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M.Sc. Neuroscience

Research Groups

Prof. Henrike Scholz

The aim of our research is to understand how normal ecological relevant behavior turns into maladapted and uncontrollable behavior - a hallmark of drug and behavioral addictions. To answer these questions, we use the genetic model system Drosophila melanogaster with its broad range of genetic, molecular genetic tools and highly conserved molecules and signaling processes. We focus the behavioral analysis currently on food and ethanol consumption, decision making and learning and memory formation. We use a multi-level approach using molecular genetics, neuro-anatomical, cellular and biochemical approaches combined with behavioral analysis to uncover the neuronal bases of changes in behavior.

Prof. Peter Kloppenburg

Our research focuses on neuromodulation and how the plasticity of nervous systems is regulated on the cellular and molecular level on short time scales and during the lifespan. We are especially interested in the biophysical mechanisms determining neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity. Our studies aim to understand how the modulation of intrinsic and synaptic properties of single neurons (or groups of neurons) regulates the function of complex neuronal systems and ultimately controls the behavior of an organism. To achieve this goal, we use both invertebrate and vertebrate experimental systems and a broad and powerful range of methods, based in particular on electrophysiology, optophysiology, optogenics and chemogenetics.

Prof. Ansgar Büschges

Research in my group focusses on the neuronal and biomechanical underpinnings of motor control and behavior in animals, with a specific emphasis on all aspects of walking in insects. In our largely experimental work we mainly use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the stick insect Carausius morosus to study the role of individual component neurons, the functioning of identified neuronal circuits with regard to the performance of the neuromuscular system in the execution of locomotion on different levels of description. Experimental approaches include intra- and extracellular electrophysiology, confocal imaging, neuro- and optogenetics in both of our model organisms. In our current research projects, we are particularly interested in unravelling the neural basis for flexibility, adaptivity, and idiosyncrasies of the motor patterns produced during walking in insects. The uniqueness of project topics in my lab are a result from our close cooperation with computational neuroscientists and roboticists incorporating and testing our findings in simulations and robots, e.g. LoLa (TUM, Germany) or Drosophibot (CASE & WVU, U.S.A.).

Prof. Kei Ito

Our research group aims at understanding the global architecture of the neuronal network in the brain instead of just a few small parts of it. To this aim we focus on a relatively simple brain of a small insect, fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In spite of its small brain size, a fly can perform many sophisticated behaviors, some of which even appear similar to those of humans. We integrate molecular genetics, light microscopy, electron microscopy, connectome, and computational 3D image analyses to identify numerous brain structures formed by specific groups of neurons. We also manipulate the functions of these neurons to investigate their roles in behaviour control.

Prof. Sacha van Albada

To build network models following the construction principles of the brain, the group combines the compilation of experimental anatomical data with statistical data prediction strategies. These strategies yield new insights into the principles governing brain structure. The main focus of the research is on the cerebral cortex of mammals, for which large-scale dynamical simulations are performed using the neural network simulation tool NEST. Emphasis is placed on simulations of networks featuring the full biological density of neurons and synapses, in view of inevitable inaccuracies introduced by downscaling. The dependence of the predicted network activity on structural parameters is studied, and the predictions are compared with experimentally recorded activity. With the help of mean-field theory, these comparisons suggest adjustments to the model structure that improve the dynamical predictions. The combination of anatomical analysis, dynamics from spiking simulations, and mean-field theory yields predictions for new anatomical studies and insights into the mechanisms underlying observed brain activity.

Prof. Heike Endepols, Institute of Radiochemistry and Experimental Molecular Imaging (IREMB) and Department of Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital Cologne

The preclinical imaging group works with rat and mouse models to evaluate tracers for positron emission tomography (PET), newly developed by the Radiochemistry departments at the University Hospital Cologne (IREMB) and Forschungszentrum Jülich (INM-5). The tracers are designed for diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy of neurological, neurodegenerative and cancer-related diseases in human patients. After assessing biodistribution, excretory pathways and in vivo stability in healthy animals, the new tracer is tested in appropriate disease models. This includes transgenic mouse and rat lines (e.g. for Alzheimer's disease), pharmacological models (e.g. produced by substance injection into the brain) and tumor models (e.g. subcutaneous tumor xenograft models). The aim of the preclinical evaluation is to provide a clear recommendation if the new tracer is superior to the current diagnostic gold standard and worth the extensive effort of transfer to the clinic.

Apart from tracer evaluation, the preclinical imaging group is focused on a combination of brain PET imaging and behavioral paradigms. The tracer [18F]FDG, a radiolabeled glucose analogon, allows to visualize regional brain glucose consumption during a behavioral task. With this method, pathological and compensatory changes in neuronal networks can be studied in disease models, including direct correlation of brain activity with behavioral parameters.