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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.

 

Affiliations

Contact details

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

witter mp[author]

witter mp[author]: Latest results from PubMed
  • The entorhinal-hippocampal system contains distinct networks subserving declarative memory. This system is selectively vulnerable to changes of ageing and pathological processes. The entorhinal cortex (EC) is a pivotal component of this memory system since it serves as the interface between the neocortex and the hippocampus. EC is heavily affected by the proteinopathies of Alzheimer's disease (AD). These appear in a stereotypical spatiotemporal manner and include increased levels of...

  • The calcium-binding proteins parvalbumin and calbindin are expressed in neuronal populations regulating brain networks involved in spatial navigation, memory processes, and social interactions. Information about the numbers of these neurons across brain regions is required to understand their functional roles but is scarcely available. Employing semi-automated image analysis, we performed brain-wide analysis of immunohistochemically stained parvalbumin and calbindin sections and show that these...

  • In the hippocampus, a widely accepted model posits that the dentate gyrus improves learning and memory by enhancing discrimination between inputs. To test this model, we studied conditional knockout mice in which the vast majority of dentate granule cells (DGCs) fail to develop - including nearly all DGCs in the dorsal hippocampus - secondary to eliminating Wntless (Wls) in a subset of cortical progenitors with Gfap-Cre. Other cells in the Wls^(fl/-);Gfap-Cre hippocampus were minimally affected,...

  • Anatomical, electrophysiological and behavioral studies in rodents have shown that the thalamic midline nucleus reuniens (RE) is a crucial link in the communication between hippocampal formation (HIP, i.e., CA1, subiculum) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), important structures for cognitive and executive functions. A common feature in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative brain diseases is a dysfunctional connectivity/communication between HIP and mPFC, and disturbances in the cognitive...

  • Locomotion activates an array of sensory inputs that may help build the self-position map of the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC). In this map, speed-coding neurons are thought to dynamically update representations of the animal's position. A possible origin for the entorhinal speed signal is the mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR), which is critically involved in the activation of locomotor programs. Here, we describe, in rats, a circuit connecting the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPN) of...

  • The organization of projections from the macaque monkey hippocampus, subiculum, presubiculum, and parasubiculum to the entorhinal cortex was analyzed using anterograde and retrograde tracing techniques. Projections exclusively originate in the CA1 field of the hippocampus and in the subiculum, presubiculum, and parasubiculum. The CA1 and subicular projections terminate most densely in Layers V and VI of the entorhinal cortex, with sparser innervation of the deep portion of Layers III and II....

  • One of the main subcortical targets of hippocampal formation efferents is the lateral septum. Previous studies on the subicular projections, as a main output structure of the hippocampus, have shown a clear topographic organization of septal innervation, related to the origin of the fibres along the dorsoventral axis of the subiculum in the adult brain. In contrast, studies on the developing brain depict an extensive rearrangement of subicular projections during the prenatal period, shifting...

  • In the present study we provide the first systematic and quantitative hodological study of the calbindin-expressing (CB+) principal neurons in layer II of the entorhinal cortex and compared the respective projections of the lateral and medial subdivisions of the entorhinal cortex. Using elaborate quantitative retrograde tracing, complemented by anterograde tracing, we report that the layer II CB+ population comprises neurons with diverse, mainly excitatory projections. At least half of them...

  • The current model of the organization of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) episodic memory system assumes that two functionally different "where" and "what" pathways enter MTL as parallel parahippocampal cortex (PHC)-medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) and perirhinal cortex (PER)-lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC) streams, respectively. With the use of tract tracing and in vitro electrophysiological recordings, we show that, in the rat LEC, all main principal neuron types in layer II receive convergent...

  • Neurons in parasubiculum (PaS), presubiculum (PrS), and medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) code for place (grid cells) and head direction. Directional input has been shown to be important for stable grid cell properties in MEC, and PaS and PrS have been postulated to provide this information to MEC. In line with this, head direction cells in those brain areas are present at postnatal day 11 (P11), having directional tuning that stabilizes shortly after eye opening, which is before premature grid...

  • Recent investigations of the rat posterior parietal cortex (PPC) suggest that this region plays a central role in action control together with the frontal cortical areas. Posterior parietal-frontal cortical connections have been described in rats, but little is known about whether these connections are topographically organized as in the primate. Here, we injected retrograde and anterograde tracers into subdivisions of PPC as well as the frontal midline and orbital cortical areas to explore...

  • In this review, we aim to reappraise the organization of intrinsic and extrinsic networks of the entorhinal cortex with a focus on the concept of parallel cortical connectivity streams. The concept of two entorhinal areas, the lateral and medial entorhinal cortex, belonging to two parallel input-output streams mediating the encoding and storage of respectively what and where information hinges on the claim that a major component of their cortical connections is with the perirhinal cortex and...

  • The identification of neuronal markers, that is, molecules selectively present in subsets of neurons, contributes to our understanding of brain areas and the networks within them. Specifically, recognizing the distribution of different neuronal markers facilitates the identification of borders between functionally distinct brain areas. Detailed knowledge about the localization and physiological significance of neuronal markers may also provide clues to generate new hypotheses concerning aspects...

  • The nucleus reuniens of the thalamus (RE) is a key component of an extensive network of hippocampal and cortical structures and is a fundamental substrate for cognition. A common misconception is that RE is a simple relay structure. Instead, a better conceptualization is that RE is a critical component of a canonical higher-order cortico-thalamo-cortical circuit that supports communication between the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the hippocampus (HC). RE dysfunction is implicated in...

  • Layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC LII) contains the largest number of spatially modulated grid cells and is one of the first regions in the brain to express Alzheimer's disease (AD)-related pathology. The most common principal cell type in MEC LII, reelin-expressing stellate cells, are grid cell candidates. Recently we found evidence that γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)(A) receptor subunits show a specific distribution in MEC LII, in which GABA(A) α3 is selectively associated with...

  • The hippocampus and entorhinal cortex (EC) are areas affected early and severely in Alzheimer's disease (AD), and this is associated with deficits in episodic memory. Amyloid-β (Aβ), the main protein found in amyloid plaques, can affect neuronal physiology and excitability, and several AD mouse models with memory impairments display aberrant network activity, including hyperexcitability and seizures. In this study, we investigated single cell physiology in EC and network activity in EC and...

  • The rat hippocampal formation (HF), parahippocampal region (PHR), and retrosplenial cortex (RSC) play critical roles in spatial processing. These regions are interconnected, and functionally dependent. The neuronal networks mediating this reciprocal dependency are largely unknown. Establishing the developmental timing of network formation will help to understand the emergence of this dependency. We questioned whether the long-range outputs from HF-PHR to RSC in Long Evans rats develop during the...

  • The posterior parietal cortex (PPC) is a multifaceted region of cortex, contributing to several cognitive processes, including sensorimotor integration and spatial navigation. Although recent years have seen a considerable rise in the use of rodents, particularly mice, to investigate PPC and related networks, a coherent anatomical definition of PPC in the mouse is still lacking. To address this, we delineated the mouse PPC, using cyto- and chemoarchitectural markers from Nissl-, parvalbumin-and...

  • Fan cells in layer II of the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC) form a main component of the projection to the dentate gyrus, CA3 and CA2 of the hippocampal formation. This projection has a counterpart originating from stellate cells in layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC). Available evidence suggests that the two pathways carry different information, exemplified by a difference in spatial tuning of cells in LEC and MEC. The grid cell, a prominent position-modulated cell type present in...

  • Understanding neural circuit function requires individually addressing their component parts: specific neuronal cell types. However, not only do the precise genetic mechanisms specifying neuronal cell types remain obscure, access to these neuronal cell types by transgenic techniques also remains elusive. Whereas most genes are expressed in the brain, the vast majority are expressed in many different kinds of neurons, suggesting that promoters alone are not sufficiently specific to distinguish...

  • Layer V of the entorhinal cortex (EC) receives input from the hippocampus and originates main entorhinal outputs. The deep-sublayer Vb, immunopositive for the transcription factor Ctip2, is thought to be the main recipient of hippocampal projections, whereas the superficial-sublayer LVa, immunonegative for Ctip2, originates the main outputs of EC. This disrupts the proposed role of EC as mediating hippocampal-cortical interactions. With the use of specific (trans)synaptic tracing approaches, we...

  • Grid cells in layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC LII) generate multiple regular firing fields in response to the position and speed of an individual within the environment. They exhibit a protracted postnatal development and, in the adult, show activity differences along the dorsoventral axis (DVA). Evidence suggests parvalbumin-positive (PV^(+)) interneurons, most of which are perisomatic-targeting cells, play a crucial role in generation of the hexagonal grid cell activity pattern....

  • No abstract

  • The mammalian positioning system contains a variety of functionally specialized cells in the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) and the hippocampus. In order for cells in these systems to dynamically update representations in a way that reflects ongoing movement in the environment, they must be able to read out the current speed of the animal. Speed is encoded by speed-responsive cells in both MEC and hippocampus, but the relationship between the two populations has not been determined. We show here...

  • The hippocampus in mammals is a morphologically well-defined structure, and so are its main subdivisions. To define the homologous structure in other vertebrate clades, using these morphological criteria has been difficult, if not impossible, since the typical mammalian morphology is absent. Although there seems to be consensus that the most medial part of the pallium represents the hippocampus in all vertebrates, there is no consensus on whether all mammalian hippocampal subdivisions are...

  • The entorhinal cortex (EC) is the major input and output structure of the hippocampal formation, forming the nodal point in cortico-hippocampal circuits. Different division schemes including two or many more subdivisions have been proposed, but here we will argue that subdividing EC into two components, the lateral EC (LEC) and medial EC (MEC) might suffice to describe the functional architecture of EC. This subdivision then leads to an anatomical interpretation of the different phenotypes of...

  • Spatial navigation and memory depend on the neural coding of an organism's location. Fine-grained coding of location is thought to depend on the hippocampus. Likewise, animals benefit from knowledge parsing their environment into larger spatial segments, which are relevant for task performance. Here we investigate how such knowledge may be coded, and whether this occurs in structures in the temporal lobe, supplying cortical inputs to the hippocampus. We found that neurons in the perirhinal...

  • The medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) is important in spatial navigation and memory formation and its layers have distinct neuronal subtypes, connectivity, spatial properties, and disease susceptibility. As little is known about the molecular basis for the development of these laminar differences, we analyzed microRNA (miRNA) and messenger RNA (mRNA) expression differences between rat MEC layer II and layers III-VI during postnatal development. We identified layer and age-specific regulation of...

  • The posterior parietal cortex has been implicated in spatial functions, including navigation. The hippocampal and parahippocampal region and the retrosplenial cortex are crucially involved in navigational processes and connections between the parahippocampal/retrosplenial domain and the posterior parietal cortex have been described. However, an integrated account of the organization of these connections is lacking. Here, we investigated parahippocampal connections of each posterior parietal...

  • The nucleus reuniens (RE) and entorhinal cortex (EC) provide monosynaptic excitatory inputs to the apical dendrites of pyramidal cells and to interneurons with dendrites in stratum lacunosum moleculare (LM) of hippocampal field CA1. However, whether the RE and EC inputs interact at the cellular level is unknown. In this electrophysiological in vivo study, low-frequency stimulation was used to selectively activate each projection at its origin; field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs)...

  • The onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with subtle pathological changes including increased intracellular expression of amyloid-β (Aβ). A structure affected particularly early in the course of AD is the entorhinal cortex, where neuronal death in layer II is observed already at initial stages. Neurons in EC-layer II, particularly those that express the protein Reelin, give rise to projections to the hippocampal dentate gyrus and this projection shows severe loss of synaptic contacts...

  • This study refines the characterization of the rat parietal cortical domain in terms of cyto- and chemoarchitecture as well as thalamic connectivity. We recognize three subdivisions of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), which are architectonically distinct from the neighboring somatosensory and visual cortices. Furthermore, we show that the different parietal areas are differently connected with thalamic nuclei. The medial portion of PPC (mPPC) is connected primarily with the medial portion of...

  • CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that CBZ still reduced the activity in the DG, although the patients were clinically diagnosed as pharmacoresistant for CBZ. This suggests that in the human epileptic brain, the targets of CBZ, the voltage-gated Na(+) channels, are still sensitive to CBZ, although we used a relative high concentration and it is not possibility to assess the actual CBZ concentration that reached the target in the patient. We also concluded that the effect of CBZ was found in...

  • Medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) grid cells exhibit firing fields spread across the environment on the vertices of a regular tessellating triangular grid. In rodents, the size of the firing fields and the spacing between the firing fields are topographically organized such that grid cells located more ventrally in MEC exhibit larger grid fields and larger grid-field spacing compared with grid cells located more dorsally. Previous experiments in brain slices from rodents have shown that several...

  • The rat parahippocampal region (PHR) and retrosplenial cortex (RSC) are cortical areas important for spatial cognition. In PHR, head-direction cells are present before eye-opening, earliest detected in postnatal day (P)11 animals. Border cells have been recorded around eye-opening (P16), while grid cells do not obtain adult-like features until the fourth postnatal week. In view of these developmental time-lines, we aimed to explore when afferents originating in RSC arrive in PHR. To this end, we...

  • The postrhinal cortex (POR) provides substantial input to the entorhinal cortex, mainly targeting superficial layers of the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC). Major inputs to POR originate in the visual and parietal cortex, thus providing neurons in MEC with a subset of cortical information relevant to their spatial firing properties. The POR takes a position that is comparable with that of the perirhinal cortex (PER) with regard to the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC). Neurons in LEC and MEC show...

  • Hippocampal place cells undergo remapping when the environment is changed. The mechanism of hippocampal remapping remains elusive but spatially modulated cells in the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) have been identified as a possible contributor. Using pharmacogenetic and optogenetic approaches, we tested the role of MEC cells by examining in mice whether partial inactivation in MEC shifts hippocampal activity to a different subset of place cells with different receptive fields. The...

  • We asked whether the structural heterogeneity of the hippocampal CA3-CA2 axis is reflected in how space is mapped onto place cells in CA3-CA2. Place fields were smaller and sharper in proximal CA3 than in distal CA3 and CA2. The proximodistal shift was accompanied by a progressive loss in the ability of place cells to distinguish configurations of the same spatial environment, as well as a reduction in the extent to which place cells formed uncorrelated representations for different...

  • Spatial navigation requires information about the relationship between current and future positions. The activity of hippocampal neurons appears to reflect such a relationship, representing not only instantaneous position but also the path towards a goal location. However, how the hippocampus obtains information about goal direction is poorly understood. Here we report a prefrontal-thalamic neural circuit that is required for hippocampal representation of routes or trajectories through the...

  • The main hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD) are senile plaques, neurofibrillary tangles and neuronal death. The McGill-R-Thy1-APP rat is one of the few transgenic rat models of AD that displays progressive amyloid pathology. This study aimed to further characterise this rat model, focusing on the pathological changes in the hippocampal formation and the parahippocampal region. These structures, that are important for episodic memory and spatial navigation, are affected in the early stages of...

  • The insular cortex is involved in the perception of interoceptive signals, coding of emotional and affective states, and processing information from gustatory, olfactory, auditory, somatosensory, and nociceptive modalities. This information represents an important component of episodic memory, mediated by the parahippocampal-hippocampal region. A comprehensive description of insular projections to the latter region is lacking. Previous studies reported that insular projections do not target any...

  • Atlases of the rat brain are widely used as reference for orientation, planning of experiments, and as tools for assigning location to experimental data. Improved quality and use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other tomographical imaging techniques in rats have allowed the development of new three-dimensional (3-D) volumetric brain atlas templates. The rat hippocampal region is a commonly used model for basic research on memory and learning, and for preclinical investigations of brain...

  • The hippocampal region, comprising the hippocampal formation and the parahippocampal region, has been one of the most intensively studied parts of the brain for decades. Better understanding of its functional diversity and complexity has led to an increased demand for specificity in experimental procedures and manipulations. In view of the complex 3D structure of the hippocampal region, precisely positioned experimental approaches require a fine-grained architectural description that is...

  • The precise functional role of the hippocampus remains a topic of much debate. The dominant view is that the dorsal (or posterior) hippocampus is implicated in memory and spatial navigation and the ventral (or anterior) hippocampus mediates anxiety-related behaviours. However, this 'dichotomy view' may need revision. Gene expression studies demonstrate multiple functional domains along the hippocampal long axis, which often exhibit sharply demarcated borders. By contrast, anatomical studies and...

  • In rodents representations of environmental positions follow a granularity gradient along the hippocampal and entorhinal anterior-posterior axis; with fine-grained representations most posteriorly. To investigate if such a gradient exists in humans, functional magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired during virtual environmental learning of the objects' positions and the association between the objects and room geometry. The Objects-room geometry binding led to increased activation...

  • 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...

  • One of the grand challenges in neuroscience is to comprehend neural computation in the association cortices, the parts of the cortex that have shown the largest expansion and differentiation during mammalian evolution and that are thought to contribute profoundly to the emergence of advanced cognition in humans. In this Review, we use grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex as a gateway to understand network computation at a stage of cortical processing in which firing patterns are shaped not...

  • Regional hypometabolism of glucose in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, little is known about the specific alterations of neuronal and astrocytic metabolism involved in homeostasis of glutamate and GABA in AD. Here, we investigated the effects of amyloid β (Aβ) pathology on neuronal and astrocytic metabolism and glial-neuronal interactions in amino acid neurotransmitter homeostasis in the transgenic McGill-R-Thy1-APP rat model of AD compared with healthy controls at...

  • The hippocampal region contains several principal neuron types, some of which show distinct spatial firing patterns. The region is also known for its diversity in neural circuits and many have attempted to causally relate network architecture within and between these unique circuits to functional outcome. Still, much is unknown about the mechanisms or network properties by which the functionally specific spatial firing profiles of neurons are generated, let alone how they are integrated into a...

  • McGill-R-Thy1-APP rats express the human amyloid precursor protein carrying the Swedish and Indiana mutations. We examined the neurochemical content of the dorsal hippocampus in three-months-old male and female transgenic rats and healthy age- and gender-matched controls using in vivo (1)H MRS in order to assess early metabolite alterations and whether these were similar for both genders. Whereas male and female controls had similar levels of all metabolites, differences were evident between...

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