IMEC, KU Leuven and VIB have set up a joint basic research initiative to unravel the neuronal circuitry of the human brain: Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF).

Supported by the Flemish Government, NERF looks into fundamental neuroscientific questions through collaborative, interdisciplinary research combining nanoelectronics with neurobiology. It intends to push the boundaries of science, by zooming in on the working of neurons at an unprecedented level of detail. In the long run, NERF will generate new insights in the functional mapping of the brain, as well as research methodologies and technologies for medical applications, i.e. diagnostics and treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system.

Today, neurobiology stands at an exciting crossroads. In their quest to unravel the secrets of the brain, a number of approaches, such as molecular and cellular biology, genetics, imaging, physiology, and behavioral studies are converging. In the past, each of these approaches has contributed significantly to our understanding of the brain. But now, it is their convergence that yields exciting results at an ever increasing pace.

The mission of NERF is to unravel the anatomical and functional fundamentals of neuronal circuits. It does so by using and integrating neurobiological and nano-electronic approaches. Established in 2010, NERF currently consists of 34 researchers of which 76% internationals. The first goal is to generate the evidence needed for a theory of mental function and memory. Secondly, NERF should result in new medical applications for the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders or malfunction.

Scientific Advisory Board
A Scientific Advisory Board supports the development of NERF. Members of the Board are:

- Erin Schuman (MPI, DE)
- Jose Carmena (California-Berkeley Univ, USA)
- Timothy Harris (Janelia, USA)
- Dora Angelaki (Baylor College of Medicine, USA)
- Alexandre Pouget (Geneva Univ, CH & Rochester Univ, USA)
- David Kleinfeld (UCSD, USA)

Combining strengths of the 3 founders
The research groups of NERF are integrated in the research community of VIB, IMEC and KU Leuven and have full access to the research, technology and service facilities of the founding institutions. To reach their results, they make use of disruptive biological, genetic, nano-electronic engineering approaches.

NERF is housed on the IMEC campus where researchers work in cross-disciplinary teams, benefitting from IMEC’s state-of-the-art clean room infrastructure and a new 1,000m² neurolab. NERF is organized around teams of top-notch researchers doing world-class basic research. They are able to work closely together with a wide range of experts from the 3 founding fathers, providing a unique leverage. NERF started off with a 3 million euro research grant from the Flemish Government for the first 3 years. The founders, IMEC, VIB and KU Leuven, have significanthy invested in NERF.


NERF, empowered by IMEC, KU Leuven and VIB

Scientists & research:

  • Vincent Bonin Lab
    mouse visual cortex - electrophysiology - two-photon calcium imaging - optogenetics - computational modeling
  • Karl Farrow Lab
    neural circuits - vision and the retina - viral based circuit tracing - two-photon calcium imaging - electrophysiology
  • Sebastian Haesler Lab
    reinforcement learning - novelty processing - dopamine - mesoscopic connectivity of the brain - in vivo neurophysiology
  • Fabian Kloosterman Lab
    neural circuits, neural probes, navigation, memory, behavior
  • Aya Takeoka Lab
    motor circuit plasticity - injury - motor learning - cell-type specific viral tracing and manipulation
  • Alan Urban Lab
    functional ultrasound imaging - brain imaging - neurovascular coupling - neural network - optogenetics


NERF, empowered by IMEC, KU Leuven and VIB
Imec CampusKapeldreef 75  3001 LEUVEN BELGIUM
+32 16 28 79 74