Brain states: transformation of neural circuit dynamics and functions

The brain state defines the execution of brain function. Brain states are associated with subcortical neuromodulatory activities and are altered in neuropsychiatric conditions. The dynamic nature of brain states and their transition have been recognized since early days of neurophysiology, yet recent technological developments including molecular genetics, cellular imaging, and large-scale recording have made it possible to assess the functional roles of brain states. Research from leading scientists in this field will be gathered at this meeting to highlight the latest understanding of state- dependent changes in brain states and discuss conceptual advancements in field.

Brain states: transformation of neural circuit dynamics and functions

March 19 - 20, 2020
The Ceremonial Hall (Festsalen), University of Copenhagen

Professor Hajime Hirase
Associate Professor Nicolas Caesar Petersen

Registration is free, but required

Including the Announcement of The Brain Winners 2020

Thursday 19. March 15:00


Masashi Yanagisawa

Hypothalamic control of sleep and dysfunction

Professor Masashi Yanagisawa aims to solve the mystery of sleep, one of the biggest black boxes in today’s brain science. In 1988, as a graduate student at the University of Tsukuba, he discovered “endothelin,” a hormone that raises blood pressure. His remarkable achievement caught the eyes of Drs. Goldstein and Brown, Nobel laureates, allowing him to establish an independent lab at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 1991. In 1998 he discovered a brain substance “orexin” and opened up a new era of sleep studies.

Arthur Konnerth

“Brain oscillations and Alzheimer’s disease”

Professor Konnerth’s (b. 1953) research explores the basic processes underlying brain function. By means of electrophysiology, imaging and cell biological approaches, he focuses on synaptic interactions in neuronal circuits in order to achieve a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying learning and memory. A further goal is the elucidation of the neuronal defects associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Yang Dan

“A motor theory of sleep control”

Yang Dan’s research aims to elucidate (1) what circuits in the mammalian brain control sleep, and (2) mechanisms by which the frontal cortex exerts top-down executive control. Her lab uses a variety of techniques, including optogenetics, electrophysiology, imaging, and virus-mediated circuit tracing.

Elizabeth M. C. Hillman


Our research focuses on capturing functional information about living tissues using optical techniques. A major theme of our lab is in-vivo neuroimaging, in particular examination of the relationship between blood flow changes in the brain and underlying neuronal activity. This work has led us to develop a range of advanced in-vivo imaging technologies including laminar optical tomography and hyperspectral two-photon microscopy. We are exploring additional applications for these technologies including clinical and pre-clinical imaging of living skin. We are also developing techniques for non-invasive ‘molecular imaging’ of small animals to allow improved studies of disease and development of new treatments and drugs. The sections below provide more details about our projects and imaging technologies

Mark J. Schnitzer


The long-term goal of our research is to advance experimental paradigms for understanding normal cognitive and disease processes at the level of neural circuits, with emphasis on learning and memory processes.

Our approach combines behavioral, electrophysiological, and computational methodologies with high-resolution fluorescence optical imaging that is capable of resolving individual neurons and dendrites.

Our research emphasizes understanding the control and learning of motor behaviors, as well as the potential application of our newly developed imaging techniques to clinical use in humans.

Patrick M. Fuller

“Subcortical Circuit, Cellular and Synaptic Basis of Sleep and Arousal”

From an investigational standpoint, my laboratory focuses broadly on identifying and characterizing neuronal circuitry underlying behavioral state control, including key circuit nodes, their transmitters and their targets. The over-arching goal of my lab is to elucidate the cellular and synaptic “neurocircuit basis” supporting sleep and cortical/behavioral arousal. This work spans a significant continuum and includes lines of investigation involving sleep and circadian regulation to mechanisms of anesthesia to circuitry – in particular that of the basal forebrain – supporting neurobehavioral and electrocortical arousal (i.e., wakeful consciousness).

Ileana Hanganu-Opatz

“From oscillatory hub to psychocell: the spiny maturation of prefrontal neurons”

Ileana L. Hanganu-Opatz leads the Research Unit „Developmental Neurophysiology“ at the Institute of Neuroanatomy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. She coordinates the Priority Program 1665 “Resolving and manipulating neuronal networks in the mammalian brain” and is member of the Executive Boards of the Collaborative Research Center 936 and Hamburg Center of Neuroscience. Ileana was trained as biochemist and biologist at the University of Bucharest and performed the experimental part of diploma thesis with Prof. Jürgen Schwarz at UKE. She started the investigation of developing neuronal networks during a PhD in the lab of Prof. Heiko Luhmann at University of Düsseldorf and deepened the research of activity-dependent wiring of the brain during a postdoctoral training together with Prof. Yezekhiel Ben-Ari at INMED Marseille.

Michael Halassa

“Thalamocortical interactions in cognitive control and flexibility”

Michael Halassa is a neuroscientist who aims to understand the basic circuit mechanisms of how information is routed in the brain and how disruptions in these circuits can lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders. As a practicing psychiatrist he aims to develop novel approaches to diagnosing and treating these illnesses guided by insights both from the lab and clinic.

Maiken Nedergaard

Brain state-dependent glymphatic flow

Our lab’s focus is on defining interstitial ion homeostasis, fluid transport and glymphatic flow in the adult brain, with special emphasis on the mechanisms of CSF fluid dynamics and protein clearance, and its dysregulation in proteinopathic neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. We are also engaged in defining the contribution of astrocytes to brain ion homeostasis, and the latter’s role in arousal and its disorders.

  • Mechanisms of CSF clearance and fluid homeostasis in both normal and injured CNS
  • Therapeutic targeting of neuronal-astrocytic interactions in stroke and traumatic brain injury
  • Developing new modalities for imaging native and transplanted glial progenitors in vivo
  • The role of astrocytes in the regulation of sleep and arousal
  • The evolutionary biology of astrocytes
  • Imaging of fluid flow and convection in the adult brain

Tom McHugh


The hippocampus is one of the most well characterized and intensely studied regions of the mammalian brain and an ideal model system to test hypotheses linking memory and neural information representation. My laboratory combines in vivo hippocampal electrophysiology and cutting-edge conditional genetics to address research questions at a high level of precision. Our ability to manipulate plasticity, synaptic transmission or neuronal excitability in a subregion or pathway specific manner and to characterize the consequences of those manipulations on the behavioral and physiological level allows us to study the dynamic routing and use of spatial information in the brain.

Rustem Khazipov


Our team is interested in the neuronal network activity expressed in the brain at the early developmental stages. In particular, we are interested in the generation of the patterns of activity in the sensory (somatosensory and visual) cortices, with the aim to understand the neuronal network mechanisms of the earliest pattern, so-called spindle-burst, and its roles in the activity-dependent formation of the cortical maps. Consequently, we extrapolate our hypothesis made in the animal models, to the human premature neonates, with the aim to understand how the brain operates during fetal stages. We are also studying the developmental changes in GABAergic neurotransmission, and its roles in the generation of physiological and pathological activities in the developing brain (hypoxia, epilepsy and pain).

Peter Uhlhaas


Research interests:

  1. Neurophysiology of Cognitive Deficits and Symptoms in Schizophrenia
  2. Cognition and Physiology of Adolescent Brain Maturation
  3. Neural Oscillations and their Role in Cognition and Perception
  4. Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Conference Topics


Global brain state transition such as between sleep vs. awake or vigilance vs. inattentiveness are classically understood as governed by subcortical neuromodulator activity. The aims of this session are (1) to update us with the latest research of how brain areas transform neural activities into distinct brain states [eg. optical recording of brain stem vs. cortical areas] (2) neuropeptides contribution to how inter-regional brain connection drives a brain state [eg. tharmo-cortical connection for attention] and role of (3) non-neuronal component.


Distinct neural activity patterns characterize discrete brain states. The aim of this session is to highlight cellular and population activity alterations between distinct brain states that leads to the expression of brain functions. (e.g. awake neural activity: sleep replay;


The aim of this section is to bring up latest research that recognizes brain dynamism change as a symptom of neuropsychiatric or neurological conditions. By rigorous investigations of cellular and network mechanisms for the development of pathophysiological network activity, we will learn the importance of homeostatic control of spatio- temporal brain activity. At the same time, new insights into the development of neurological / neuropsychiatric conditions from viewpoints of brain state change.

Preliminary Programme

11.30 – Check in
12.00 – 12.00  Welcome Hajime Hirase
12.05 – 13.00   Masashi Yanagisawa
13.00 – 13.40   Patrick M. Fuller
13.40 – 13.50   Leg stretching / Rehydration
13.50 – 14.05   Short talk
14.05 – 14.45   Yang Dan

15.00 – 16.00  Announcement The Brain Prize 2020
16.00 – 17.30  Reception

Morning session

08.30 – 09.10 Mike Halassa
09.10 – 09.25 Short talk
09.25 – 10.05 Tom McHugh
10.05 – 10.20 Coffee
10.20 – 11.00 Elizabeth M. C. Hillman
11.00 – 11.15 Short talk
11.15 – 11.55 Mark Schnitzer
12.00 – 13.15 Lunch + Posters

Afternoon session

13.15 – 13.55 Arthur Konnerth
13.55 – 14.35 Peter Uhlhaas
14.35 – 14.45 Stretching
14.45 – 15.25 Ileana Hanganu-Opatz
15.25 – 15.40 Short talk
15.40 – 15.50 Stretching
15.50 – 16.20 Rustem Khazipov
16.20 – 17.00 Maiken Nedergaard
17.00   Final remarks

Evening session

17.15 – 18.30 Posters + Drinks

19.00 – Dinner at Spiseloppen ({27 min walk} OR {Metro AND walk 16 min})