Prof. Alon Korngreen is the Head of the Brain Science BA Program, and an Associate Prof. in theLeslie and Susan Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center. Prior to joining the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, he completed his post-doctorate work in Germany with Nobel Laureate Dr. Bert Sakmann.
Prof. Korngreen and his team investigate the computational properties of single neurons.Korngreen has shown that single neurons are not just “components” of a larger machine; rather, they can complete complex mathematical functions.
Korngreen’s lab combines theoretical and experimental protocols in order to probe the properties of certain types of neurons in the rat cortex.
They record ion channel channels and potentials from the soma and dendrites of neurons, create compartmental models of the physiology of neurons, conduct parallel computing on powerful clusters, and perform computations on graphic cards.
Currently, the prevailing view of neural computation is that each neuron is a simple computing device, capable of summing up a number of inputs and outputting either a zero or a one. Higher-order activities, such as thoughts, feelings and memory, are thought to be the outcome of the interaction between the vast numbers of neurons.
However, recent experimental studies have provided evidence that at least some of the brain’s neurons perform more complex computations.
Korngreen and his team develop new techniques to study how single neurons can process complex information. Along with collaborators, Korngreen developed a method for extracting the true kinetics and conductance densities of voltage-gated K+ channels from dendritic whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings.
Korngreen’s lab is now expanding this technique to voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. In addition, the lab uses genetic algorithms to constrain compartmental models of neurons with non-homogenous distributions of ion channels. In parallel, they have concluded an investigation of a sub-type of cortical interneurons that display an interesting coding of synaptic input by the width of the action potential.
Korngreen and his group, in collaboration with Dr. Izhar Bar-Gad, are studying the neuronal mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder that affects the brain region known as the basal ganglia.
One treatment that has been effective for Parkinson’s disease is deep brain stimulation (DBS). Korngreen’s lab studies how single neurons in the basal ganglia are affected by deep brain stimulation at the cellular level.
Furthermore, by linking the changes that occur at the cellular and network level to changes in symptoms, Korngreen is helping to identify DBS stimulation patterns that are most beneficial for patients.
Using patch clamp techniques and numerical modeling, Korngreen and his group are investigating the effects of electromagnetic radiation on the brain.
A large, custom-built capacitor bank with a coil allows them to stimulate brain cells in the rat cortex and measure the resulting effects at a cellular level. The goal of the project, conducted in collaboration with psychologist Prof. Michal Lavidor, physicist Prof. Yosef Yeshurun, and neurobiologist Dr. Izhar Bar-Gad, is to build a comprehensive model of how magnetic stimulation affects brain cells.