In Vivo Neurophysiology

We study how individual cortical neurons encode sensory stimuli and how sensory 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. Additionally, our group is part of an international effort to understand human brain function at (sub)cellular resolution.


Sensory processing during behavioral paradigms

During animal behavior, there is a constant interplay between brain areas involved in sensory processing, decision making and motor output. The whisker system is an obvious example of a sensorimotor system where motor output (movement of the sensory organs (i.e. the whiskers)) has to be integrated with incoming sensory information. In turn, the sensorimotor information guides cognitive behaviour. Our research question focusses on the organisational principles of the cortical microcircuit across distinct areas of the sensorimotor system. Techniques used are behavioral training, (in vivo) electrophysiology in awake, behaving animals (including optogenetics) and post-hoc 3D Neurolucida reconstructions.

Sensory processing in prefrontal cortex

Sensory information typically consists of more than one modality (for instance: auditory + visual information). We aim to understand how multi-sensory integration is performed in primary sensory regions. Techniques used are behavioural training, (in vivo) single- and multi-unit electrophysiology in behaving animals and post-hoc histology.

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. This project is a collaboration with Marcel Oberlaender and Bert Sakmann from the Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Germany. Techniques used are 3D Neurolucida reconstructions and computer modeling of morphological and physiological properties.

Structure-function relationship of individual neurons in human cortex

Extremely little is known about the morphological and physiological properties of adult human neurons. Together with the labs of Huibert Mansvelder, Idan Segev and Henry Markram, our lab is investigating the relationship between structure and function of individual neurons across all layers in adult human cortex, obtained during resection surgery in the VU medical center (Amsterdam, the Netherlands). In addition, we are part of an international consortium (leaders: Ed Lein and Hongkui Zeng, Allen Institute, Seattle USA) focussing on (cellular) mapping the whole human brain.

We developed a novel pipeline to handle living brain tissue and preserve resected human brain material for the study of fundamental neurophysiological properties such as passive and active membrane properties, synaptic transmission, spike-timing-dependent (associative) plasticity and action potential back propagation.

Selected Publications

Galakhova, A.A., Hunt, S., Wilbers, R., Heyer, D.B., de Kock, C.P.J., Mansvelder, H.D., Goriounova, N.A. Evolution of cortical neurons supporting human cognition. Trends Cogn Sci. 2022 Sep 15:S1364-6613(22)00208-X.
doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2022.08.012. Online ahead of print.

Hunt*, S., Leibner*, Y., Mertens, E.J. …, Lein, E.S., DeFelipe, J., Markram, H., Mansvelder, H.D., Schürmann, F., Segev, I., de Kock, C.P.J., Strong and reliable synaptic communication between pyramidal neurons in adult human cerebral cortex, CerCor, 2022, 1-22.

Oude Lohuis*, M.N., Pie*,…, de Kock, C.P.J., Pennartz, C.M.A.*, Olcese, U.*, Multisensory task demands temporally extend the causal requirement for visual cortex in perception. NatComm, 2022 May 23;13(1):2864. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-30600-4.

Berg*, J., Sorensen*, S., ….. , Segev, I., de Kock, C.P.J., Mansvelder, H.D., Tamas, G., Zeng, H., Koch, C., Lein, E.S., Human neocortical expansion involves glutamatergic neuron diversification. Nature. 2021 Oct;598(7879):151-158. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03813-8. Epub 2021 Oct 6.

de Kock, C.P.J., Pie, J., Pieneman, A.W., Mease, R.A., Bast, A., Guest, J.M., Oberlaender, M., Mansvelder, H.D., Sakmann, B., High-frequency burst spiking in layer 5 thick-tufted pyramids of rat primary somatosensory cortex encodes exploratory touch. Comms Biol 2021 4:709. doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02241-8

Jun 2022 (from left to right): Amber van Mierlo, René Wilbers, Femke Waleboer, Eline Mertens, Jean Pie, Patrik Pollack, Julia Meijer, Tim Heistek, Christiaan de Kock.

Team Leader
Christiaan de Kock