ERC starting grant for Daan Brinks

News - 02 September 2019 - Communication ImPhys

Five TU Delft researchers have been selected to receive an ERC Starting Grant. One of these researchers works at ImPhys. The grant (1,5 million euros for a five-year programme) is intended to support scientists who are in the early stages of their career and have already produced excellent supervised work.

Below a description of his research project.

Daan Brinks

Understanding the brain is one of the great scientific challenges of our time. This pursuit fundamentally depends on advances in physical sciences and engineering to provide novel tools and methods to perturb, record and interpret brain activity.

Information in the brain is encoded in changes in the voltage across the membrane of brain cells. Voltage imaging with genetically encoded voltage indicators (GEVIs) is a revolutionary method that allows faithful recording of the fast electrical dynamics of many genetically targeted cells in parallel. “These GEVIs are modified proteins that are able to convert changes in membrane potential into an optical signal that can then be detected using microscopes”, said Daan Brinks. “The technique provides an unprecedented means to record how patterns of change in this membrane voltage, called action potentials, manifest in subcellular compartments, cells, and networks across the brain, which is the only way to arrive at a fundamental understanding of brain functions like learning and memory, and of neurodegenerative diseases.”

For this promise to be fulfilled, we need voltage imaging deep in the living brain of awake and behaving organisms. To achieve this, the Brinks lab will evolve ­a GEVI optimized for three-photon (3P) imaging, a technique that allows for noninvasive functional imaging by making visible cells that are located in the deeper tissues of the brain. Brinks: “We will do both a genetic optimization of GEVIs, as well as an in depth investigation of their photodynamics under high power, which is necessary for 3P-imaging.” The group will apply their new technology in an investigation of memory formation in the mouse cerebellum.

Daan Brinks