Staff Profiles

Christof Koch, Ph.D.

Chief Scientist of the MindScope Program

Christof Koch is the Chief Scientist of the MindScope Program.

Christof received his baccalaureate from the Lycée Descartes in Rabat, Morocco, his B.S. and M.S. in physics from the University of Tübingen in Germany and his Ph.D. from the Max-Planck Institute for biological Cybernetics in 1982. Subsequently, he spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1987 until 2013, Koch was a professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, from his initial appointment as Assistant Professor, Division of Biology and Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 1986, to his final position as Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive & Behavioral Biology. See here for Christof's academic pedigree and his students. Christof joined the Allen Institute for Brain Science as Chief Scientific Officer in 2011 and became President in 2015. 

Christof’s passion are neurons – the atoms of perception, memory, behavior and consciousness – their diverse shapes, electrical behaviors, and their computational function within the mammalian brain, in particular in neocortex. The Allen Institute for Brain Science is engaged in a major effort to identify all the different types of neurons in the brains of mice and humans – the cell census effort. See the papers below.

Christof discovered that in vivo cortical neurons do not integrate over large number of small inputs given their spiking variability, how neurons can multiply, the relationship between intra- and extra-cellular potential, and how this gives rise to the local field potential and the large-scale current sinks and sources and how weak extracellular fields can entrain spiking activity via ephaptic effects. He postulated the attentional saliency map hypothesis for biological and computer vision according to which one or more topographic organized spatial maps summarize bottom-up salient information in the visual system, he co-discovered, with Itzhak Fried, an high-level, invariant and abstract single neuron representation of familiar individuals and objects in the human medial temporal lobe (the so-called “Jennifer Aniston” or concept neurons) and developed the ‘continuous flashed suppression’ masking technique.  In collaboration with Francis Crick, he initiated the modern search for the neuronal correlates of consciousness, a systematic experimental program to identify the minimal bio-physical mechanisms jointly sufficient for any one specific conscious percept. In collaboration with Giulio Tononi, he co-developed the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness.

Christof writings and interests integrate theoretical, computational and experimental neuroscience with philosophy and contemporary trends, in particular artificial intelligence. His latest book, The Feeling of Life Itself – Why Consciousness is Everywhere But Can’t be Computed, was published by MIT Press in Autumn of 2019.

His previous book, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, blends science and memoir to explore topics in discovering the roots of consciousness. Stemming in part from a long-standing collaboration with the late Nobel Laureate Francis Crick, Christof authored the book The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. Koch also authored the technical books Biophysics of Computation: Information Processing in Single Neurons and Methods in Neuronal Modeling: From Ions to Networks, and served as editor for several books on neural modeling and information processing.

Visit Christof's Wikipedia page.

Selected Publications View Publications

Distinct Transcriptomic Cell Types and Neural Circuits of the Subiculum and Prosubiculum along the Dorsal-Ventral Axis

Cell Reports
May 19, 2020

Ding SL, Yao Z, Hirokawa KE, Nguyen TN, Graybuck LT, Fong O, Bohn P, Ngo K, Smith KA, Koch C, Phillips JW, Lein ES, Harris JA, Tasic B, Zeng H

The Allen Mouse Brain Common Coordinate Framework: A 3D Reference Atlas

May 14, 2020

Wang Q, Ding SL, Li Y, Royall J, Feng D, Lesnar P, Graddis N, Naeemi M, Facer B, Ho A, Dolbeare T, Blanchard B, Dee N, Wakeman W, Hirokawa KE, Szafer A, Sunkin SM, Oh SW, Bernard A, Phillips JW, Hawrylycz M, Koch C, Zeng H, Harris JA, Ng L

Classification of electrophysiological and morphological neuron types in mouse visual cortex

Nature Neuroscience
June 17, 2019

Gouwens NW, Sorensen SA, Berg J, Lee C, Jarsky T, Ting J, Sunkin S, Feng D, Anastassiou C, Barkan E, Bickley K, Blesie N, Braun T, Brouner K, Budzillo A, Caldejon S, Casper T, Castelli D, Chong P, Crichton K, Cuhaciyan C, Daigle T, Dalley R, Dee N, Desta T, Dingman S, Doperalski A, Dotson N, Egdorf T, Fisher M, de Frates RA, Garren E, Garwood M, Gary A, Gaudreault N, Godfrey K, Gorham M, Gu H, Habel C, Hadley K, Harrington J, Harris J, Henry A, Hill D, Josephsen S, Kebede S, Kim L, Kroll M, Lee B, Lemon T, Liu X, Long B, Mann R, McGraw M, Mihalas S, Mukora A, Murphy GJ, Ng L, Ngo K, Nguyen TN, Nicovich PR, Oldre A, Park D, Parry S, Perkins J, Potekhina L, Reid D, Robertson M, Sandman D, Schroedter M, Slaughterbeck C, Soler-Llavina C, Sulc J, Szafer A, Tasic B, Taskin N, Teeter C, Thatra N, Tung H, Wakeman W, Williams G, Young R, Zhou Z, Farrell C, Peng H, Hawrylycz MJ, Lein E, Ng L, Arkhipov A, Bernard A, Phillips J, Zeng H, Koch C

High-density extracellular probes reveal dendritic backpropagation and facilitate neuron classification

Journal of Neurophysiology
March 6, 2019

Jia X, Siegle JH, Bennett C, Gale SD, Denman DJ, Koch C, Olsen SR

A large-scale, standardized physiological survey reveals higher order coding throughout the mouse visual cortex

Nature Neuroscience
December 16, 2019

de Vries S, Lecoq J, Buice MA, Groblewski PA, Ocker GK, Oliver M, Feng F, Cain N, Ledochowitsch P, Millman D, Roll K, Garrett M, Keenan T, Kuan L, Mihalas S, Olsen S, Thompson C, Wakeman W, Waters J, Williams D, Barber C, Berbesque N, Blanchard B, Bowles N, Caldejon S, Casal L, Cho A, Cross S, Dang C, Dolbeare T, Edwards M, Galbraith J, Gaudreault N, Griffin F, Hargrave P, Howard R, Huang L, Jewell S, Keller N, Knoblich U, Larkin J, Larsen R, Lau C, Lee E, Lee F, Leon A, Li L, Long F, Luviano J, Mace K, Nguyen T, Perkins J, Robertson M, Seid S, Shea-Brown E, Shi J, Sjoquist N, Slaughterbeck C, Sullivan D, Valenza R, White C, Williford A, Witten D, Zhuang J, Zeng H, Farrell C, Ng L, Bernard A, Phillips JW, R Reid C, Koch C

Sparse recurrent excitatory connectivity in the microcircuit of the adult mouse and human cortex

September 26, 2018

Seeman SC, Campagnola L, Davoudian PA, Hoggarth A, Hage TA, Bosma-Moody A, Baker CA, Lee, JH, Mihalas S, Teeter C, Ko AL, Ojemann JG, Gwinn RP, Silbergeld DL, Cobbs C, Phillips J, Lein E, Murphy G, Koch C, Zeng H, Jarsky T

BioNet: A Python interface to NEURON for modeling large-scale networks

August 2, 2018

Gratiy SL, Billeh YN, Dai K, Mitelut C, Feng D, Gouwens NW, Cain N, Koch C, Anastassiou CA, Arkhipov A

Human single neuron activity precedes emergence of conscious perception

Nature Communications
May 25, 2018

Gelbard-Sagiv H, Mudrik L, Hill M, Koch C, Fried I

The organization of intracortical connections by layer and cell class in the mouse brain

April 18, 2018

Harris JA, Mihalas S, Hirokawa KE, Whitesell JD, Knox J, Bernard A, Bohn P, Caldejon S, Casal L, Cho A, Feng D, Gaudreault N, Gerfen C, Graddis N, Groblewski PA, Henry A, Ho A, Howard R, Kuan L, Lecoq J, Luviano J, McConoughey S, Mortrud M, Naeemi M, Ng L, Oh SW, Ouellette B, Sorensen SA, Wakeman W, Wang Q, Williford A, Phillips J, Jones A, Koch C, Zeng H

Systematic generation of biophysically detailed models for diverse cortical neuron types

Nature Communications
February 19, 2018

Gouwens NW, Berg J, Feng D, Sorensen SA, Zeng H, Hawrylycz MJ, Koch C, and Arkhipov A

Generalized leaky integrate-and-fire models classify multiple neuron types

Nature Communications
February 19, 2018

Teeter C, Iyer R, Menon V, Gouwens N, Feng D, Berg J, Szafer A, Cain N, Zeng H, Hawrylycz M, Koch C, Mihalas S

Visual physiology of the Layer 4 cortical circuit in silico

PLoS Computational Biology
November 12, 2018

Arkhipov A, Gouwens NW, Billeh YN, Gratiy S, Iyer R, Wei Z, Xu Z, Berg J, Buice M, Cain N, da Costa N, de Vries S, Denman D, Durand S, Feng D, Jarsky T, Lecoq J, Lee B, Li L, Mihalas S, Ocker GK, Olsen SR, Reid RC, Soler-LLavina G, Sorensen SA, Wang Q, Waters J, Scanziani M, Koch C

h-Channels Contribute to Divergent Intrinsic Membrane Properties of Supragranular Pyramidal Neurons in Human versus Mouse Cerebral Cortex

November 1, 2018

Kalmbach BE, Buchin A, Long B, Close J, Nandi A, Miller JA, Bakken TE, Hodge RD, Chong P, de Frates R, Dai K, Maltzer Z, Nicovich PR, Keene CD, Silbergeld DL, Gwinn RP, Cobbs C, Ko AL, Ojemann JG, Koch C, Anastassiou CA, Lein ES, Ting JT

Shared and distinct transcriptomic cell types across neocortical areas

October 31, 2018

Tasic B, Yao Z, Graybuck LT, Smith KA, Nguyen TN, Bertagnolli D, Goldy J, Garren E, Economo MN, Viswanathan S, Penn O, Bakken T, Menon V, Miller J, Fong O, Hirokawa KE, Lathia K, Rimorin C, Tieu M, Larsen R, Casper T, Barkan E, Kroll M, Parry S, Shapovalova NV, Hirschstein D, Pendergraft J, Sullivan HA, Kim TK, Szafer A, Dee N, Groblewski P, Wickersham I, Cetin A, Harris JA, Levi BP, Sunkin SM, Madisen L, Daigle TL, Looger L, Bernard A, Phillips J, Lein E, Hawrylycz M, Svoboda K, Jones AR, Koch C, Zeng H

From Maxwell's equations to the theory of current-source density analysis

European Journal of Neuroscience
February 8, 2017

Gratiy SL, Halnes G, Denman D, Hawrylycz MJ, Koch C, Einevoll GT, Anastassiou CA

Neural correlates of consciousness: progress and problems

Nature Reviews Neuroscience
April 20, 2016

Koch C, Massimini M, Boly M, Tononi G

Low-level awareness accompanies "unconscious" high-level processing during continuous flash suppression

Journal of Vision
January 1, 2016

Gelbard-Sagiv H, Faivre N, Mudrik L, Koch C

Automated High-Throughput Characterization of Single Neurons by Means of Simplified Spiking Models

PLoS Computational Biology
June 17, 2015

Pozzorini C, Skander M, Hagens O, Naud R, Koch C, Gerstner W

Consciousness: here, there and everywhere?

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
May 19, 2015

Tononi G, Koch C

Emergence of slow-switching assemblies in structured neuronal networks

February 23, 2015

Schaub MT, Billeh YN, Anastassiou CA, Koch C, Barahona M

A biophysically detailed model of neocortical local field potentials predicts the critical role of active membrane currents

July 24, 2013

Reimann MW, Anastassiou CA, Perin R, Hill SL, Markram H, Koch C