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Mechanisms in the formation of neuronal networks

Knowledge of the cellular and molecular processes that control the development of nerve cell networks in the brain may help us to understand psychiatric disorders.

The brain is one of the most fascinating and complex systems in the body. It controls sensory perceptions, emotions, and actions and makes it possible to form memories and learn highly specialized behaviors. Changes in the connectivity and function of neurons underlie disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, which pose significant challenges to today's society.

Bases of neuronal network formation
The aim of our research is to understand the mechanisms in the formation of neuronal networks in the central nervous system. We are therefore primarily investigating the cellular interactions and molecular signals that regulate neuronal connectivity during embryonic and postnatal development of the brain.

Synapses as key sites
We are focusing on the study of synapses, the information interfaces of neuronal networks. We are seeking to understand how synapses are formed, in particular how neurons recognize the correct synaptic partners and initiate neuronal links with them, and how inappropriate connections are eliminated. We apply a broad range of molecular, anatomic, and electrophysiological methods that allow us to analyze the specificity and function of neuronal synapses in the intact brain tissue of transgenic mice and in cultured cells.

Models for psychiatric disorders
Our experimental models for mechanisms of neuronal network formation serve not only the aims of basic research but also provide insights into functional changes that occur in disease. We analyze the neuronal consequences of risk factors for autism and apply our models to test therapeutic strategies.