Systems Physiology of Learning

 AG CortXplorer

AG CortXplorerAuditory Perception to Action



Group leader: Dr. rer. nat. Max Happel; Tel.: +49-391-6263-94411; Email:


We are keen to better understand cognitively complex learning and decision processes in laboratory rodents at the level of interacting neuronal circuits. The focus is on experience-dependent reorganizations of circuits in auditory cortex during acoustic learning. We combine several behavioral paradigms with modern chronic in vivo multichannel recording technologies and mathematical tools to study neuronal network activity over several month (Happel et al., 2015). We characterize and manipulate how neuronal networks communicate to each other and establish syntactic activity patterns during learning. In the CRC779 we could reveal a basic functional mechanism of dopaminergic action in auditory cortex of behaving animals (Happel et al., 2010, 2014b, Happel, 2016).

Based on our understanding of the circuit reorganization during learning, we have used pharmacologically controlled weakening of the extracellular matrix in auditory cortex (in collaboration with the AG Extracellular Matrix/Dr. Renato Frischknecht) to develop new concepts of molecular-cellular processes underlying learning plasticity in the brain (Happel et al., 2014a, Happel und Frischknecht, 2016; LIN Special Project).


With respect to these research questions we work within the department as a multidisciplinary team of neurobiologists, psychologists and computer scientists in collaboration with local and international colleagues (see below collaborations) to link molecular, optogenetic and systemic approaches also with respect to translational appliance, for instance in trauma research (e.g. pathogenesis of tinnitus after noise trauma (Tziridis et al., 2015), controlled restorative plasticity (Happel et al., 2014b; Happel und Frischknecht, 2016), or the development of new therapeutic approaches in dementia (Lison, Happel et al., 2013).


Figure: Recording of local field potentials (LFP) with multichannel electrodes and subsequent current-source density analysis (CSD) allows to investigate synaptic processing of cortical circuits.


Third-party funding


2016 – 2020                     Project in the CRC779 (Neurobiology of motivated behavior)

2015 – 2017                     Project collaboration in the Leibniz Postdoc Network of the Leibniz-Society, “Monoaminergic impact on neural circuits”; Project consortium

2012 – 2015                     Leibniz Special Project Influence on learning behavior by modulation of the ECM in vivo

Okt 2011                           Postdoctoral Research Grant, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)





Local                   Prof. Frank W. Ohl (LIN)

                             Dr. Matthias Deliano (LIN)

                             Dr. Michael Lippert (LIN)

                             Dr. Renato Frischknecht (LIN)

                             PD Dr. Eike Budinger (LIN)

                             PD Dr. Gerhard Jocham (OvGU)

                             Prof. Anna Fejtova (LIN)


Outside             Prof. Andrew King (Univ. Oxford)       

                             Prof. Victoria Bajo (Univ. Oxford)

                             Dr. Fernando Nodal (Univ. Oxford)

                             Prof. Holger Schulze (Univ. Erlangen)

                             Dr. Marcus Jeschke (Univ. Göttingen)