Dr. Michael Okun

Research Fellow

MichaelOkun200pxw.png Email: m.okun@le.ac.uk
Tel: +44(0)116 373 6279

Room 333a
Maurice Shock Building
Department of Neuroscience, Psychology & Behaviour
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH

Research Interests


Cortex plays a key role in sensorimotor and higher cognitive processes. Even in species like the mouse, where cortical involvement is less profound than in primates, the cortex still comprises 30% of the total volume of the brain. Understanding information processing in the cortex is therefore of central importance for the entire neuroscience endeavour. One approach towards this goal is to link cortical spiking activity to external variables of interest, such as sensory inputs, motor outputs or decision making behaviours (a classic example of an outcome of this approach is the extensive knowledge we now have about processing of visual inputs). However, most cortical activity is internally generated and persists even in the absence of any external influences. Furthermore, because the entire cortical sheet is comprised of different modifications of the same canonical microcircuit (the cortical column), the internally generated dynamics in different parts of the cortex is similar.

In light of these basic facts of cortical structure and function, rather than tackling the question of cortical information processing head on, by studying how a particular cortical area encodes external information specific to its function, I am interested in understanding the internal organisation of activity in cortical microcircuits. That is, I would like to understand how different groups of neurons (e.g. excitatory and inhibitory cells, or subtypes thereof), or even individual neurons, coordinate their spiking on different temporal and spatial scales. To address particular aspects of this question (its scope is more than sufficient to keep lots and lots of systems neuroscientists busy for any foreseeable future) I rely on electrophysiological in vivo recordings and computational modelling.


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The research is presently funded by Academy of Medical Sciences / Wellcome Trust Springboard award and by a New Investigator grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).


Centre for Systems Neuroscience, University of Leicester.

Cortical Processing Laboratory, UCL.


James Jun, Nicholas Steinmetz, Joshua Siegle, Daniel Denman, Marius Bauza, Brian Barbarits, Albert Lee, etc (35 authors in total)
Nature 551, 232-236 (2017).
Michael Okun
Journal of Computational Neuroscience 42(1), 31-35 (2017).
Inhibitory control of correlated intrinsic variability in cortical networks    [PDF]
Carsen StringerMarius Pachitariu, Nicholas Steinmetz, Michael OkunPeter BarthoKenneth HarrisManeesh Sahani and Nicholas Lesica,
eLife 5: e19695 (2016).
Long term recordings with immobile silicon probes in the mouse cortex    [PDF]
Michael Okun, Armin Lak, Matteo Carandini and Kenneth Harris,
PLoS ONE 11(3): e0151180 (2016). 
The nature of shared cortical variability    [PDF]
I-Chun Lin, Michael Okun, Matteo Carandini and Kenneth Harris,
Neuron 87(3), 644-656 (2015).

Diverse coupling of neurons to populations in sensory cortex    
Michael Okun, Nicholas Steinmetz, Lee Cossell, Florencia Iacaruso, Ho Ko, Peter Bartho, Tirin Moore, Sonja Hofer, Thomas Mrsic-Flogel, Matteo Carandini and Kenneth Harris,
Nature 521, 511-515 (2015).

Local field potential, relationship to membrane synaptic potentials
Aryeh Taub, Ilan Lampl and Michael Okun
Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience, Springer 2015.

Balance of excitation and inhibition    
Michael Okun and Ilan Lampl,
Scholarpedia 4(8), 7467 (2009).        Updated December 2014.

Population rate dynamics and multineuron firing patterns in sensory cortex    
[PDF] [Code]
Michael Okun, Pierre Yger, Stephan Marguet, Florian Gerard-Mercier, Andrea Benucci, Steffen Katzner, Laura Busse, Matteo Carandini and Kenneth Harris,
Journal of Neuroscience 32(48), 17108-17119 (2012). 
Trial-to-trial correlation between thalamic sensory response and global EEG activity    [PDF]
Yonatan Katz, Michael Okun and Ilan Lampl,
European Journal of Neuroscience 35(6), 826-837 (2012).
The subthreshold relation between cortical local field potential and neuronal firing unveiled by intracellular recordings in awake rats    [PDF]
Michael Okun, Amir Naim and Ilan Lampl,
Journal of Neuroscience 30(12), 4440-4448 (2010).

The V1 population gains normalization    [PDF]
Elad Ganmor, Michael Okun and Ilan Lampl,
An (invited) preview, Neuron 64(6), 778-780 (2009).

On the dynamics of synaptic inputs during ongoing activity in the cortex    [PDF]
Michael Okun, Alik Mokeichev, Yonatan Katz and Ilan Lampl,
An (invited) chapter in Coherent Behavior in Neuronal Networks (Springer Series in Computational Neuroscience, vol. 3), 
Eds. Josic, K.; Rubin, J.; Matias, M.; Romo, R, pp. 1-16, Springer 2009.

Instantaneous correlation of excitation and inhibition during ongoing and sensory-evoked activities    [PDF]
Michael Okun and Ilan Lampl,
Nature Neuroscience 11(5), 535-537 (2008).

Stochastic emergence of repeating cortical motifs in spontaneous membrane potential fluctuations in vivo   [PDF]
Alik Mokeichev, Michael Okun, Omri Barak, Yonatan Katz, Ohad Ben-Shahar and Ilan Lampl,
Neuron 53(3), 413-425 (2007).



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