forms of plasticity such as adaptation to inactivity are thought to keep neurons within their firing limits and preserve their capability for information processing. Here we describe progress in understanding the relationship between LTP and adaptation to inactivity. A prevailing view is that adaptation to inactivity is purely postsynaptic, scales synaptic strength uniformly across all synapses, and thus preserves relative synaptic weights without interfering with signatures of prior LTP or the relative capacity for future LTP. However, recent evidence in hippocampal neurons indicates that, like LTP, adaptation to AMPA receptor blockade can draw upon a repertoire of synaptic expression mechanisms including enhancement of presynaptic vesicular turnover and increased quantal amplitude mediated by recruitment of homomeric GluR1 AMPA receptors. These pre- and postsynaptic changes appeared coordinated … Read More »


alpha- and betaCaMKII. Inverse regulation by neuronal activity and opposing effects on synaptic strength.

Posted on December 19, 2002 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on alpha- and betaCaMKII. Inverse regulation by neuronal activity and opposing effects on synaptic strength.

We show that alpha and betaCaMKII are inversely regulated by activity in hippocampal neurons in culture: the alpha/beta ratio shifts toward alpha during increased activity and beta during decreased activity. The swing in ratio is approximately 5-fold and may help tune the CaMKII holoenzyme to changing intensities of Ca(2+) signaling. The regulation of CaMKII levels uses distinguishable pathways, one responsive to NMDA receptor blockade that controls alphaCaMKII alone, the other responsive to AMPA receptor blockade and involving betaCaMKII and possibly further downstream effects of betaCaMKII on alphaCaMKII. Overexpression of alphaCaMKII or betaCaMKII resulted in opposing effects on unitary synaptic strength as well as mEPSC frequency that could account in part for activity-dependent effects observed with chronic blockade of AMPA receptors. Regulation of CaMKII subunit composition may be important for both activity-dependent synaptic homeostasis and plasticity.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12495625

Thiagarajan TC, Piedras-Renteria ES, Tsien RW.
Neuron. … Read More »


Adaptation to synaptic inactivity in hippocampal neurons.

Posted on September 1, 2001 by Tara Thiagarajan in Scientific Papers, Writing. Comments Off on Adaptation to synaptic inactivity in hippocampal neurons.

In response to activity deprivation, CNS neurons undergo slow adaptive modification of unitary synaptic transmission. The changes are comparable in degree to those induced by brief intense stimulation, but their molecular basis is largely unknown. Our data indicate that prolonged AMPAR blockade acts through loss of Ca2+ entry through L-type Ca2+ channels to bring about an increase in both vesicle pool size and turnover rate, as well as a postsynaptic enhancement of the contribution of GluR1 homomers, concentrated at the largest synapses. The changes were consistent with a morphological scaling of overall synapse size, but also featured a dramatic shift toward synaptic drive contributed by the Ca2+-permeable homomeric GluR1 receptors. These results extend beyond “synaptic homeostasis” to involve more profound changes that can be better described as “metaplasticity”.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16129401

Thiagarajan TC, Lindskog M, Tsien RW.
Neuron. 2005 Sep 1;47(5):725-37.