Karel Svoboda

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Election Year: 2015
Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member


Karel Svoboda is a group leader at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus. Svoboda’s work is at the intersection of neuronal biophysics and cognition. His work, conducted with numerous collaborators, focuses on how neocortical circuits produce our perception of the world and our actions within it. He also has a long-standing interest in new biophysical and molecular methods for brain research. Svoboda was born in Prague in1965, then part of Czechoslovakia. He grew up in West Germany. He attended college in the US, graduating from Cornell University with a BA in Physics (1988) and from Harvard University with a degree in Biophysics (1994). He was a postdoctoral fellow at Bell Laboratories (until 1997) and a principal investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories (until 2006). Svoboda was awarded the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award (2004) and the Brain Prize from the Lundbeck Foundation (2015). He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Science (USA).

Research Interests

Over the last ten years, the Svoboda lab has investigated the structure, function and plasticity of cortical circuits in behaving mice, mainly in the context of active tactile sensation. The cerebral cortex occupies more than 75% of our brains and it plays central roles in virtually all flexible and adaptive behaviors. The Svoboda laboratory’s goal is to identify core principles underlying information processing in cortical circuits and related structures. They have measured how tactile information is represented in the somatosensory cortex on millisecond time scales and at the level of individual action potentials in defined cell types. They also investigate how movements are planned and executed by neural circuits of the motor cortex. The Svoboda lab is also developing new methods to interrogate neural function in intact brains. Notable contributions include microscopy methods to image synapses over long time scales in the intact brain; the development of sensitive fluorescent protein sensors for noninvasive imaging of neural activity; microscopes with very large fields of view that enable imaging multiple brain regions with single neurons resolution.

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