Christiaan de Kock

Assistant Professor
Team Leader

The aim of my thesis (1999-2004) was to understand the biophysical mechanisms of vesicle release from non-synaptic, somatodendritic compartments and in addition to find functional implications of retrograde signalling.

During my post-doc project (2004-2006), I was trained in in vivo systems physiology in the lab of Bert Sakmann. The long-term goal of our experiments is to study the computational role of different cortical layers during various aspects of sensory-guided behavior. Initial experiments were in urethane anaesthetized animals where we showed that sensory information from the whiskers was most reliably represented by layer 5B neurons. Subsequently, I recorded from head-fixed animals and showed that the temporal structure of ongoing (spontaneous) activity in cortex of awake, un-anaesthetized animals was different compared to anaesthetized conditions. Most recently, I simultaneously recorded animal behavior (whisker position and movement) and cortical spiking in awake rats to show that active movement of the whiskers is encoded predominantly by slender-tufted neurons of layer 5A. These experiments show that in barrel cortex, passive and active movement of whiskers is encoded by different cortical layers.

In 2006, I moved to the Erasmus Medical Center to start my own lab where I continued to study the structure-function relationship of cortical neurons.

Since 2009, I am assistant professor at the CNCR, VU University Amsterdam. In my research group, our current focus is on sensory representation in awake animals. In addition, in a long-standing collaboration with Bert Sakmann, we aim to model the cortical column in silico by serial reconstruction of biocytin-labeled neurons from in vivo experiments.

My goal is to examine how cortical neurons encode sensory stimuli and how stimulus representation is affected by behavior. The rodent barrel cortex is an excellent system to study these questions since the individual sensory organs (facial whiskers) are represented by easily identifiable cortical columns.
Sensory processing during behavioral paradigms
During normal animal behavior, the sensory organs (i.e. the whiskers) are actively moved back and forth to navigate through the environment. The research question is how sensory processing is affected on the behavioral state of the animal. Techniques used are behavioral training, (in vivo) electrophysiology in the awake animal and post-hoc 3D Neurolucida reconstructions.
3D reconstruction of labeled neurons
Computer models can be helpful tools to design and direct future experiments and predict possible outcomes. Using 3D reconstructions from in vivo recordings, the first goal is to anatomically reconstruct the cortical column. Then, physiological data will be used to model (and playback) the electrical activity of the cortical column. Techniques used are 3D Neurolucida reconstructions and computer modeling of morphological and physiological properties.

Contact info

Telephone:+31 (0) 20 598 37 43