Biomedical Sciences

Neuron article: How the metabolically-expensive, mammalian brain adapts to food scarcity

Congratulations to the Rochefort Lab for their published findings in Neuron on how food-restriction affects neuronal activity in the neocortex.


Information processing is energetically expensive. In the mammalian brain, it is unclear how information coding and energy use are regulated during food scarcity. Using whole-cell recordings and two-photon imaging in layer 2/3 mouse visual cortex, we found that food restriction reduced AMPA receptor conductance, reducing synaptic ATP use by 29%.

Neuronal excitability was nonetheless preserved by a compensatory increase in input resistance and a depolarized resting potential. Consequently, neurons spiked at similar rates as controls but spent less ATP on underlying excitatory currents. This energy-saving strategy had a cost because it amplified the variability of visually-evoked subthreshold responses, leading to a 32% broadening of orientation tuning and impaired fine visual discrimination. This reduction in coding precision was associated with reduced levels of the fat mass-regulated hormone leptin and was restored by exogenous leptin supplementation.

Our findings reveal that metabolic state dynamically regulates the energy spent on coding precision in neocortex.


Read the published article in Neuron here

Read the review in Technology Networks here