Our research focuses on neuromodulation and the question of how plasticity of nervous systems is regulated on the cellular and molecular level on short time scales and during the lifespan. We are especially interested in the biophysical mechanisms that determine neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity. The aim of our studies is to understand how the modulation of intrinsic and synaptic properties of single neurons (or groups of neurons) regulate the function of complex neuronal systems and ultimately control the behavior of an organism. To achieve this goal we are using a broad methodical approach.
In this context a main area of research in our laboratory is the physiological compartmentalization of neurons and its consequences for the function of neural networks. In intact nervous systems often several neuromodulators converge on a single neuron. The intracellular signaling pathways for many neuromodulators are known from the receptor to the ion channel. However, the interaction of different intracellular signalling pathways is not known in detail. It has to be clarified, if and how biochemically similar signaling pathways interact with each other or if they are spatially separated. Such localization or restriction of specific signaling pathways into specific microdomains becomes increasingly clear from biochemical and immunhistochemical studies. Obviously a functional compartmentalization would have a significant consequence for neuronal information processing, but is physiologically not well demonstrated and understood yet.
We use electrophysiological and optical recordings to gain a detailed knowledge of the physiological and computational consequences of cellular compartmentalization. Optical imaging techniques with high spatio and temporal resolution deep in living tissue, together with new fluorescence indicators for different cellular parameters, are well suited to address these questions directly.