Professor Detlef Heck Receives $371,723 Grant to Study Brain Activity

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Detlef Heck, PhD, professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UTHSC, has received a grant for $371,723 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a subsidiary of the NIH.

Detlef Heck, PhD, professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant award for $371,723 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The grant will be used to develop his study on brain activity. His research titled, “Manipulation and Imaging of Synchronous Population Activity in the Neocortex,” will be funded over a two-year period. Dr. Heck and his research team are examining how millions of neurons in the brain coordinate their activity.

“We are particularly interested in the neocortex — the part of the brain that allows us to perform higher level cognitive tasks — in terms of planning, judging or speaking, and how this neocortex might malfunction in brain disorders,” says Dr. Heck. “We now know that such complex cognitive processes are performed through the coordinated collaboration of millions of neurons and that these collaborations are highly dynamic.”

In order to investigate these fast dynamic processes, cutting-edge imaging technology is required. The grant award will allow the research team to purchase a state-of-the-art imaging system that they will use to investigate the coordination of neuronal activity in normal and diseased mouse brains. While mouse brains are much smaller than human brains, in many respects, both function in the same capacity. Using genetic manipulations, human brain disorders can be reproduced in mice. The imaging technology will aid the research team in gaining new insights into the probable causes of cognitive deficits in different brain disorders such as autism.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.