Dr Gerrit Hilgen, Twitter: @Gerrit__H

Academic Career

From 2013      Postdoctoral Research Associate, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, UK

2012-2013      Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Computational Neuroscience,University of Oldenburg, Germany

Jun. 2012       Doctor rerum naturalium (equiv. to PhD), University of Oldenburg, Germany.

Jul. 2007         Diploma (equiv. to MSc) in Cell Biology, Biochemistry and Physiology, University of Oldenburg, Germany

Scientific Visibility and Esteem Indicators

Oct. 2018       21 Presentations at international conferences

2016-2019      12 peer-reviewed articles published during the last three years, joint first author on four and second author on another five of these papers

2014-date      R&D support for BiocamX manufactured by 3Brain (Switzerland)

Oct. 2019       Invited Speaker, ION Research day, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Jun. 2019       Invited Speaker, Spike Sorting and Reproducibility Workshop, Edinburgh, UK

Jun. 2019       Invited Speaker, The Rank Prize Funds Symposium, Grasmere, UK

Oct. 2018       Cover Page Stem Cells, first author article (doi: 10.1002/stem.2883)

Aug. 2018      Best Image Prize (with V. Kartesh and Prof E. Sernagor), Anatomical Society, UK

Jul. 2018         Workshop on spike sorting, FASEB Retinal Neurobiology Meeting, Olean, NY

Jun. 2018       Best Scientific Poster, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, UK

Oct. 2017       Flash Presentation, European Retina Meeting, Paris, France

Jul. 2016         Invited Speaker, RenVision workshop, IIT Genova, Italy

Mar. 2014      Cover Page J Cell Science first author article (doi: 10.1242/jcs.133066)

Jul. 2014         Short Presentation, FASEB Retinal Neurobiology Meeting, Saxton River, VT

2008-2011      Invited Speaker, University of Goettingen (D), 2 x European Connexin Meeting, NIN Amsterdam (NL);  University of Cambridge (UK);


     * joint first authors; † corresponding author; IF = Impact Factor 2018, citations and h-index from Google Scholar Oct. 2019, personal h-index = 10

First and Corresponding Author:

  1. Hallam D*, Hilgen G*, Dorgau B , Yu M, Zhu L, Bojic S, Hewitt P, Schmitt M, Uteng M, Kustermann S, Steel D, Nicholds M, Thomas R, Treumann A, Porter A,  Sernagor E, Armstrong L & Lako M; Human induced pluripotent stem cells generate light responsive retinal organoids with variable and nutrient dependent efficiency. Stem Cells 2018 Jul 13; doi: 10.1002/stem.2883; IF 5.6, citations 20
  2. Hilgen G*, Sorbaro M*, Pirmoradian S, Muthmann JO, Kepiro IE, Ullo S, Ramirez CJ, Encinas AP, Maccione A, Berdondini L, Murinon V, Sona D, Cella Zanacchi F, Sernagor E  & Hennig MH; Unsupervised spike sorting for large scale, high density multielectrode arrays.  Cell Reports 2017 Mar 7; 18(10):2521-2532. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.02.038; IF 7.8, citations 35
  3. Hilgen G*†, Pirmoradian S*, Pamplona D, Kornprobst P, Cessac B, Hennig MH & Sernagor E; Pan-retinal characterisation of Light Responses from Ganglion Cells in the Developing Mouse Retina. Scientific Reports 2017 Feb 10; 7:42330. doi: 10.1038/srep42330; IF 4.0, citations 19
  4. Barrett JM*, Hilgen G*, Sernagor E; Dampening Spontaneous Activity Improves the Spatial Acuity and Contrast Sensitivity of Optogenetic Retinal Prosthetic Responses.  Scientific Reports 2016 Sep 21; 6:33565. doi: 10.1038/srep33565; IF 4.0, citations 10
  5. Meyer A*, Hilgen G*, Dorgau B, Sammler EM, Weiler R, Monyer H, Dedek K, Hormuzdi SG; AII amacrine cells discriminate between heterocellular and homocellular locations when assembling connexin 36-containing gap junctions.  Journal of Cell Science 2014 Mar 15; 127(Pt 6):1190-202. doi: 10.1242/jcs.133066; IF 4.5, citations 18
  6. Hilgen G, Huebner AK, Tanimoto N, Sothilingam V, Seide C, Garrido MG, Schmidt KF, Seeliger MW, Loewel S, Weiler R, Huebner CA & Dedek K; Lack of the sodium-driven chloride bicarbonate exchanger NCBE impairs visual function in the mouse retina. PLoS One 2012; 7(10):e46155. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046155; IF 2.8, citations 23
  7. Hilgen G, von Maltzahn J, Willecke K, Weiler R & Dedek K; Subcellular distribution of connexin45 in OFF bipolar cells of the mouse retina. J Comp Neurol. 2011 Feb 15; 519(3):433-50. doi: 10.1002/cne.22526; IF 3.2, citations 30

Second Author:

  1. Chichagova V, Hilgen G, Ghareeb A, Carter M, Sernagor E, Nicholds M,  Armstrong L,  Lako M; Human iPSC-derived retinal organoids show preferential bias towards retinal cell types in response to activation of BMP4 or IGF1 signalling pathways. Stem Cells Translational Medicine (in print), IF 5.9
  2. Dorgau D,* Felemban M*, Hilgen G, Kiening M, Hallam D, Hunt NC, Ding Y, Krasnogor N, Al-Aama J, Sernagor E and Lako M Decellularised extracellular matrix from neural retina and retinal pigment epithelium enhance the expression of synaptic markers and light responsiveness of human pluripotent stem cell derived retinal organoids. Biomaterials (2019), doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2019.01.028, IF 10.2
  3. Jouty J, Hilgen G, Sernagor E, Hennig MH Non-parametric physiological classification of retinal ganglion cells. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 2018 12:481 doi: 10.3389 /fncel.2018.00481 IF 4.6, citations 2
  4. Fathiazar E, Hilgen G, Kretzberg J; Higher network activity induced by tactile compared to electrical stimulation of leech mechanoreceptors. Frontiers in Physiology 2018 Mar 7; 9:173. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00173; IF 4.1
  5. Pirschel F, Hilgen G, Kretzberg J; Effects of Touch Location and Intensity on Interneurons of the Leech Local Bend Network. Scientific Reports 2018 Feb 14; 8(1):3046. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-21272-6; IF 4.0
  6. Portelli G*, BarrettJM*, Hilgen G, Masquelier T, Maccione A, Di Marco S, Berdondini L, Kornprobst P & Sernagor E; Rank order coding: a retinal information decoding strategy revealed by large-scale multielectrode array retinal recordings. eNeuro. 2016 Jun 3; 3(3). doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0134-15.2016; IF na
  7. Pamplona D, Hilgen G, Cessac B, Sernagor E, Kornprobst P A super-resolution approach for receptive fields estimation of neuronal ensembles. DOI:10.1186/1471-2202-16-S1-P130; BMC Neuroscience 16 (1), P130, 2015 IF 2.6
  8. Fathiazar E, Hilgen G, Kretzberg J Removing bleaching artefacts from voltage sensitive dye recordings with ICA. DOI:10.1186/1471-2202-14-S1-P222;BMC Neuroscience. 14 (1), P222, 2013 IF: 2.6


  1. Mellough CB, Collin J, Queen R, Hilgen G, Dorgau B, Felemban M, White K, Sernagor E, Lako M;Systematic comparison of retinal organoiddifferentiation from human pluripotent stem cells reveals stage specific, cell line and methodological differences. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2019 Mar 27. doi: 10.1002/sctm.18-0267 IF 4.9
  • Kretzberg J, Fathiazar E, Pirschel F, Hilgen G; Encoding of Tactile Stimuli by Mechanoreceptors and Interneurons of the Medicinal Leech, Frontiers in Physiology 2016 Oct 28; 7:506 doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00506; IF 4.0
  • Janssen-Bienhold U, Trümpler J, Hilgen G, Schultz K, Perez de Sevilla Mueller L, Sonntag S, Dedek K, Dirks P, Willecke K & Weiler R; Connexin57 is expressed in dendro-dendritic and axo-axonal gap junctions of mouse horizontal cells and its distribution are modulated by light. J Comp Neurol. 2009 Apr 1; 513(4):363-74. doi: 10.1002/cne.21965; IF 3.3
  • Baglietto S, Kepiro IE, Hilgen G, Sernagor E, Murino V, Sona D Segmentation of Retinal Ganglion Cells From Fluorescent Microscopy Imaging. DOI:10.5220/0006110300170023;BIOIMAGING, 17-23, 2017 IF: 1.2

in Work:

  1. Hilgen G; Challenges for automatic spike sorting: from a biological point of view
  2. Hilgen G, Kartsaki E, Cessac B, Sernagor E; A novel approach to the functional classification of retinal ganglion cells;

Grants & Scholarships

2018               Travel Grant (£700), Physiological Society, UK

2013               Travel Grant (€1000), DAAD, Germany

2008-2011      PhD Scholarship, University of Oldenburg, Germany

Public Engagement and Academic Services

From 2019      Engagement with theNorthern Alliance Usher and RP Charity, UK

From 2019      Postdoctoral Committee Member, Newcastle University, UK

From 2019      Organisation Committee, 2nd PostDoc Symposium, Newcastle University, UK

From 2019      Full Member, Anatomical Society, UK

From 2018      NU Parents Network Member, Newcastle University, UK

Jan. 2018        Holmes Lecture for 10- to 14-year-olds, Newcastle University, UK

From 2016      Full Member, Physiological Society, UK

From 2015      Reviewer for Brain Research Bulletin, PLoS One, Human Frontiers, Bioengineering          

Teaching & Mentorship

I acquired the certificate for “Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education UK” and co-supervised so far nine undergraduates (not listed), four master and two PhD students (listed below) at Newcastle University and the University of Oldenburg.  I enjoy working with students, and I am dedicated to provide them with the best supervision and an outstanding experience.

Doctoral co-supervison:

2017               Evgenia (Jenny) Kartsaki, “How specific classes of retinal cells contribute to vision: A Computational Model”

Postgraduate co-supervision:

2019               Chris Williams, ”A novel approach for retinal ganglion cell classification”

2018               Viktoriaa Kartesh, “Functional and anatomical characterisation of retinal ganglion cell subclasses using pharmacogenetics”

2016               Rusdah (Karina) Binti Muhammad Amin, “The role of GABAergic inhibition in sculpting receptive fields in retinal ganglion cells”

2015               Samantha Softley, “The effect of retinal GABA Depletion by Allylglycine on mouse retinal ganglion cell responses to light”

Classroom Teaching:

From 2018      Instructor, Module Physiology for Speech and Language (SPE 1050/8158)

From 2018      Teaching Assistant, Neuroanatomy (MBB8020)

From 2018      Teaching Assistant, Surgical Society Neuroanatomy

2016-2017      Instructor, Institute of Neuroscience Summer School

2016               ILTHE certificate

Oct. 2015       Teaching Assistant, Module Cell Biology (CMB1004)

2007-2012      Teaching Assistant, Module Neurobiology (practical)

Scientific Impact

My general scientific interest is sensory signal processing and neuroanatomy with a focus on the mature and neonatal retina and in retinal degeneration and repair. I have become expert in a wide range of skills, including neuroanatomy, electrophysiology, cell biology, imaging and scientific computing, to investigate the functional and anatomical building blocks of the retina. My contributions to neuroscience up to now are as follows (in chronological order and referenced with publication list):

Graduate student, University of Oldenburg 2007-2012: I discovered the localisation of electrical synapses (gap junctions) which form light-dependent networks between retinal horizontal cells. I revealed new gap junction structures in bipolar cell compartments and suggested a new assembly mechanism for the most important gap junction protein in the nervous system (J Comp Neurol 2009, 2011 & J Cell Sci 2014 +cover page). I used a multidisciplinary approach to show that a lack of a specific bicarbonate transporter in the retina results in severe visual impairments (PloS ONE 2012).

PostDoc, University of Oldenburg 2012-2013:I built a voltage-sensitive dye imaging system from scratch to study functional tactile networks in the leech. The results showed for the first time that the integration of sensory input in the leech is more complex and involves more interneurons than initially described (Sci Reports 2018 & Front Cell Neuro 2018).

PostDoc, Newcastle University 2013-present: I have developed the experimental and analytical framework for light stimulation and simultaneous recording from hundreds to thousands of retinal ganglion cells. I contributed to the development of a novel approach for automated spike sorting (Cell Reports 2017) and a broadly applicable physiological classification tool for all sensory modalities (Front Cell Neuro 2018). I recorded from dystrophic retinas using optogenetic stimulation, with the goal of developing optogenetic-based visual prosthetics (Sci Reports 2016). I have shown for the first time that the functional development of ganglion cell light responses is not homogeneous across the retina, reflecting special ecological requirements at different stages of development (Sci Reports 2017). I showed that hIPSC-derived retinal organoids generate light responses that are comparable to the earliest light responses in the immature mouse retina (Stem Cells 2018 +cover page). Recently, I recorded from retinal organoids supplemented with specific decellularised matrices, demonstrating that light responses are enhanced (Biomaterials 2019).

Contribution to R&D for BiocamX manufactured by 3Brain (Switzerland). Over the last five years, I have provided support to the BiocamX developers by contributing datasets from retinal recordings to showcase on their website ( I also regularly provide experimental tutorials to potential BiocamX clients or to new owners.

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