Head:Prof. Dr. Frank Ohl
Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology
The new department Systems Physiology of Learning was founded in February 2011 and has developed from the former LIN Research Group Neuroprostheses. In the department research is conducted on the neuronal basis of various forms and phenomena of learning. Here, a particular focus is on the so-called systems-physiological level, i.e. the level of neuronal networks and interacting brain systems. This is the level on which integrative functions of the brain, such as information integration (SFB TRR 31), motivation and action control (SFB 779), stimulus evaluation and meaning attribution (SFB TRR 62), and cognitive phenomena such as abstraction and concept formation (SPP 1665) can be understood on a mechanistic basis. This also results in diverse applied aspects of our research, in particular the development of cortical sensory neuroprostheses and the design of strategies supporting learning and memory.
Our research is conducted on several species (gerbils, mice, rats and humans), depending on their specific suitability for a given research project. Typically, our experimental approaches combine behavioral and psychophysical studies with (1) simultaneous recording of neuronal activity using electrophysiological methods (single-cell recording, cell-assembly-recording, electrocorticography, EEG) or optical methods (voltage-sensitive dye recording, intrinsic signal recording), (2) specific manipulation of neuronal and/or behavioral processes (e.g. by pharmacological intervention or reversible lesioning), and (3) intracerebral electrical/optogenetic microstimulation. By this three-fold approach, mere correlations between psychological processes as learning and cognition on one side and corresponding neuronal observables on the other side can be complemented by the identification of necessary and sufficient conditions for these observables to produce the behavioral observables for the establishment of causal relationships between neuronal and psychological phenomena.
Important developments in the department with respect to human resource management included the successful defense against calls of Prof. Ohl to the universities of Freiburg and Tübingen as well as his election for coordinator of the SFB 779. Based on raised funding, the postodcs Dr. Matthias Deliano (LIN Special Project, in collaboration with M. Jörn and Dr. R. König, Special Laboratory for Noninvasive Imaging) and Dr. Kentaroh Takagaki (CBBS Neural Networks) are currently establishing their own groups within the department.