In its Jahrbuch (annual report) the Max Planck Society renders account on the scientific research performed at its institutes. The Jahrbuch includes scientific research reports from all Max Planck facilities, the scientific presentations held at the General Meeting, as well a CD-ROM containing a bibliographic database of all the scientific publications of the Max Planck Society of the previous year.

Below you will find the contributions of the Max Planck Institut of Neurobiology to the Annual Report [abstracts in English, texts in German].


Motion vision in the fly brain

Department Systems and Computational Neurobiology
Alexander Borst

How does the mind perceive the world? This is not a trivial question: for many animal species, "seeing" is one of the most important senses. In order to understand such complex processes like the perception of movement, neurobiologists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology study a somewhat simpler yet highly efficient system – the fly brain. The researchers use the latest technologies and thus unravel piece by piece the functions of the network on the level of individual nerve cells.

Synaptic glue

Max Planck Research Group Synaptic Receptor Trafficking
Valentin Stein

Synapses are the contact points between nerve cells. The word synapse originates from the Greek words syn (together) and haptein (touch). It is easy to imagine that special molecules exist not only to keep these contacts in place but also for the development of synapses. In the recent years various proteins, also called adhesion molecules, have been identified. SynCAM1, one of these proteins, has now been studied in more detail.


Multiple Sclerosis: a very complex disease

Department Neuroimmunology
Hartmut Wekerle

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a very complex disease whose causes and underlying mechanisms are still partially unresolved. Quite a number of new insights contributed by the neuroimmunologists of the MPI of Neurobiology help in piecing together this puzzle. The thus generated detailed picture of the MS is essential for the later development of new approaches to the treatment of the disease.

Memory formation in the fly brain

Max Planck Research Group Behavioral Genetics
Knapek, Stephan; Busch, Sebastian; Aso, Yoshinori; Friedrich, Anja; Siwanowicz, Igor; Yarali, Ayse; Galili, Dana; Tanimoto, Hiromu

Flies are able to learn to approach or to avoid a certain odor. Hiromu Tanimoto and his Max Planck Research Group at the MPI of Neurobiology in Martinsried aim to understand how the association of odor and behavior is formed in the brain of fruit flies and how these distinct forms of memory are translated into behavior. To this end, the scientists take advantage of genetics, behavior, anatomy, and theoretical approaches.


On the tracks of learning

Department Cellular and Systems Neurobiology
Tobias Bonhoeffer

Scientists are beginning to get the gist of what happens in the brain when it learns or forgets something. A whole series of discoveries now shows how and where nerve cells create contacts between each other, or what happens, when the flow of information is disrupted or needs to be reestablished after a period of time. The results provide an intimate view into the fundamental functions of the brain.

Growth promotion for nerve cells

Max Planck Research Group Axonal Growth and Regeneration
Frank Bradke, Ali Ertürk, Farida Hellal, Joana Enes, Harald Witte, Dorothee Neukirchen, Susana Gomis-Rüth, Corette Wierenga

An injury of nerve cells in the brain or spinal cord has generally serious consequences, since these cells can not regrow – in contrast to nerve cells e.g. in the arms or legs. For the first time scientists were now able to investigate the processes within an injured nerve cell. The investigations showed that the stabilization of small protein tubes within the cells is crucial for the cells' growth. The results could also lead to novel therapies.


Aid system for aging nerve cells

Department Molecular Neurobiology
Rüdiger Klein

Parkinson disease is characterized by a massive loss of nerve cells in a specific brain region. It was shown that the Ret receptor, which is activated by the neurotrophic factor GDNF, is essential for the survival and regeneration of nerve cells in this brain region. These results advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms in the aging brain and may facilitate the development of new therapies for Parkinson disease.

The Achilles heel of nerve cells

Department Neuroimmunology
Mathey, Emily; Derfuss, Tobias; Storch, Maria; Williams, Kieran; Hales, Kimberly; Woolley, David; Al-Hayani, Abdulmonem; Davies, Stephen; Rasband, Matthew; Olsson, Tomas; Moldenhauer, Anja; Velhin, Sviataslau; Hohlfeld, Reinhard; Meinl, Edgar; Linington, Christopher

The function of the immune system is to defend against intruders such as viruses and bacteria. In case of Multiple Sclerosis, however, the immune system attacks the central nervous system. A newly found mechanism of this disease now reveals how the immune system’s antibodies can attack nerve cells directly. The results could lead to new therapy approaches for some patients.


Neurons in direct contact - rotation selectivity achieved by direct computation of optic flow-fields between both hemispheres in the visual ganglion of blowflies.

Department Systems and Computational Neurobiology
Karl Farrow, Jürgen Haag, Alexander Borst

Neurons in many species have large receptive fields that are selective for specific optic flow-fields. In a recent study the neural mechanisms underlying flow-field selectivity in the so-called H2-cell of the blowfly was investigated. For the first time it was shown that the direct contact between two cells from opposite brain hemispheres is sufficient to explain flow-field selectivity of a neuron utilized by the blowfly for appropriate steering maneuvers.


Morphological plasticity in neurons and competition for plasticity proteins

Department Cellular and Systems Neurobiology
U. Valentin Nägerl, Tobias Bonhoeffer

A hallmark of the brain is its ability to change functional connectivity in response to experience, providing - as it is presumed - the neurobiological basis for memory storage. Two recent studies from the Department of Cellular and Systems Neurobiology report on novel facets of the plasticity of synaptic connections. It was shown that the functional downregulation of synaptic connections, called long-term depression, is associated with the disappearance of tiny structural protrusions, named dendritic spines, which normally allow neurons to form excitatory synapses by attaching their presynaptic partners. By physically disrupting a synaptic connection, the loss of spines may thus could be one way of how a synaptic coupling between neurons becomes weakened in a long-lasting manner. In a second study it was demonstrated that synapses which were potentiated or strengthened at about the same time started to compete for the same set of proteins needed to maintain the elevated state of synaptic coupling: if the available pool of proteins is limited, additional strengthening of a subset of synapses leads to a weakening of previously potentiated synapses.


Persistency of immune cells in the central nervous system in multiple sclerosis: brain resident cells (astrocytes) produce BAFF, a survival factor for B-lymphocytes

Department Neuroimmunology
Markus Krumbholz, Hartmut Wekerle, Reinhard Hohlfeld, Edgar Meinl

Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) mediated by autoimmune T- and B-lymphocytes. The role of B cells is largely unknown. A recent study showed that brain resident cells (astrocytes) produce a factor, named BAFF, which promotes the survival of B-lymphocytes. While BAFF is present in the healthy brain, its production is highly elevated in inflammatory brain lesions of MS patients. Thereby the CNS seems to provide a “B cell friendly” environment which promotes the survival of inflammatory cells inside of the CNS of MS patients.


Endocytosis - an important mechanism for path finding of cells during development of the nervous system

Department Molecular Neurobiology
Rüdiger Klein

During development of the nervous system each neuron is generating a long process called axon and several short, widely ramified structures called dendrites. Each of those axons is developing a growth cone from which foot- and tentacle-like extensions are protruding (lamellipodia and filopodia). The neurons are thus able to channel through tissue or contact other nerve cells to build a complete nervous system. Other cells that are contacted by a migrating neuron are leading the way, such that they first bind to the respective neuron and reject it shortly after. Thereupon the axon's growth cone collapses and lamellipodia and filopodia are retracting. After a phase of regeneration the axon is seeking a new path.

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