Head of the Cortical Structure and Function department at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience


The microstructure of the cerebral cortex is remarkably similar and conserved across mammalian species. Width, lamination, neuronal cell types, connectivity, all show some species differences, but the overarching picture is one of similarity. That the same structure excels in interpreting speech, touch, vision and many other types of sensory information, suggests a circuit with amazingly adaptive information processing prowess. This has been known and appreciated for more than a century, but in the last few years the introduction of optical tools to observe and manipulate the thinking brain is promising to bring much better understanding of this marvelous structure. We are using electrophysiology, optogenetics, structural imaging, intrinsic signal imaging and calcium imaging to study the circuitry and function of mouse visual cortex and its interplay with other brain areas such as the thalamus and superior colliculusWhen we understand how vision works in mice, we will have a better idea of how we ourselves see and how we can be conscious of our environment.

A interview in Dutch with Alexander Heimel by Malou van Hintum has some more background on the research questions of the lab.