Vincent Bonin Lab

Research focus

​'Watching the brain watch'

Our ability to comprehend the world and to interact with it relies on our brains’ ability to process sensory signals and transform them into a flexible representation that supports perception, learning, memory, and action. This processing seems effortless. Yet at its core lies an intricate network of nerve cells that extract important from a continuous stream of redundant, distracting and ambiguous signals (e.g. finding a needle in haystack).
The purpose of the lab is to study the network computations and biological mechanisms that underlie this sensory processing in the mammalian brain. How are sensory computations implemented at the level of neural circuits? How are these computations adapted to the animal’s environment and to the animal’s behavioral goals? Solving these questions not only provides insights into how our brains process information but also paves the way toward creating autonomous devices that interact effectively with their environment, and neural prostheses that can restore brain function.
We address these questions in the visual system of mice. Mice are well suited for studying the neural circuits of vision. They are small and smart; their visual system resembles in many ways that of humans; and they can be manipulated genetically to identify and study specific groups of nerve cells. Using fast and sensitive laser-scanning microscopes, micropipette or advanced microprobes recordings, we measure the activity of large groups of nerve cells while the animal explores a controlled visual environment. By relating the measured neural responses to what the mice see, we infer the visual computations performed by the network and build mathematical models of them. We further test these models by electrically or optically stimulating targeted groups of neurons and observing the activity of neighboring or distant cells. This approach lets us assess how different components of the circuit can underlie specific visual computations, and how these computations are tailored to the animal’s visual environment and behavioral goals. Ultimately, this research will provide insights into how we see, and into how biological neural networks are constructed to perform useful computations. 


Sparse orthogonal population representation of spatial context in the retrosplenial cortexMao D, Kandler S, McNaughton B, Bonin VNature Communications, 8, 243, 2017
Anatomy and function of an excitatory network in the visual cortexLee W, Bonin V, Reed M, Graham B, Hood G, Glattfelder K, Reid RNATURE, 532, 370-4, 2016
Cortico-cortical projections in mouse visual cortex are functionally target specificGlickfeld L, Andermann M, Bonin V, Reid RNATURE NEUROSCIENCE, 16, 219-26, 2013
Local diversity and fine-scale organization of receptive fields in mouse visual cortexBonin V, Histed M, Yurgenson S, Reid RJOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 31, 18506-21, 2011

Job openings


How your moving brain sees the world

20/11/2018 - In a new study, scientists from NERF (Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders) uncover that the processing of visual information in the brain is indeed modulated by our own behavior.

New research reveals central role of the hippocampus in instructing the neocortex in spatial navigation and memory

16/07/2018 - ​A research collaboration between the University of Lethbridge and NERF, VIB-KU Leuven-imec, provided new insight into how the brain learns about the environment and why the hippocampus, a key part of the brain, is so important in this process.

Navigation and spatial memory: new brain region identified to be involved

16/08/2017 - Researchers at NERF (VIB-imec-KU Leuven) have now uncovered striking neural activity patterns in a brain area called the retrosplenial cortex that may assist with spatial memory and navigation.

NERF symposium 2013

22/02/2013 - The second edition of NERF's annual neurotechnology symposium will focus on large scale approaches/technologies for studying neural circuits, neuromorphics and brain machine interfaces

Vincent Bonin

Vincent Bonin

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​B. Eng.: Univ of Sherbrooke, Canada, 1997
M.Sc.: Hamburg Univ of Tech, Germany, 2000
Univ of Zurich, Switzerland, 2000-2002
PhD: ETH Zurich, Switzerland, 2005
Smith-Kettlewell Inst, San Francisco, 2002-2006
Postdoc: Harvard Med School, Boston, 2006-2011
NERF/VIB group leader since 2011

Contact Info

NERF, empowered by IMEC, KU Leuven and VIBImec CampusKapeldreef 75 3001 LEUVENRoute description