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Nikoloz Sirmpilatze wins DPZ PhD award

Award ceremony on March 29, 2022
Activity in the brain of monkey and rat. Photo: Nikoloz Sirmpilatze
Dr. Nikoloz Sirmpilatze, Gewinner des DPZ-Promotionspreises 2021. Foto: Karin Tilch
Dr. Nikoloz Sirmpilatze, winner of the DPZ PhD award 2021. Photo: Karin Tilch

The German Primate Center's sponsoring association promotes young scientists at the institute and highlights special achievements and successes in primatological research with the 500-euro PhD prize. The prize for the best doctoral thesis completed in 2021 was won by Nikoloz Sirmpilatze for his research on Functional imaging of the anesthetized brain in primates and rodents.

In his research project, Nikoloz Sirmpilatze studied the influence of anesthetics on brain function using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and 2-photon microscopy. Under deep anesthesia, the brain enters a fascinating and still not well understood state in which periods of strong electrical activity alternate with periods of inactivity. Large parts of the brain behave synchronously, oscillating in time, so to speak. This state is also called burst suppression. Mr. Sirmpilatze has succeeded in using non-invasive functional MRI imaging to show the exact spatial distribution of these brain regions acting in unison. For this purpose, he developed new methods (algorithms) for MRI data analysis. Using these methods, which are equally applicable to animals and humans, he was able to show for the first time that the brain regions in which burst suppression is detectable differ significantly in rodents and primates. While in rats, large parts of the cerebral cortex synchronously show the burst suppression pattern, in non-human primates and in humans, individual regions, such as the visual cortex, are excluded from it. "This not only raises the question of the extent to which rodents are suitable models for many areas of human brain research, especially when it comes to anesthesia, but the results also have many implications for neuroscience and the evolution of neural networks in general," says Susann Boretius, head of the Functional Imaging Unit at the German Primate Center and supervisor of the paper.

Nikoloz Sirmpilatze studied medicine at the Medical Faculty of the University of Thessaloniki and then neuroscience at the Georg-August University of Göttingen (IMPRS for Neuroscience). In 2017, he received the degree of Masters in Neuroscience and worked on his PhD thesis in the Functional Imaging Unit at DPZ from 2017 to 2021. The first part of his work was published in Scientific Reports in 2019. A second manuscript is under review. Since October 2021, Mr. Sirmpilatze has been working as a postdoc in the Functional Imaging Unit at DPZ.

We warmly congratulate the winner and wish him much success in his future life.