Research Area C – Cellular Level

The sensory and neuronal basis of integrative brain functions on a cellular level

Cone photoreceptors expressing fluorescent biosensor (cyan) in a transgenic mouse line (red: opsin antibody labeling), © Timm Schubert (AGs Wissinger and Euler, CIN / Institute for Ophthalmic Research)

Coordinators: Prof. Thomas Euler, Prof. Olga Garaschuk, Prof. Mathias Jucker

The traditional pillars of Tübingen neuroscience have been systemic and behavioural research. More recently, research into the molecular and cellular basis of neuronal signal processing and neurodegenerative diseases have been established as additional foci. Over the last few years, this field has developed into a flourishing complement to the traditional pillars. In addition to substantial investment into research on neurodegenerative disease, research on the cellular basis of sensory functions has been strengthened by, among other things, establishing cutting-edge techniques such as multi-photon microscopy and optogenetics. CIN research groups have already created a network of collaborations that effectively connects neurobiological and clinically related interests and approaches, and is closely interlinked with work at the behavioural/systems level. This very positive development in cellular neuroscience at Tübingen has resulted in a necessary split between the network-oriented Area B and the cellular/molecular-oriented Area C, described here.

We have identified three main goals: first, to develop a platform that bundles together the interest, shared by many CIN groups, in the dynamics of inhibitory mechanisms and their cellular/molecular basis. This is driven by the conviction that inhibitory mechanisms accommodated in interneurons and in long-range projections, are key computational elements that shape information processing in the brain, although they tend to be neglected. Moreover, the adjustment of inhibition is most likely a major mechanism contributing to the recovery of function after brain lesions, which is still insufficiently understood.
Second, to promote the understanding of key principles of neuronal processing and network architecture that have consequences for behaviour, by manipulation at the molecular level.
Third, to improve our understanding of the anatomical basis of functions by implementing advanced anatomical methods for the detailed study of neurons, microcircuits and long-range connections.