Dr. H.W.H.G. Kessels (1972) has been appointed professor of Cellular and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam's (UvA) Faculty of Science.
Helmut Kessels’ research focuses on learning and memory. Our brains have the ability to store a large amount of information. This information is encoded at synapses, the connections between which nerve cells communicate with each other. When we learn, some synapses become stronger while others become weaker, resulting in the creation of a new memory. The Kessels lab researches how synaptic plasticity is responsible for storing and recalling a memory and also how these processes are perturbed when Alzheimer-related memory problems arise. A peptide called amyloid-beta builds up in the brain of Alzheimer patients. This build-up affects synapses and causes memory loss. By researching these mechanisms, we gain a better understanding of how Alzheimer's disease is caused. This knowledge may lead to the development of new therapies that could delay or alleviate Alzheimer's disease.
Besides conducting research, Kessels' chair will also involve delivering a study programme to students of Biomedical Sciences.
Kessels has been Group Leader at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), since 2011. Prior to this, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Erasmus MC, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and the University of California San Diego. In 2003, he obtained his doctorate degree with honours from VU University Amsterdam.
Kessels has received various grants, including a Vidi grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, a ZonMW Memorabel grant and the Alzheimer's prize awarded in celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the International Foundation for Alzheimer Research (ISAO). Kessels has been published in numerous international, peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, Elife and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).