Good time to remember the Ranck Symposium four years ago, Sept 7, 2016. Jim discovered head-direction cells in 1984, with full-reports in 1990 (pub 1 and pub 2). Jim’s 90th birthday last week. Remarkable set of talk, all in one day. Below is the sequence with video links. (Some messiness with the videos).
May 7, 2019, Andre Fenton and I interview Jim Ranck. The interview is quite long — 90 minutes — and is organized in a decade-by-decade manner. For each segment we discuss Jim’s personal history, his scientific accomplishments, and some major events in Neuroscience.
The interview contains lots of hippocampal minutia. Best suited for people in the field … but I think there are other gems.
The timeline is something like this:
0:00:00 1930-40s birth thru college:
0:04:50 1950s med school, Univ chicago, Public Health
0:20:10 1960s Univ Washington, Biophysics, Brain Impedance, Mich
0:31:00 1970s Hippocampal Neurons, O'Keefe & Nadel
Phil Best, place cells are real
0:48:00 1975 Move to Brooklyn, single neurons
1:08:43 1980s (part 1) computerized data collection and
1:10:40 1980s (part 2) Head-Direction cells. Ego and allocentric
1:22:55 1990s Cognitive Neuroscience, the book.
Most important segment is on discovery and description of Head-Direction Cells,
1:10:40 – 1:23:00
The function of learning is clear: modifying behavior through experience. Memory, the storage of information that supports learning, is clearly necessary and valuable. Current psychology and neuroscience tell us that there are two memory systems enabled by separate neural systems. Procedural memory relies on reward circuitry and trial-and-error processes to mold efficient behaviors. Episodic memory stores specifc events in the life of the individual — but for what purpose? Continue reading →
In 1981 I was an eager post-doctoral fellow, learning to record place cell’s in Jim Ranck’s lab and beginning to understand John O’Keefe and Lynn Nadel’s “Cognitive Map” theory of the hippocampus. One afternoon, while I had a rat in the maze and watched traces of action potentials sweep by on the oscilloscope, Jim Ranck looked over my should and said …
“This is terrific! Place cells are the gateway to understanding how the brain produces cognition.”1
Three years ago the New England Journal of Medicine published a remarkable case study : “Cycling for Freezing Gait”. The report from doctors in the Netherlands describes a man with severe Parkinson’s disease who was virtually unable to walk, but, when put on a bike, rode beautifully, including the ability to turn, raise off the seat for power, and comfortably dismount.
Yesterday evening Deron Williams drained 8-straight 3-point shots at the start of the Brooklyn Nets’ win against the Washinton Wizzards (Nets, my team!). He was ‘hot’. He was on a streak. He was in rhythm. As Deron said, at the end of the streak, “yeah, I was on a heat check”.
Was it a real streak? Was he hot? In synch? If there are streaks, what does that say about human athletic performance and neuroscience?
Stephen Gould addressed the question* of whether there are streaks in athletic performance 25 years ago in a lovely article in the NY Review of books (1988). Interestingly, Gould focused on two types of streaks: streak shooting in basketball, and Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. He summarized then current work by Arvin Tversky and Ed Purcell, using fairly simple probability techniques. Conclusion: from NBA shot statistics were there no evidence of “hot streaks” or “hot hands” in basketball; but the DiMaggio’s streak was truly unusual. I don’t have ready access to the background work (correction: Golovich et al, 1985**), nor more recent analysis, but I did a back-of-the envelope calculation this morning.
First, the technical achievement. Ziv et al, working in Mark Schnitzer’s group at Stanford have managed to record the firing activity of hundreds of hippocampal neurons over a period of approximately one month. They do this by permanently mounting a miniature camera on the mouse’s head and using Ca+ imaging to identify the firing pattern of each neuron. Continue reading →