UW News

April 23, 2009

Einar Hille Memorial Lecture in Neurosciences, April 28

Dr. Karel Svoboda, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, will present the 19th annual Einar Hille Memorial Lecture in Neurosciences, sponsored by the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. His lecture, The Neural Circuits Underlying Somatosensation, will take place at 4 p.m., Tuesday, April 28, in room T-739, Health Sciences Building. The lecture is open to everyone.

Svoboda is a pioneer in applying two-photon microscopy to image neuronal structure and dynamics at the subcellular level. He and his lab have employed these imaging methods in two particularly novel ways: to explore synaptic physiology and dynamics at the level of spines, the tiny processes sprouting from dendrites at which neuronal connections form, and to examine synaptic plasticity in vivo. By imaging single spines over time in living animals, his lab discovered that even in the adult animal, connections between neurons are under constant flux.

Svoboda’s work has further contributed significantly to our knowledge of the spread of excitation and calcium dynamics in neuronal dendrites, and of the changes in wiring patterns during development and over time in the adult animal. These discoveries have profound implications for our understanding of the neuronal circuits underlying learning and memory.

Svoboda’s talk will focus on new work concerning the structure and function of microcircuits in neocortex, in particular those involved in the processing of somatosensory information. He will discuss the use of new methods to optically stimulate identified subsets of neurons in awake, behaving animals in order to map out functional connections between different cortical areas, and to discover the relationships between neuronal activity and observable behaviors. These methods are poised to have a dramatic impact on our ability to probe and influence brain function during natural behavior.

Following a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cornell and a doctoral degree in biophysics under the supervision of Steve Block and Howard Berg, Svoboda moved to Bell Laboratories in 1994, where he did his postdoctoral work with David Tank and Winfried Denk. He joined the faculty of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 1997, where he became an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2004. In 2006 he became a group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus. Svoboda has published many highly cited papers in journals such as Science, Nature and Neuron, and has won numerous awards, including a Pew Scholar Award, a Klingenstein award, a McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience award and, in 2004, the prestigious Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award.

The Einar Hille Memorial Lecture in Neurosciences was established by Kirsti Hille in honor of her late husband. Hille was a professor of mathematics at Yale University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Bertil Hille, son of Einar and Kirsti Hille, is the Wayne E. Crill Endowed Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the UW.