Christiaan de Kock receives NWO-ALW Open Competition grant

03 December 2012

Christiaan de Kock receives NWO-ALW Open Competition grant for a PhD-project to study the cellular basis of cognitive performance.

The NWO-ALW Open Competition grant (249.115 €) will support a PhD-student to study the link between structure and function of individual PFC neurons. This will not only yield a better understanding of the cellular basis of cognitive behaviour, but also open the path to determine the mechanistic basis of cognitive decline in disease.

The cellular basis of cognitive performance

Our ability to think, memorize and make decisions depends on our prefrontal cortex (PFC). Similar to other cortical areas, the PFC has a laminar architecture containing morphologically very different cell types. The link between cell-type dependent activity and cognitive performance is only beginning to be explored.

Recently, Zimbo Boudewijns (PhD-student in the group of Christiaan de Kock) implemented single-cell recordings from PFC neurons in wake rats to study cell-type specific activity during simple behaviour. His first results were critical for the working hypotheses put forward in the NWO-ALW grant. which now allows determining how complex cognitive behaviour, such as decision-making, emerges from cell-type specific activity in PFC.

Christiaan de Kock: ‚We still have only limited understanding on the function of individual cortical neurons during normal behaviour. It is therefore crucial to record from individual and identified cortical neurons during behaviour to elucidate the function of cortical cell-types or layers.‚

Figure 1: Two neurons recorded in Layers 2/3 and 5 of prefrontal cortex. Our NWO-ALW project aims to determine how these different cell-types contribute to cognitive behaviour.