Fritjof Helmchen receives US BRAIN Initiative grant

Fritjof Helmchen, Professor at the Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich, receives a 750’000 US-Dollar grant from the American “National Institutes of Health” in their first round of funding for President Obama’s BRAIN initiative. Fritjof Helmchen receives the grant for his innovative approaches in brain research. He and his research team develop new microscope technology, allowing them to simultaneously image two distinct brain regions and thereby to analyze the information exchange between the respective areas.

Globally, researchers work to improve our understanding of the brain. They try to figure out how sensory stimuli are transformed into nerve impulses and how these signals are transmitted and processed by the brain. Our comprehension of normal brain function is fundamental for further analysis of brain malfunctions underlying numerous diseases and ultimately also to their treatment.

Therefore, an increasing number of large-scale projects, such as the American US BRAIN Initiative, have been started to support brain research. On Tuesday, September 30, 2014 the renowned American “National Institutes of Health” (NIH) announced the first 58 projects funded by the BRAIN Initiative.

Innovative microscope technology

In Fritjof Helmchen’s NIH-funded project, the innovative microscope technology will be further developed to enable imaging of four or more brain areas, simultaneously. The aim is to analyze, communication between different brain areas with cellular resolution. In order to elucidate how signals are transmitted between different brain regions during learning processes, the group of Fritjof Helmchen is planning to apply this new technique on awake, behaving mice while they learn to perform a specific task. They hope to find changing activity patterns in the communication cells that transmit information back and forth between specific brain regions during learning.

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