Menno Witter was born in The Netherlands in 1953. He did his PhD with professors Anthony Lohman and Fernando Lopes da Silva at the VU University and VU medical center in Amsterdam, where he published the first detailed anatomical account of the organization of the entorhinal cortex, focusing on its role in hippocampal-cortical interactions (1985). After his Ph.D., he worked with David Amaral and Gary VanHoesen in the US (1985/1986) on the organization of the entorhinal-hippocampal system in primates and continued to work as assistant professor in the department of Anatomy at the Vrije University. In 1989 he published two influential papers on the anatomy of the cortico-hippocampal system, which still are considered 'classics' in the field. In these papers he proposed functional differentiation within the hippocampus and parahippocampus, an issue which is now at the heart of some of the more promising research lines in the hippocampal field. In 1990, together with David Amaral, he initiated the launch of the journal Hippocampus, which, now being in its 19th year, is a major vehicle for communication among scientists in the field. As of 1990, he headed his own research group, focusing on the functional organization of the medial temporal lobe (MTL), in particular in relation to learning and memory and Alzheimer's disease. In 1993, he worked as a visiting scientist and senior consultant with Prof. Dr. G. Matsumoto and Dr. T. Iijima, ETL, Tsukuba, Japan, where he started to use voltage-sensitive dye imaging to study network properties of the hippocampal-parahippocampal system. This powerful approach resulted in the description of networks potentially mediating reverberation, a proposed mechanism for memory storage. This collaboration has continued over the years, focusing on possible interactions between multiple input pathways onto identified neuronal populations.
In 1995, he was appointed as full professor in Anatomy and Embryology at the VU University Medical Center where he continued his work on functional anatomy of the cortico-hippocampal system, combined with in vivo electrophysiology and human functional MRI studies. He contributed significantly to our understanding of parallel input-output pathways between the parahippocampal region and the hippocampus, and the possibility of functional heterogeneity between hippocampal and parahippocampal subfields as well as within the individual subfields. In addition, on the basis of clinical and experimental data, he published a series of influential papers on the role of the midline and intralaminar thalamus in cognition and its contribution to diencephalic amnesia and frontal syndromes. In 1999 he was appointed as scientific director of the Institute for Neuroscience of the VU/VUmc and as director of the Graduate School Neuroscience Amsterdam. He was one of the founding directors of the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research VU/Vumc (2003).
In 2004 he was appointed as visiting professor in the Centre for the Biology of Memory and the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. In 2007 he moved to Trondheim, where he continues his work on functional anatomy of the cortico-hippocampal system, relevant to memory processes in particular to spatial memory and navigation. He combines anatomical approaches with in vitro electrophysiology. His current research interests include the study of functional differentiation between cell types and cell layers in the entorhinal cortex, structural and connectional differences between the lateral and medial entorhinal cortex and the development of the entorhinal cortex and its connections. He is also involved in human functional MRI studies that focus on understanding functional heterogeneity within the human MTL.
- Elected member of The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskab)
- The Norwegian Academy of Science (Det Norske Vitensskaps-Akademi).
- Member of the editorial boards of Hippocampus and Brain Structure and Function.
- Section editor Neuroanatomy for Neuroscience and associate editor for Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.
- Visiting Professor, Graduate school for Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
- Invited Lecturer Graduate Program Neuroscience, Univ. Murcia, Spain
Menno Witter, PhD
Professor Neuroscience, Dept. Neuroscience
Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Centre for the Biology of Memory
MTFS, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
NO-7489 Trondheim, Norway
Phone: +47 73598249
Fax: +47 73598294
Email: menno.witter at(@) ntnu.no
Related Articles Identification of dorsal-ventral hippocampal differentiation in neonatal rats. Brain Struct Funct. 2014 Jul 11; Authors: O'Reilly KC, Flatberg A, Islam S, Olsen LC, Kruge IU, Witter MP Abstract The adult hippocampal formation (HF) is functionally, connectionally, and transcriptionally differentiated along the dorsal-ventral axis. At birth, the hippocampus appears shortened along its dorsal-ventral axis. We therefore questioned at what postnatal age the differentiated dorsal-ventral hippocampus is present. We first established that the ventral tissue in the short postnatal hippocampus remains ventral in the adult-like hippocampus. Second, using anatomical tracing techniques we report that, within the first postnatal week, the main input from the entorhinal cortex (EC) to HF is topographically organized. The terminal distribution of this input along the dorsal-ventral axis of HF was related to a dorsolateral-to-ventromedial axis of origin in EC, thus reflecting adult topography. Finally, we examined gene expression along the dorsal-ventral axis in the developing hippocampus. We found that several genes that were differentially enriched in the adult dorsal and ventral hippocampus were similarly enriched in the dorsal and ventral hippocampal poles at birth. The differentially expressed genes relate to different molecular pathways and biomarkers of disease. Taken together, these data lead us to conclude that the entire dorsal-ventral axis of HF is present at birth showing adult-like functional differentiation. Moreover, our findings indicate that the neonatal ventral hippocampus is enriched with biomarkers associated with mental illnesses. These include schizophrenia, affective and anxiety disorders, disorders previously deemed as ventral hippocampal associated disorders, as well as alcoholism. Our results thus suggest an early developmental susceptibility of the ventral HF to mental illness. PMID: 25012113 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]