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ERC Starting Grant for Timo van Kerkoerle at NeuroSpin!

Timo van Kerkoerle, researcher at NeuroSpin, is one of the 408 winners of the prestigious ERC Starting Grant 2022 call of the European Research Council. Another European success for the Institute. 

Published on 22 November 2022

On November 22, the European Research Council (ERC) announced the names of the 408 ERC Starting Grant winners. This annual call for proposals provides 1.5 million euros in funding over five years to researchers with between two and seven years of experience since obtaining their PhD. Timo van Kerkoerle, a researcher in cognitive sciences at the UNICOG laboratory (NeuroSpin), is among the lucky recipients.

The project

Timo van Kerkoerle studies how the brain allows us to perceive and interact with the world around us. "What we see depends on what we have in mind. For example, we can quickly find tomatoes in the vegetable aisle of a supermarket by looking for red and round objects, which makes them stand out from the background," he explains. "How our brain encodes abstract mental representations and uses them to guide perception is not well understood," he continues.

To establish correlations between perceived or felt mental states and observable and measurable states of neuronal activity, Timo van Kerkoerle chose to set up a deep neuronal imaging platform at the institute based on the use of a state-of-the-art technology, three-photon microscopy. Complementary to functional MRI, magnetoencephalography and electroencephalography, it is the only technique capable of visualizing in real time the individual activity of neurons within large populations.

With this microscope operational since 2021, Timo aims to study in animal models the neural mechanisms of attentive vision at an unprecedented level of detail.

This fundamental research project should find applications in the digital and health fields. On the one hand, it should improve our understanding of mental disorders where attentional vision is selectively affected, such as in schizophrenia, autism and depression. On the other hand, it will contribute to the development of a more autonomous artificial intelligence (for example self-driving cars).

the deep neural imaging platform has received specific funding from the CEA, the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, and the Région Île-de-France, through the SESAME prgram. 

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