Balázs Hangya is the head of the Lendület Laboratory of Systems Neuroscience in the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary. He was trained as a medical doctor at Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary and received his MD degree in 2006. In parallel he was also trained as a mathematician and received a master’s degree in Probability Theory and Statistics from Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary in 2007. He joined the laboratory of Tamas Freund at the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Budapest, where he worked on the neural mechanisms of hippocampal and neocortical oscillations. He received his PhD in Neuroscience in 2010 from the Janos Szentagothai Doctoral School of the Semmelweis University. After his PhD, Hangya spent four and a half years in the United States as a postdoctoral researcher, first as a Swartz Fellow then as a Marie Curie Fellow. He joined the Kepecs lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where he studied the role of the basal forebrain cholinergic system in attention and learning. The Lendület Award from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences allowed him to return to his home country and start his independent lab in the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Budapest in 2015. His lab is interested in the neuromodulatory control of cognitive functions including learning and decision making.
We are interested in the neural basis of cognitive functions both in the normal and diseased brain. We are investigating how different neuron types of subcortical centers mediate cognitive processes such as attention, learning and memory.
Dementias affect more than 30 million people worldwide, with an estimated yearly cost burden exceeding US$600 billion. Despite intensive basic and clinical research, a definitive solution is not in sight. To facilitate a better understanding of normal cognition as well as pathological processes, we are monitoring cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain, the progressive loss of which cell type has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative dementias.
Cholinergic neurons have been associated with learning and other cognitive functions; however, their activity during behavior is unknown. Understanding how the activity of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons support learning as well as how their impairment leads to learning deficits can help understanding their role in neurodegenerative dementias.
Intermingled with cholinergic neurons, the basal forebrain also contains cortically projecting long-range inhibitory neurons. To understand how the basal forebrain supports cognition, it is important to determine how cognitive functions associated with the basal forebrain are segregated among different cell types.
To achieve these goals, we use a combination of cutting edge neuroscience techniques including high-throughput behavioral assays in rodents, multichannel extracellular recordings, optogenetic cell type identification and cell type specific manipulations.