GSN Podcast – Episode 3 – Navigating the Brain’s Complexity with Prof. Kenneth Harriss


Prof. Kenneth Harriss is at the Institute of Neurology at the University College London. Prof. Harriss is yet another exile from the rigorous field of Mathematics, who found a refuge under the cushy wing of the fuzziness of the Neurosciences.


Together with a more experimentally-minded Matteo Carandini, he runs the ‘cortical processing lab’, which developed the now famous Neuropixels probes.


As a theorist, unconstrained by the trivialities of failing experiments and the need for constant practice to develop technical skills, Prof. Harriss gingerly moved between topics as diverse as auditory cortex coding, hippocampal assembly dynamics and the mechanisms controlling sleep spindles.


Arguably, though, Prof. Harriss’ most recent work is the most exciting. His lab is leading the way in understanding how the animal’s state influences the ongoing sensory coding in different modalities.


You can also read more about the International Brain Laboratory (IBL), and their efforts to develop a standardized decision-making task for mice and perform high-density in vivo electrophysiological recordings.


For those who are interested in the ‘bottom line’ only, here are  Prof. Harriss’ answers to the closing trio of questions:

     1)Which skills you wish you had picked up earlier on in your career?

Many, it is hard to say. (But, pointedly, Prof. Harriss does not regret learning biology later, when he was well into his academic career).

     2) What is the most successful theory in neuroscience today?

Hodgkin-Huxley (again!) When pressed, Prof. Harriss conceded: the Neuron Doctrine.

     3)  What is a recent piece of data you are most excited about?

Papers coming out of the RNAseq revolution.


For those interested to know more about the way single cell RNAseq is changing the way we think about cell types, this paper may be a good place to start.


Happy listening


On ITunes:


Or SoundCloud


GSN podcast – episode 2 – treading the line between theory and experiment with Dr. Julija Krupic


Dr. Julija Krupic has started investigating spatial navigation in the lab of the Nobel Prize Winner John O’Keefe at the University College London and now continues to pursue this interest in her own lab at the University of Cambridge.


Indulging in a bit of superficiality, it is hard not to be impressed by Dr. Krupic’  enviable publication record, including 4 Science papers at this early stage of her career. Of course, this is only natural, given the quality and depth of her research.


Dr. Krupic’ outstanding theoretical sophistication, stemming from her training in Physics, allows her to put vertiginous interpretative spins on electrophysiological data from fairly simple behavioral paradigms. Just look at the ‘force field’ figures in her most recent paper.


In this episode, Dr. Krupic reveals how she managed to become an imaginative experimentalist, while having her feet firmly planted in theory, who she will be hiring for her new lab and why she is venturing into Alzheimer’s research.


Happy listening!


On ITunes:


Or SoundCloud

GSN podcast: State of Minds –  episode 1 – time travel in rats with Prof. Redish

Prof. Redish is at the Department on Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. His lab is interested in the mechanisms underlying decision-making and spatial navigation.

Prof. Redish is no stranger to podcasts. He has given several excellent interviews. You can find them along with a complete list of publications and on his lab’s website


Listen to the episode on iTunes or Soundcloud

Here are some of my favorites

  1. M. Wikenheiser, A. D. Redish (2015) “Hippocampal theta sequences reflect current goals” Nature Neuroscience 18:289-29
  2. Johnson, A. Fenton, C. Kentros, A. D. Redish (2009) “Looking for cognition in the structure in the noise” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13(2):55-64.
  3. P. Steiner, A. D. Redish (2014) “Behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of regret in rat decision-making on a neuroeconomic task” Nature Neuroscience 17:995-1002
  4. D. Redish (2016) “Vicarious Trial and Error” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 17:147-159

In this episode, Prof. Redish discusses his metamorphosis from a theoretical computer scientist into a full-fledged experimental neuroscientist. He explains why we should all read Homer, regardless of our thesis topic, and gives insight into the thinking process behind his innovative task designs.

For the impatient once among us, here are the answers Prof. Redish gave to our common closing rapid-fire questions.

  1. Which skills you wish you had picked up earlier on in your career?

People management and time management.

      2. What is the most successful theory in neuroscience today?

Hodgkin-Huxley model of the action potential.

      3.  What is a recent piece of data you are most excited about?

Many studies pointing to just how much of our decision making is subconscious and the implications for legal and ethical questions.

NeuroCamp: a summer school for budding neuroscientists

Are you a Gymnasium student in the Munich area with an interest in neuroscience? Or do you know someone who fits that description? NeuroCamp is a neuroscience summer school for Gymnasium students from schools in the Munich area who are in their penultimate or final year.

What’s offered?

If you think neuroscience sounds pretty interesting but you would like to know more about what it involves on a day-to-day basis, apply! This is a great opportunity to explore Continue reading “NeuroCamp: a summer school for budding neuroscientists”

Open research and data sharing: examples of success

In my last post, I wrote about some of the basics of open research: how it can address reproducibility issues in science, and some of the challenges researchers face. This post highlights some initiatives that promote or make full use of open research practices.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science & Janelia Research Campus

These institutes generate datasets, tools and resources and make them available to the scientific community for the acceleration of new discoveries. The Allen Institute for Brain Science based in Seattle is generating large datasets on the mouse and human brain, which are shared with other researchers according to an open science model. Databases include gene expression profiles, connectivity maps, electrophysiological characteristics and single cell morphology. Besides these datasets, the Allen Institute Continue reading “Open research and data sharing: examples of success”

Openness in science

This is the first post in a series on open research in science, with a focus on neuroscience. The aim of this series is to explore what open research is, why it is important, what tools are available, and how it can benefit researchers, as well as society, more generally. If you have any suggestions or would like me to cover specific topics, feel free to leave a comment.

Continue reading “Openness in science”

Summer schools not to miss in 2018

You’re back from the Christmas holidays, slowly getting back to work. While you’re at it, you may want to note some of these summer schools down in your calendar (particularly if you have a knack for finding out about interesting summer schools 1-2 days before the deadline). Below are some of the neuroscience summer schools taking place this year, and importantly, the key dates not to miss. Note that some applications already close in January.

Continue reading “Summer schools not to miss in 2018”

Self generated sounds and the DCN

Let me introduce the protagonist: the DCN

DCN is the abbreviated form of dorsal cochlear nucleus. The DCN is a brainstem nucleus. DCN receives direct auditory input from the cochlea via the auditory nerve. The DCN also receives somatosensory input about the head, ear and jaw. Why do we have multisensory input at the first point at which auditory information is processed in the brain? This recent paper looks into the DCN, a multisensory hub.

Blog 8a

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About Citizens, Science & Cheese

At the beginning of June, 44 PhD students from both sciences and humanities, selected from universities across Europe, participated in the LERU summer school “Citizen Science – nexus between research and public engagement” organised by the University of Zurich (UZH) – and I was one of the lucky nominees of LMU Munich. I must admit that before attending the summer school I didn’t know all too much about the topic. Within a week however, I had not only learned about the scope of citizen science projects, but I had even created one with other participants during the “Citizen Science Hack Day”! Therefore, I want to share my experiences and some of my newfound knowledge of citizen science. I will elaborate on whether you can use citizen science for your purposes (spoiler: you probably can), and I will also include some tips on what to do Zürich (spoiler: it involves cheese).

Continue reading “About Citizens, Science & Cheese”

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