MAR 13, 2019 8:00 AM PDT

BRAIN Initiative Scientific Updates: Deciphering the Neuronal Mechanisms of Human Episodic Memory at the Single-Neuron Level

Presented at: Neuroscience 2019
C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE
  • Board of Governors Chair in Neuroscience, Director, Human Neurophysiology Research, Associate Professor, Neurosurgery, Neurology & Biomedical Sciences, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
      Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Board of Governors Chair in Neurosciences in the Department of Neurosurgery, with joint appointments in the Departments of Neurology, Biomedical Sciences, and the Center for Neural Science and Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Concurrently, he holds a joint visiting faculty appointment at the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

      Dr. Rutishauser studied computer science for his BS, and then received his PhD in Computation & Neural Systems from Caltech. After postdoctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, he started his own lab in 2012. He received the Amercian Epilepsy Society Young Investigator Award (2007), the Ferguson Award (2008), the Troland Award by the National Academy of Sciences (2014), the Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (2017), and the Freedman Prize for Exceptional Basic Research (2018). In 2014, he was named a Next Generation Leader by the Allen Institute for Brain Science and in 2018 he became an elected member of the Memory Disorders Research Society. He co-edited the textbook "Single neuron studies of the human brain" by MIT press and is one of the principal organizers of the Human Single Neuron meeting. His work has been published in a variety of journals, including Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, PNAS, Current Biology, PLOS Computational Biology, and Neural Computation.

      The Rutishauser laboratory is investigating the neural mechanisms of learning, memory and decision-making at the level of single neurons in humans. We are a systems neuroscience laboratory and use a combination of in vivo single-unit electrophysiology in humans, intracranial electrocorticography, eye tracking, behavior, and computational and theoretical approaches. We have helped pioneer the technique of human single-neuron recordings and continue to advance the tools, methods and surgical techniques that allow such experiments.


    The rapid formation of new memories and the recall of old memories to inform decisions is essential for human cognition, but the underlying neural mechanisms remain poorly understood. We utilize the opportunity to record in-vivo from human single neurons simultaneously in multiple brain areas in patients undergoing treatment for drug resistant epilepsy to study the underlying mechanisms. Supported by the BRAIN initiative, we formed a consortium among four institutions (Cedars-Sinai/Caltech, Johns Hopkins, U Toronto, and Children’s/Harvard) to maximize to use of these rare and precious opportunities for science. 

    We are developing a circuit-level understanding of human memory by utilizing invasive in-vivo recordings together with behavior, focal electrical stimulation, and computational modeling. In this talk, I will provide a scientific overview that motivates the hypothesis we are exploring in this ongoing work.  I will describe a putative circuit for human recognition memory composed of cells in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), and the medial frontal cortex (MFC). In the MTL, this putative circuit is composed of two functional cell types, visually-and memory selective neurons, whose interaction is mediated by theta oscillations. Visually-selective neurons are tuned to high-level concepts, are sensitive to attention, and their activity forms attractors through persistent activity over several seconds while stimuli are held in working memory. Memory-selective neurons, on the other hand, signal whether a stimulus is novel or familiar, a property that changes after a single learning trial. In the MFC, on the other hand, memory-based choice cells represent a putative readout of memories to support memory-based recognition and confidence decisions. Together, these results begin to provide a circuit-level understanding of human memory at a level of detail that is needed for the development of new treatments for memory disorders.

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