J. Alexander Heimel is an expert in the neurobiology of vision. His lab investigates the mouse visual system. They use a combination of techniques, such as multi-channel electrophysiology and two-photon calcium imaging, to measure the responses of neurons during vision. During visual processing they also selectively perturb processing by optogenetic, chemogenetic and pharmacological means to investigate the neural circuitry underlying visual processing. The long term goal of this research is to understand how we can perceive the world.
Alexander Heimel was trained as a physicist and mathematician at Utrecht University. He obtained a PhD in Mathematics 2002 from King’s College in London (UK), under supervision of Ton Coolen. He then moved to the laboratory of Sacha Nelson (Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA) where has received training in experimental neuroscience. After his postdoctoral work in the USA, he returned to the Netherlands to the lab of Molecular Visual Plasticity headed by Christiaan Levelt, where he worked on plasticity in the visual cortex. In 2014, he founded the Cortical Structure & Function group at the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience. Heimel has received a prestigious VIDI award from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and other national and international funding. Among Heimel and coworkers’ discoveries are the surprising absence of organization of feature-preference in the visual cortex of very vision-oriented mammal, and the even more surprising presence of organization of feature-preference in the rodent superior colliculus. Other notable discoveries are the identification of the channel for the sign-inverting synapse in the rod bipolar cell in the retina, and that the elimination of inhibitory synapses is a major component in neural experience-dependent plasticity in the adult mammal.