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Huib Mansvelder, neuroscientist at VU Amsterdam, has been awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council (ERC). In this five-year research program, he will study molecular mechanisms of information processing by genetically-defined cell types in the human brain. One of the big questions Mansvelder tries to answer is whether specialised cell types in the human brain have particularly evolved to rapidly process large quantities of information, and how they manage to do that.
In his ERC research, Huib Mansvelder aims to study what molecular mechanisms enable neurons in the brain to process large amounts of information, without slowing down or showing much signs of fatigue. The focus of this research is on the basic computational units of the brain, the neurons. Brain areas that we use for thinking consist of several types of neurons that are specialized for fast processing and association of information. These neurons are activated during cognitively challenging tasks and previous work from Mansvelder’s lab has shown that several properties of these neurons are associated with a person’s cognitive ability.
Genetic cell types
Recent developments in high throughput genetic analysis methods of individual cells have revealed that several brain cell types are shared among mammals. However, it also showed that brains of different mammalian species can have distinct, specialized cell types that may account for differences in brain function among mammals. One challenge that Mansvelder aims to address is whether specialized cell types in the human brain have particularly evolved to rapidly process large quantities of information, and how they manage to do that.
Mansvelder is full professor at VU Amsterdam and heads the department of Integrative Neurophysiology at the CNCR. His lab investigates how neuronal microcircuits in the human neocortex are organized, both anatomically as well as functionally, and how properties of human neurons relate to human cognition.
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