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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.

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The microstructure of the cerebal cortex is remarkably similar and conserved across mammalian species. Width, lamination, neuronal cell types, connectivity, all show some species differences, but the overarching picture is one of similarity. That the same structure excels in interpreting speech, touch, vision and many other types of sensory information, suggests a circuit with amazingly adaptive information processing prowess. This has been known and appreciated for more than a century, but in the last few years the introduction of optical tools to observe and manipulate the thinking brain is promising to bring much better understanding of this marvelous structure. We are using electrophysiology, optogenetics, structural imaging, intrinsic signal imaging and calcium imaging to study the circuitry and function of mouse visual cortex and its interplay with other brain areas such as the thalamus and superior colliculus.

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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