Below you will find the contributions of the Max Planck Institut of Neurobiology to the Annual Report [abstracts in English, texts in German].
Department Systems and Computational Neurobiology
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.
Max Planck Research Group Synaptic Receptor Trafficking
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 (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.
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.
Department Cellular and Systems Neurobiology
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.
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.
Department Molecular Neurobiology
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.
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.
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.