Detlef Heck, Ph.D.

Detlef Heck, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
855 Monroe Avenue, Suite 515
Memphis, TN 38163
Phone: (901) 448-1678
Fax: (901) 448-7193
Lab: 405 Wittenborg Anatomy Building
Email: Detlef Heck


  • Ph.D. Institution: The University of Tübingen, Germany and Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen
  • Postdoctoral: Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen; Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max-Planck Society, Tübingen; Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO

Research Interests

Structure and function of the cerebellar cortical network, cerebro-cerebellar interaction, neuronal mechanisms of motor control, dynamics of neuronal communication during behavior.

Many areas of the brain collaborate in a finely tuned manner in the control of behavior. The neocortex and the cerebellum are two key players in this concert. They are strongly connected via massive fiber bundles and have both grown equally in size during the course of vertebrate evolution. The network architectures of these two closely collaborating networks, however, are fundamentally different. For example, the neocortical network contains abundant excitatory feedback loops and the connectivity between neurons appears to be random. In contrast to this, the cerebellar cortical network has neurons and fibers arranged in a highly geometrical way. Excitatory and inhibitory fibers are nicely separated and run in orthogonal directions. There is no significant excitatory feedback. Cerebro-cerebellar communication occurs via intermediary nuclei. Output from the neocortex is relayed to the cerebellum via neurons in the pontine nuclei and cerebellar output reaches the neocortex via thalamus.

The essential structural differences between the neocortical and the cerebellar cortical network suggest that the two perform entirely different computations. I am interested in understanding what neuronal computations the cerebellum performs and how it exchanges information with the neocortex during the control of behavior. To address these questions I investigate neuronal communication within and between neocortex and cerebellum in two ways: 1) Multiple-electrode recording techniques including simultaneous recordings from neocortex and cerebellum during behavior are combined with behavioral analysis to link neuronal mechanisms to behavioral output, 2) Simultaneous multiple-electrode extra and intracellular recordings provide insights into the highly dynamic interaction between individual pairs of neurons and between single neurons and their surrounding network.

Representative Publications

  • Fiorella D, Mocco J, Athur A, Siddiqui A, Heck D, Albuquerque F, Turk A. Randomized controlled trials for everything? J Neurointerv Surg. 2015 Dec;7(12):861-3. doi: 10.1136/neurintsurg-2015-012110. PubMed PMID: 26567250.
  • McTaggart RA, Ansari SA, Goyal M, Abruzzo TA, Albani B, Arthur AJ, Alexander MJ, Albuquerque FC, Baxter B, Bulsara KR, Chen M, Almandoz JE, Fraser JF, Frei D, Gandhi CD, Heck DV, Hetts SW, Hussain MS, Kelly M, Klucznik R, Lee SK, Leslie-Mawzi T, Meyers PM, Prestigiacomo CJ, Pride GL, Patsalides A, Starke RM, Sunenshine P, Rasmussen PA, Jayaraman MV; Standards and Guidelines Committee of the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS). Initial hospital management of patients with emergent large vessel occlusion (ELVO): report of the standards and guidelines committee of the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery. J Neurointerv Surg. 2015 Aug 31. pii: neurintsurg-2015-011984. doi: 10.1136/neurintsurg-2015-011984. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26323793.
  • Jayaraman MV, Hussain MS, Abruzzo T, Albani B, Albuquerque FC, Alexander MJ, Ansari SA, Arthur AS, Baxter B, Bulsara KR, Chen M, Delgado Almandoz JE, Fraser JF, Heck DV, Hetts SW, Kelly M, Lee SK, Leslie-Mawzi T, McTaggart RA, Meyers PM, Prestigiacomo C, Pride GL, Patsalides A, Starke RM, Tarr RW, Frei D, Rasmussen P; Standards and Guidelines Committee of the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery. Embolectomy for stroke with emergent large vessel occlusion (ELVO): report of the Standards and Guidelines Committee of the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery. J Neurointerv Surg. 2015 May;7(5):316-21. doi: 10.1136/neurintsurg-2015-011717. Epub 2015 Mar 12. Erratum in: J Neurointerv Surg. 2015 Aug;7(8):622. Delgado-Almandoz, Josser A [corrected to Delgado Almandoz, Josser E]. PubMed PMID: 25765949.
  • White JJ, Arancillo M, Stay TL, George-Jones NA, Levy SL, Heck DH, Sillitoe RV. Cerebellar zonal patterning relies on Purkinje cell neurotransmission. J Neurosci. 2014 Jun 11;34(24):8231-45. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0122-14.2014. PubMed PMID: 24920627; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4051975.
  • Ito J, Roy S, Liu Y, Cao Y, Fletcher M, Lu L, Boughter JD, Grün S, Heck DH. Whisker barrel cortex delta oscillations and gamma power in the awake mouse are linked to respiration. Nat Commun. 2014 Apr 1;5:3572. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4572. PubMed PMID: 24686563; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3988824.
  • Heck DH, De Zeeuw CI, Jaeger D, Khodakhah K, Person AL. The neuronal code(s) of the cerebellum. J Neurosci. 2013 Nov 6;33(45):17603-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2759-13.2013. Review. PubMed PMID: 24198351; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3818542.

View more references (pubmed link)

The Neuronal Codes of the Cerebellum, 1st Edition
Dr. Heck is the author of the newly released The Neuronal Codes of the Cerebellum