Tom Franken, MD, PhD

Tom Franken, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience

Franken Lab


How do you make sense of what you see? The patterns of light that the eyes receive are ambiguous. Consider the wavelength of reflected light: this could either indicate the color of the reflecting surface, or that of the incident light. The brain thus needs to actively reconstruct a representation of the external world.

This is important beyond vision. Consider the myriad possible soundscapes that you may encounter. The brain must identify and locate different sound sources from the vibrations of the ear drums – a daunting task!

The Franken laboratory studies the brain circuits that perform these computations, using behavioral, electrophysiological, optical and viral targeting approaches. This research is important to better understand conditions in which these processes break down, such as schizophrenia or agnosia.

Selected publications

  • Franken TP, Reynolds JH. Columnar processing of border ownership in primate visual cortex. eLife. 2021; 10:e72573. doi: 10.7554/eLife.72573.

    Featured on the NIH website:
  • Franken TP, Bondy BJ, Haimes DB, Goldwyn JH, Golding NL, Smith PH, Joris PX. Glycinergic axonal inhibition subserves acute spatial sensitivity to sudden increases in sound intensity eLife. 2021; 10:e62183. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62183.
  • Vormstein-Schneider D, Lin JD, Pelkey KA, Chittajallu R, Guo B, Arias-Garcia MA, Allaway K, Sakopoulos S, Schneider G, Stevenson O, Vergara J, Sharma J, Zhang Q, Franken TP, Smith J, Ibrahim LA, M Astro KJ, Sabri E, Huang S, Favuzzi E, Burbridge T, Xu Q, Guo L, Vogel I, Sanchez V, Saldi GA, Gorissen BL, Yuan X, Zaghloul KA, Devinsky O, Sabatini BL, Batista-Brito R, Reynolds J, Feng G, Fu Z, McBain CJ, Fishell G, Dimidschstein J. Viral manipulation of functionally distinct interneurons in mice, non-human primates and humans. Nature Neuroscience. 2020; 23(12):1629-1636. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0692-9.
  • Franken TP, Joris PX, Smith PH. Principal cells of the brainstem’s interaural sound level detector are temporal differentiators rather than integrators . eLife. 2018; 7:e33854. doi: 10.7554/eLife.33854.
  • Franken TP, Roberts MT, Wei L, Golding NL, Joris PX. In vivo coincidence detection in mammalian sound localization generates phase delays. Nature Neuroscience. 2015; 18(3):444-452. doi: 10.1038/nn.3948.

See a complete list of publications on PubMed.


2022: Postdoctoral fellow funded by K99 Pathway To Independence Award, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla)

2016: Clinical neurologist, University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven (Belgium)

2015: PhD, KU Leuven, Leuven (Belgium)

2009: MD, KU Leuven, Leuven (Belgium)

2005: Bachelor in Medicine, KU Leuven, Leuven (Belgium)

Selected honors

2020-2022, K99 Pathway To Independence Award (National Eye Institute at NIH)

2018-2020, NARSAD Young Investigator Grant (Brain & Behavior Research Foundation)

2017-2018, Innovative Research Grant (Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind; co-PI with John Reynolds)

2017-2020, Research Fellowship from the George E. Hewitt Foundation for Medical Research

2017, Marie-Skłodowska Curie Global Fellowship (European Commission; declined)

2017, Acoustical Society of America Travel Award

2016-2017, Emile Boulpaep Fellow (Belgian American Educational Foundation)

2015, Trainee Professional Development Award (Society for Neuroscience)

2010-2014, Ph.D. fellowship (Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO)