Christiaan de Kock

Associate 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 a tenured Principle Investigator at the CNCR, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In my research group, our current focus is on sensory representation in awake animals and on disentangling the cortical microcircuit in human brain.


Sensory processing during behavioral paradigms (in vivo electrophysiology)
Rodents use a combination of senses to actively navigate through their environment. The research question is how sensory cues from the external world are encoded in identified cell-types of the cortical column. Techniques used are behavioral training, (in vivo) electrophysiology in the awake animal, optogenetic tagging and post-hoc histology.

Cell-types in the human brain (in vitro electrophysiology)
We ultimately aim to understand the human brain. Here, we exploit the availability of acute human brain resection tissue (after informed consent and ethical approval) to study biophysical properties of individual neurons, followed by post-hoc 3D morphological reconstruction. Using a combination of molecular, functional and structural properties, we identify cell-types and bridge this knowledge to human brain function. Techniques used are in vitro electrophysiology, 3D reconstructions and computer simulations.

Contact info

Telephone:+31 (0) 20 598 37 43