Stefan Everling, Robarts Scientist and Associate Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology
My fascination with science started as a child when I read about the Miller-Urey experiment in a book that my parents had. Miller and Urey conducted an experiment in 1952 in which they tried to simulate the conditions on the early earth. The scientists found that amino acids, sugars, and lipids were formed under these conditions from water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen. I continued to read many popular science books and began to study biology with the goal to become a molecular biologist. My interest shifted to brain research when I experienced firsthand the debilitating effects of brain disease on my grandmother who suffered from vascular dementia.
The Everling lab studies the brain mechanisms of "executive" functions like paying attention, suppressing automatic responses, generating voluntary behavior and switching between different tasks and instructions.
We focus on the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, cortical regions at the anterior end of the brain that have long been known play a central role in orchestrating complex thoughts and actions. Dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex have been implicated in many psychiatric and neurological disorders, including schizophrenia, autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders.
We employ a combination of sophisticated behavioral training with neuro-physiological techniques. These techniques involve extracellular recordings of the activity of multiple single neurons in different brain areas, microstimulation, neurochemical injections, cortical cooling, and physiological identification of connections with antidromic activation.
One of the fundamental questions in neuroscience is how flexible control of behaviour is implemented in the brain. How are we able to respond automatically to a stimulus in one situation and suppress this automatic response in favour of a voluntary, goal-directed behaviour in a different situation?
Brain disorders are one of the major causes of misery challenging society today. Diseases or damage to the frontal part of the brain, including psychiatric disorders, stroke, and head trauma, often result in profound cognitive disabilities. These disabilities leave functions such as sensation and muscle strength unaffected, but cause patients to have problems with mental functions such as concentration and memory. These symptoms place an enormous physical, mental and social burden on patients, their families, employers and the public health care system. In order to develop improved diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, we need to understand the neural processes in the prefrontal cortex and we have to know how changes in the neurochemistry in this area influence cognitive or executive control.
BSc in Biology, University of Bremen, Germany (1990)
MSc in Biology, University of Bremen, Germany (1992)
BSc in Psychology, University of Bremen, Germany (1995)
Ph.D. in Biology, University of Bremen, Germany (1995)
Postdoctoral Training at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada (1996-1999)
Research Scientist at Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK (1999-2000)
NARSAD Young Investigator Award (2000)
Cure Autism Now Foundation Pilot Research Award (2000)
Premier’s Research Excellence Award (2001)
EJLB Foundation Scholar Research Award (2002)
USC Teaching Honour Roll Award of Excellence (2004,2006)
Dean’s Junior Excellence Award (2006)
Dean’s Team Award (2007)
Hutchison RM, Womelsdorf T, Gati JS, Everling S, Menon RS (in press) Resting-state networks show dynamic functional connectivity in awake humans and anesthetized macaques. Human Brain Mapping
Kaping D, Vinck M, Everling S, Womelsdorf T (2011) Specific contributions of ventromedial frontal, anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortex for attentional selection and stimulus valuation. PLOS Biology Dec;9(12):e1001224
Hutchison RM, Womelsdorf T, Gati JS, Leung LS, Menon RS, Everling S (2011) Resting-state connectivity identifies distinct functional networks in macaque cingulate cortex. Cerebral Cortex doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr181
Koval MJ, Lomber SG, Everling S (2011) Prefrontal cortex deactivation in macaques alters activity in the superior colliculus and impairs voluntary control of saccades. J. Neurosci. 31: 8659-8668
Hutchison RM, Leung LS, Mirsattaril SM, Gati JS, Menon RS, Everling S (2011) Resting-state networks in the macaque at 7 T. Neuroimage 56: 1546-1555
Womelsdorf T, Johnston K, Vinck M, Everling S (2010) Theta-band synchronization in anterior cingulate cortex predicts task-rules and their adjustments following errors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 107: 5248-5253