Research group Sonja Hofer
Traces of learning and experience in the brain
In everyday life the brain must constantly interpret sensory information and adapt to new challenges. Our research seeks to understand how brain circuits process information and how they change during learning.
The brain has a remarkable capacity to rapidly adapt to changes in the environment and to learn and store new memories throughout life. Therefore neuronal circuits cannot be hardwired but require the ability to change, and to integrate and store new information.
Mechanisms of circuit plasticity and learning
One major way how neuronal circuits can change is by modifying the connections between neurons, their synapses. These modifications are thought to underlie learning and memory formation, yet our understanding of the mechanisms of these essential processes in the intact brain is still very limited. The lab is interested in how changes in circuit connectivity underlie plasticity and learning und how such changes alter the function of individual cells and the flow of information through neuronal networks.
Imaging Function and Structure of the visual system
Our research is focused on the pathways of the mouse visual system. To understand how these circuits enable visual perception, how they develop and how they change during learning, we are applying advanced in vivo imaging techniques, and electrophysiological and genetic methods to visualize individual neurons, their activity and their synapses in the intact brain and follow changes over time while animals learn and make new experiences.
How experience shapes neuronal circuits
While brain circuits are initially set up mainly by molecular cues, in later stages of development neuronal activity and experience are crucial to instruct the maturation and refinement of neuronal circuits. We are studying the role of sensory experience and how it interacts with molecular cues during the development and plasticity of local circuits and long-range connections.