CNCR scientists participate in Human Brain Project

11 December 2013

Early October, the Human Brain Project – an EU Flagship initiative in which over 80 partners will work together – was launched. The initiative will realize a new "ICT-accelerated" vision for brain research and its applications. The VU-CNCR is one of the partners. Sabine Spijker, Guus Smit and Huib Mansvelder participate in this research.

Spijker, Smit and Mansvelder focus in the first phase on studying human neurons. Despite gross morphological similarities, human and mouse neurons show important differences in shape.

Human cortical pyramidal neurons have a larger dendritic complexity and are covered by larger densities and numbers of spines. Whether human neurons and synapses differ in functional properties, is poorly understood due to a lack of available data on human neuron physiology and the underlying molecular synaptic composition. To address this, HBP seeks strategic reference datasets on human single-cell recordings in which detailed single-cell and microcircuit anatomy is linked with physiological recordings of cellular and synaptic properties.

“Thereto, in the ramp-up phase of HBP we will identify which groups in the world are recording from neurons in brain slices, obtained from human tissue that had to be removed for surgical treatment of deeper structures. With these groups, we will discuss which data sets are available and which data is lacking to built these reference data sets.”, says Mansvelder.

In the operational phase of HBP, these data sets can then be constructed by a joined effort in recording and reconstructing human synapses and neurons. Ideally, physiological data and molecular data will be obtained and integrated from these recorded human neurons, which should elucidate cell-type and/or cortical layer specific physiology and molecular organization.