Detlef H Heck
I am a systems neuroscientist with over 30 years of research, teaching, and mentoring experience. Born and raised near Cologne, Germany, I started my academic education in Biology at the University of Mainz, Germany. Later, I moved to the University of Tübingen in southern Germany to focus on Neuroscience, where I completed my masters and PhD thesis at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biological Cybernetics. After a brief year as a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, USA, I first accepted a faculty position at the University of Freiburg, Germany, then moved to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, TN, USA, and finally accepted the position of Head of the Department for Biomedical Sciences in Duluth, MN.
Principal areas of research center on the structure and function of the cerebellar cortical network, cerebro-cerebellar interaction, dynamics of inter-areal neuronal communication, influence of breathing on brain activity and function in healthy and diseased brains.
No brain area operates in isolation. Short- and long-range connections form complex networks that enable brain areas to collaborate in a context-dependent manner, responding to internal and external cues to promote survival optimizing behavior. The neocortex and the cerebellum are two key players in this concert. They are reciprocally connected via massive fiber bundles and have both jointly and proportionately increased in size during vertebrate evolution. One focus of our research is to investigate the neuronal mechanisms of cerebro-cerebellar interaction to understand the involvement of the cerebellum in cognitive functions in healthy brains and the link between cerebellar neuropathology and cognitive disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.
Our second research focus is on the role of breathing in organizing brain activity through respiration-coupled neuronal rhythms. We were the first to report that breathing, via olfactory bulb activity, rhythmically modulates neuronal activity in the neocortex outside of the olfactory system. Our results also showed that the power of high-frequency (40-100Hz) gamma oscillations is modulated in phase with breathing. Gamma oscillations are strongly implicated with cognitive function, which led us to suggest that breathing may directly influence cognitive functions. Brain-breath coupling has since developed into a rapidly growing new research field. Our focus continues to be on the neuronal mechanisms underlying respiratory modulation of neuronal activity in different brain areas, implications of brain-breath coupling for cognitive functions, mental health, and the development of breath-based treatments.
- Curriculum development for graduate programs.
- Course director, lecturer, neuroscience graduate program courses.
- Course director, lecturer, and lab director for neuroanatomy courses for medical and dental students.
- Recipient of Outstanding Lecturer Award from students in the UTHSC College of Dentistry, as course director for Neuroanatomy.
- Nominee for the Student Government Association Executive Council (SGAEC) Excellence in Teaching Award.
- Mentor for three masters and seven PhD students and four postdoctoral fellows.
Honors and Recognition
Grants and Patents
1035 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55182