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dr. N.L.M. (Natalie) Cappaert

Faculty of Science
Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences
Photographer: Natalie Cappaert

Visiting address
  • Science Park 904
Postal address
  • Postbus 94246
    1090 GE Amsterdam
Contact details
  • Profile


    I am an Assistant Professor in the Cellular and Cellular and Computational Neuroscience group at the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands). My recent research focuses on the anatomical and functional network properties of the hippocampus, the parahippocampal region and the amygdala (figure 1). The parahippocampal region is a cortical brain area that is involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory, object recognition, sensory representation and spatial orientation. Two subareas of the parahippocampal region, the perirhinal cortex (PER) and the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC) form an anatomical link between the neocortex and the hippocampus. Although anatomical connections exist within the PER/EC network (Cappaert et al., 2014), the information transfer through this network occurs with a low probability (Willems et al., 2016) and is hence called the parahippocampal gate. Emotional events, which activate the amygdala - a brain region involved in emotional processing, could modulate this gating process. However, how exactly the gate is modulated is not known. I focus on the anatomical and functional architecture of the hippocampus, parahippocampus and amygdala at 3 levels to unravel the mechanism of the gate (Figure 1).

    Figure 1: Research lines

    1. Connectomics

    To better understand the network properties, I study the anatomical connectivity of the hippocampus and parahippocampal region, together with Niels van Strien (University of Amsterdam), Prof. Menno Witter (Kavli Institute, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim) and Prof Jaap Murre (University of Amsterdam) by developing an interactive connectome of the the hippocampal formation, the parahippocampal region and the retrosplenial cortex (Figure 2, Van Strien et al., 2009; Sugar et al., 2011). A connectome is a comprehensive description of the network elements and connections that form the brain. Such clear and comprehensive knowledge of anatomical connections lies at the basis of understanding network functions. In our current connectome we included almost 2600 anatomical connections of the hippocampal formation, the parahippocampal region and the retrosplenial cortex, which can all be interactively switched on and off. The functional properties of this structural connectome were investigated with a graph analysis (Biniciewicz et al., 2016). In the current project the amygdalar connections are mapped and computational models are developed to investigate the modulatory role of the amygdala onto the hippocampus and the parahippocampal region, during learning and memory.

    Figure 2: Retrosplenial and hippocampal–parahippocampal connectome of the rat. The connectome consists of 14 large, color-coded boxes, which represent the sub-regions of the hippocampal formation, parahippocampal regio, and retrosplenial cortex (van Strien et al., Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2009; Sugar et al., Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, 2011). Go to to download the interactive pdf of the connectome.

    2. Networks at the population level

    The functional organization of the input to the PER/EC network at the population level can be investigated with voltage sensitive dye (VSD) imaging. VSD imaging reveals the population changes in membrane potential in brain tissue, which allows a detailed analysis of the spatial and temporal pattern of network recruitment. For example, we addressed the dynamics of the mouse PER/EC network activity in response to neocortical and amygdalar electrical stimulation by comparing the recruitment sequence (figure 3). When GABAA dependent inhibition is reduced, both the neocortical and the amygdala activate spatially overlapping regions, although in a distinct spatiotemporal fashion. It is therefore hypothesized that the inhibitory network regulates excitatory activity from both cortical and subcortical areas that has to be transmitted through the PER-LEC network.

    Figure 3: Typical example of the spatiotemporal activation pattern in response to neocortical (A) and amygdala (B) stimulation in the subregions PER, LEC and MEC in the presence of 1 mM g-aminobutyric acid (GABAA) antagonist bicuculline. The stimulus was applied at t = 0 ms. The VSD signal at every channel is plotted with a color-coded scale (0–0.25% ∆A/Amax) at specific time points (a–f) to visualize the spatiotemporal distribution of the evoked activity (adapted form figure 3 of Willems et al., 2016)

    3. Networks at the cellular level

    To investigate the role of the inhibitory properties and consider the interplay between principal neurons and PV interneurons in processing the synaptic input to the deep layers of the PER-LEC network, we performed double patch clamp experiments. The evoked synaptic input and action potential firing patterns in principal neurons and PV interneurons were recorded to address the functional output of the PER-LEC network once synaptic input is processed in the local circuitry. The excitatory input from the neocortex onto deep layer principal neurons is overruled by strong feedforward inhibition. PV interneurons, with their fast, extensive stimulus-evoked firing, are able to deliver this fast evoked inhibition in principal neurons. This indicates an essential role for PV interneurons in the gating mechanism of the PER-LEC network (Willems et al., 2018).


    Selected references

    • Willems JGP, Wadman WJ, Cappaert NLM (2018) Parvalbumin interneuron mediated feedforward inhibition controls signal output in the deep layers of the perirhinal-entorhinal cortex. Hippocampus 28(4):281-296. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22830.
    • Willems JGP, Wadman WJ , Cappaert NLM (2016) Distinct Spatiotemporal Activation Patterns of the Perirhinal-Entorhinal Network in Response to Cortical and Amygdala Input. Front. Neural Circuits 10:44. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2016.00044
    • Binicewicz FZ, van Strien NM, Wadman WJ, van den Heuvel MP, Cappaert NLM (2016). Graph analysis of the anatomical network organization of the hippocampal formation and parahippocampal region in the rat. Brain Struct Funct 221:1607–1621.
    • Cappaert NLM, van Strien NM, Witter MP (2015) Hippocampal formation. In G. Paxinos (Ed.) “The rat nervous system” (4th ed.) (pp. 511-573). Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-374245-2.00020-6
    • Cappaert NLM, Lopes da Silva FH, Wadman WJ (2009). Spatio-temporal dynamics of theta oscillations in hippocampal-entorhinal slices. Hippocampus 19(11), 1065-1077.
    • van Strien NM, Cappaert NLM*, Witter MP (2009). The anatomy of memory: an interactive overview of the parahippocampal-hippocampal network. Nat Rev Neurosci 10(4), 272-82. * Shared first author



    - Track coordinator or the master "Physiology of Synapses and Networks"

    - Member of the teaching committee ‘Psychobioogy’ (BSc)

    - Member of the teaching committee 'Biomedical Sciences' (MSc)

    - Member of the curriculum team ‘Psychobiology’

    - Course coordinator of ‘van Perceptie tot Bewustzijn’, ‘Neurophysiology’ and ‘From synapse to network’

    - Lecturer in ‘van Perceptie tot Bewustzijn’, ‘Introductie Pyschobiologie, ‘Neurosystemen’, ‘Neurophysiology’ and other courses

    - Senior Teaching Qualification (SKO) & University Teaching Qualification (BKO)

  • Publications






    • Sta, M., Cappaert, N. L. M., Ramekers, D., Baas, F., & Wadman, W. J. (2014). The functional and morphological characteristics of sciatic nerve degeneration and regeneration after crush injury in rats. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 222, 189-198. [details]
    • Sta, M., Cappaert, N. L. M., Ramekers, D., Ramaglia, V., Wadman, W. J., & Baas, F. (2014). C6 deficiency does not alter intrinsic regeneration speed after peripheral nerve crush injury. Neuroscience Research, 87, 26-32. [details]


    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Ramekers, D., Martens, H. C. F., & Wadman, W. J. (2013). Efficacy of a new charge-balanced biphasic electrical stimulus in the isolated sciatic nerve and the hippocampal slice. International Journal of Neural Systems, 23(1), 1250031. [details]
    • Radonjic, M., Cappaert, N. L. M., Vries, E. F. J., Esch, C. E. F., Kuper, F. C., van Waarde, A., ... de Groot, D. M. G. (2013). Delay and impairment in brain development and function in rat offspring after maternal exposure to methylmercury. Toxicological Sciences, 133(1), 112-124. [details]


    • Sugar, J., Witter, M. P., van Strien, N. M., & Cappaert, N. L. M. (2011). The retrosplenial cortex: intrinsic connectivity and connections with the (para)hippocampal region in the rat. An interactive connectome. Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, 5(7), 1-13. [details]


    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Lopes da Silva, F. H., & Wadman, W. J. (2009). Spatio-temporal dynamics of theta oscillations in hippocampal-entorhinal slices. Hippocampus, 19(11), 1065-1077. [details]
    • van Strien, N. M., Cappaert, N. L. M., & Witter, M. P. (2009). The anatomy of memory: An interactive overview of the parahippocampal-hippocampal network. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(4), 272-282. [details]


    • Cappaert, N., Wadman, W. J., & Witter, M. P. (2007). Spatiotemporal analyses of interactions between entorhinal and CA1 projections to the subiculum in rat brain slices. Hippocampus, 17, 909-921. [details]


    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Klis, S. F., Wijbenga, J., & Smoorenburg, G. F. (2005). Acceleration of cisplatin ototoxicity by perilymphatic application of 4-methylthiobenzoic acid. Hearing Research, 24, 80-87.


    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Klis, S. F., Muijser, H., Kulig, B. M., Ravensberg, L. C., & Smoorenburg, G. F. (2002). Differential susceptibility of rats and guinea pigs to the ototoxic effects of ethyl benzene. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 24, 503-510.


    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Klis, S. F., Muijser, H., Kulig, B. M., & Smoorenburg, G. F. (2001). Simultaneous exposure to ethyl benzene and noise: synergistic effects on outer hair cells. Hearing Research, 162, 67-79.
    • Schoonhovenven, R., Cappaert, N. L. M., & Van Zanten, GA. (2001). Pure tone versus auditory evoked potential thresholds in cochlear hearing loss: Manifestations of degrading temporal integration. In A. J. M. Houtsma, A. Kohlrausch, V. F. Prijs, & R. Schoonhoven (Eds.), Physiological and Psychophysical Bases of Auditory Function, Proceedings of the 12th International Symposium on Hearing (pp. 327-335). Maastricht: Shaker Publishing BV.
    • Smoorenburg, G. F., Cappaert, N. L. M., & Klis, S. F. (2001). The effects of simultaneous exposure to ethyl benzene and noise on hearing. In D. Henderson, D. Prasher, R. Kopke, R. Salvi, & R. Hamerik (Eds.), Noise Induced Hearing loss: Basic Mechanisms, Prevention and Control. (pp. 319-327). London: Noise Research Network Publications.


    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Klis, S. F., Baretta, A., Muijser, H., & Smoorenburg, G. F. (2000). Ethyl benzene-induced ototoxicity in rats: a dose-dependent mid-frequency hearing loss. Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 1(4), 292-299.
    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Klis, S. F., Muijser, H., Kulig, B. M., & Smoorenburg, G. F. (2000). Noise-induced hearing loss in rats. Noise & Health, 3(9), 23-32.


    • Cappaert, N. L. M., Klis, S. F., Muijser, H., de Groot, J. C., Kulig, B. M., & Smoorenburg, G. F. (1999). The ototoxic effects of ethyl benzene in rats. Hear Res. Hearing Research, 137, 91-102.



    • Cappaert, N. L. M. (2000). The damaging effect of noise and ethyl benzene on hearing.
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    • No ancillary activities