Ranck Symposium, 2016

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).

  1. Charles Nicholson Brain Impedance, Stimulation, and Extracellular Space
  2. Lynn Nadel, PhD – Finding Our Direction in the Early Days of Cognitive Map Theory
  3. John O’Keefe – Place Cells in the Hippocampus, Past and Present
  4. Phillip J Best, PhD – No Kidding They Really Were Place Cells
  5. John Kubie, PhD – The Hippocampus in Brooklyn; Head Direction Cells and Beyond
  6. Bruce L McNaughton, PhD – Mechanisms of Place Field Formation Still a Mystery after all these year
  7.  Neil Burgess, PhD – Neural Mechanisms of Spatial Cognition
  8. David W Tank, PhD – Place Cell Dynamics During Navigation
  9. Jeffrey S Taube, PhD – Jim Got Me Headed in the Right Direction
  10.  György Buzsáki, MD, PhD & Adrien Peyrache, PhD – Jim’s Work Pointed to the Right Direction
  11.  Nachum Ulanovsky, PhD – Neural Basis of 3D Goal Directed Navigation in Bats
  12. Howard Eichenbaum, PhD – Ranck’s Rule Reflections on the Behavioral Correlates of Hippocampal Neurons
  13. Matt Shapiro, PhD – Place Cells and Memory
  14. Wendy A Suzuki, PhD – How the Hippocampus Learns from Errors
  15. André Fenton, PhD – Signal in the Noise Non Local Spatial Information in Place and Head Direction
  16. Jim Knierim, PhD – Local Cue Influences on Place Cells Objects, Vectors, and Textures
  17. Steven E Fox, PhD – Thoughts and Comments
  18.  James B Ranck, Jr , MD Thoughts and Comments

Interview with Jim Ranck, discoverer of Head-Direction cells

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.

watch, above, or go directly to youtube: https://youtu.be/i6hIVqXPNdQ

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
                  analysis
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

What is episodic memory good for?

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

What is Cognition?

snoopy2In 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

This was both inspirational and opaque. Continue reading

Grid Cells, Place Cells and Navigation

grid module small I’ve made a posting on the BrainsFacts Blog site on Grid Cells and Path Integration. Aimed at High School and College students, but I think it gets complicated. Write your comments here!

Also, planning a third post or the Modular organization of Grid Cells. Based on new paper “Specific evidence of low-dimensional continuous attractor dynamics in grid cells” (Yoon et al) published in Nature Neuroscience.

Can a Parkinson’s Patient Ride a Bike (without a helmet)?

bikeThree 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.

Continue reading

Athletic Streaks and Neuroscience

deron williams jumpYesterday 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. 

My calculations: Continue reading

Optical Recording of Maps in the Hippocampus

(Updated with comparison to Mankin et al Feb 20; in red text)

“Long-term dynamics of CA1 Hippocampal Place Codes” is an important study published in the current issue of Nature Neuroscience. The paper is noteworthy in terms of technical achievement, theoretical implications and the potential for future work

headstage

Headstage on mouse brain. Ziv et al fig 1a.

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