Heck Lab

Detlef Heck

The overall goal of research in the Heck lab is to understand how brain areas collaborate to produce survival promoting behavior and how the collaboration between brain areas is controlled. We are especially interested in the cerebellum as it is ideally situated to play the role of a coordinator of brain-wide communication traffic. 

A second line of research in our lab explores the brain-wide influence of breathing on neuronal activity and brain function. We were the first to describe a strong influence of breathing on neuronal oscillations in the neocortex in mice and identified respiration-coupled activity in the olfactory bulb as the main driving force behind respiration-locked neuronal activity. We are now focusing on understanding the neuronal mechanisms behind the influence of breathing on different brain areas, how it impacts brain function, whether it has implications for brain health and whether brain-breath coupling can be leveraged for the development of treatments for cognitive disorders. 

Our experimental approach uses cutting edge multi-site, multi-electrode electrophysiological recordings in freely moving mice to capture neuronal activity in multiple communicating brain areas to link neuronal activity and dynamic changes in neuronal interaction to behavior. Opto and chemokinetic tools are used to probe causal influences and viral vector and transgenic approaches allow us to target specific pathways and cell types. The complexity of the task of understanding dynamic neuronal activity related to behavior and the interaction between activity patterns in multiple brain structures is considerable and we closely collaborate with theoreticians and modeling experts in several of our projects. We are therefore extremely interested in students and postdocs from experimental as well as theory/modeling backgrounds to join the lab. 

Lab people
Press & Online Mentions

2021    Interview for the German podcast “Der Atemcode” (The breath code) on respiratory modulation of brain activity (in German). Dec. 5, 2021

2019    Health Column in the Zurich, Switzerland newspaper Neue Züricher Zeitung reviews our findings on the influence of respiration on brain activity (in German)

2017    University of Tennessee Press Release on Teaching Buddhist Monks at Sera Mey Monastery in Karnataka, India. 

2013    Article Featured in Psychology Progress: Rogers et al. (2013) Reorganization of circuits underlying cerebellar modulation of prefrontal cortical dopamine in mouse models of autism spectrum disorder. The Cerebellum 12(4):547-56

2009    New behavioral assay featured in The Scientist (October issue), Special report on behavioral testing in the “Lab Tools” section.

2008    Memphis Business Quarterly, Spring 2008, “Evolution: The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s bold plans for the future.”

2008    Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, Online News & Commentary – Conference Reports: “A simple behavioral test for mice”


Name: Detlef Heck, PhD
Department Head and Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences
Email: heckd@umn.edu
Phone: 218-726-8977
Office Address:
Department of Biomedical Sciences
223 SMed
1035 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55812