The Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology (MPIN) is situated in Martinsried, at the Southwest border of Munich. The institute is devoted to basic research and investigates the basic function, structure, development and plasticity of the central nervous system. The area of research covered by scientists at the institute can be illustrated by way of the following example: While you read this text, your brain monitors and controls the function of your organs, calculates and coordinates even the minutest movement, particularly of the eyes, and analyses the incoming information from your various senses. But how does the brain manage to process all this information at once? How are its nerve cells connected in order to enable this? How does such a complex system develop and how does it learn? What happens on the molecular level right up to the synapses, the cells and the circuits? These are only some of the questions occupying the scientists at our institute. Since their research takes them to the very boundaries of human knowledge, such questions are studied not on human beings, but by employing computer simulations, cell cultures and animal models instead. Researchers at the MPIN are currently pursuing the following questions:
- How do neuronal networks generate animal behavior? The focus lies on the connections and function of nerve cells in the brain of small vertebrates and fruit flies.
- What happens in the brain when it learns or forgets something? The focus lies on the storage of information, the development of functional maps as well as on the plasticity and function of the mammalian cortex.
- How does the brain process sensory information? The focus lies on the development and connectivity of neuronal networks which process optical, acoustic and olfactory stimuli.
- Can we develop new methods to reveal the so-far invisible? The focus lies on the development of new fluorescent markers and microscopy techniques in order to visualize neuronal activity and connectivity in the intact nervous system.
- What is the molecular basis of cell communication in the nervous system? The focus lies on unraveling the mechanisms of signal transmission between nerve cells, particularly during development of the mammalian brain.
- How and where are nerve cells connected? The focus lies on developing a precise map of all connections between the nerve cells of the mammalian brain – its connectome.
- How does prior experience influence the development and function of neuronal circuits that shape emotions?
Although applied research is not one of the primary goals of the institute, the results of a number of studies have provided the basis for clinical studies or have resulted in patents.