New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 13 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week - you go and look for your own favourites:

Perinatal Caffeine, Acting on Maternal Adenosine A1 Receptors, Causes Long-Lasting Behavioral Changes in Mouse Offspring:

There are lingering concerns about caffeine consumption during pregnancy or the early postnatal period, partly because there may be long-lasting behavioral changes after caffeine exposure early in life. We show that pregnant wild type (WT) mice given modest doses of caffeine (0.3 g/l in drinking water) gave birth to offspring that as adults exhibited increased locomotor activity in an open field. The offspring also responded to cocaine challenge with greater locomotor activity than mice not perinatally exposed to caffeine. We performed the same behavioral experiments on mice heterozygous for adenosine A1 receptor gene (A1RHz). In these mice signaling via adenosine A1 receptors is reduced to about the same degree as after modest consumption of caffeine. A1RHz mice had a behavioral profile similar to WT mice perinatally exposed to caffeine. Furthermore, it appeared that the mother's genotype, not offspring's, was critical for behavioral changes in adult offspring. Thus, if the mother partially lacked A1 receptors the offspring displayed more hyperactivity and responded more strongly to cocaine stimulation as adults than did mice of a WT mother, regardless of their genotype. This indicates that long-term behavioral alterations in the offspring result from the maternal effect of caffeine, and not a direct effect on fetus. WT offspring from WT mother but having a A1R Hz grandmother preserved higher locomotor response to cocaine. We suggest that perinatal caffeine, by acting on adenosine A1 receptors in the mother, causes long-lasting behavioral changes in the offspring that even manifest themselves in the second generation.

Ecological Thresholds in the Savanna Landscape: Developing a Protocol for Monitoring the Change in Composition and Utilisation of Large Trees:

Acquiring greater understanding of the factors causing changes in vegetation structure - particularly with the potential to cause regime shifts - is important in adaptively managed conservation areas. Large trees (â¥5 m in height) play an important ecosystem function, and are associated with a stable ecological state in the African savanna. There is concern that large tree densities are declining in a number of protected areas, including the Kruger National Park, South Africa. In this paper the results of a field study designed to monitor change in a savanna system are presented and discussed. Developing the first phase of a monitoring protocol to measure the change in tree species composition, density and size distribution, whilst also identifying factors driving change. A central issue is the discrete spatial distribution of large trees in the landscape, making point sampling approaches relatively ineffective. Accordingly, fourteen 10 m wide transects were aligned perpendicular to large rivers (3.0-6.6 km in length) and eight transects were located at fixed-point photographic locations (1.0-1.6 km in length). Using accumulation curves, we established that the majority of tree species were sampled within 3 km. Furthermore, the key ecological drivers (e.g. fire, herbivory, drought and disease) which influence large tree use and impact were also recorded within 3 km. The technique presented provides an effective method for monitoring changes in large tree abundance, size distribution and use by the main ecological drivers across the savanna landscape. However, the monitoring of rare tree species would require individual marking approaches due to their low densities and specific habitat requirements. Repeat sampling intervals would vary depending on the factor of concern and proposed management mitigation. Once a monitoring protocol has been identified and evaluated, the next stage is to integrate that protocol into a decision-making system, which highlights potential leading indicators of change. Frequent monitoring would be required to establish the rate and direction of change. This approach may be useful in generating monitoring protocols for other dynamic systems.

Rapid Perceptual Switching of a Reversible Biological Figure:

Certain visual stimuli can give rise to contradictory perceptions. In this paper we examine the temporal dynamics of perceptual reversals experienced with biological motion, comparing these dynamics to those observed with other ambiguous structure from motion (SFM) stimuli. In our first experiment, naïve observers monitored perceptual alternations with an ambiguous rotating walker, a figure that randomly alternates between walking in clockwise (CW) and counter-clockwise (CCW) directions. While the number of reported reversals varied between observers, the observed dynamics (distribution of dominance durations, CW/CCW proportions) were comparable to those experienced with an ambiguous kinetic depth cylinder. In a second experiment, we compared reversal profiles with rotating and standard point-light walkers (i.e. non-rotating). Over multiple test repetitions, three out of four observers experienced consistently shorter mean percept durations with the rotating walker, suggesting that the added rotational component may speed up reversal rates with biomotion. For both stimuli, the drift in alternation rate across trial and across repetition was minimal. In our final experiment, we investigated whether reversals with the rotating walker and a non-biological object with similar global dimensions (rotating cuboid) occur at random phases of the rotation cycle. We found evidence that some observers experience peaks in the distribution of response locations that are relatively stable across sessions. Using control data, we discuss the role of eye movements in the development of these reversal patterns, and the related role of exogenous stimulus characteristics. In summary, we have demonstrated that the temporal dynamics of reversal with biological motion are similar to other forms of ambiguous SFM. We conclude that perceptual switching with biological motion is a robust bistable phenomenon.

UP States Protect Ongoing Cortical Activity from Thalamic Inputs:

Cortical neurons in vitro and in vivo fluctuate spontaneously between two stable membrane potentials: a depolarized UP state and a hyperpolarized DOWN state. UP states temporally correspond with multineuronal firing sequences which may be important for information processing. To examine how thalamic inputs interact with ongoing cortical UP state activity, we used calcium imaging and targeted whole-cell recordings of activated neurons in thalamocortical slices of mouse somatosensory cortex. Whereas thalamic stimulation during DOWN states generated multineuronal, synchronized UP states, identical stimulation during UP states had no effect on the subthreshold membrane dynamics of the vast majority of cells or on ongoing multineuronal temporal patterns. Both thalamocortical and corticocortical PSPs were significantly reduced and neuronal input resistance was significantly decreased during cortical UP states - mechanistically consistent with UP state insensitivity. Our results demonstrate that cortical dynamics during UP states are insensitive to thalamic inputs.

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Let's take a look at recent papers in PLoS ONE and other PLoS journals. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon…