Portret photo Alexander Heimel

Heimel Group

Dutch Neuroscience Thesis Prize for Mehran Ahmadlou

Mehran Ahmadlou, postdoc researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, was awarded the Dutch Neuroscience Thesis Prize for his thesis titled ‘Subcortical Visual Processing and Plasticity in Mouse’.

The jury unanimously decided to assign the prize to Ahmadlou’s thesis and praised it for its originality, novelty and relevance. “The thesis of Mehran Ahmadlou, that was obtained cum laude, is an astonishing example of a brilliant neuroscientist who is capable to combine multiple state-of-the-art techniques to come to novel insights and understanding of processing visual information. The combination of several techniques like electrophysiology, optogenetics and viral tracing integrates in detail functional and anatomical aspects of visual information processing”, says one of the judges.

Ahmadlou conducted the research for his thesis at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and focused on visual processing in mice. “It is generally thought that seeing in mammals occurs mainly in the outer layers of the brain, called the cerebral cortex. My research shows that much of the basic visual processing is already happening in deeper brain areas that are directly connected to the eye”, says Ahmadlou. In one of these areas, he discovered a functional organization that was previously only seen in larger mammals, such as humans, monkeys and cats. With his research, Ahmadlou shows that subcortical regions play a greater role in visual processing than previously assumed.

Portret photo Alexander Heimel

Heimel Group

The goal of Alexander Heimel is to understand how vision is turned into action by instinct and learning. To find an answer to this question, he and his lab measure the responses of neurons in mice using a combination of techniques, such as electrophysiology and calcium imaging using two-photon microscopy and micro-endoscopy. They also selectively perturb visual processing by optogenetic, chemogenetic and pharmacological means to investigate the neural circuitry underlying vision. Brain areas that are actively being explored by Heimel and his team are the visual cortex and thalamus, the superior colliculus, the zona incerta and the periaqueductal gray.

More background is available in a interview in Dutch with Malou van Hintum.

A recent list of all publications in English can be found at Google Scholar.

Also check out: News from the lab

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