Max Planck Institute for Brain Research

Max Planck Institute for Brain Research

No other organ is as complex as the human brain: each one of its nearly 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, can connect with thousands of other neurons. And the brain’s “product” – e.g. behavior, action, perception, language, cognition – is extraordinarily varied and still mysterious. The Max Planck Institute for Brain Research is dedicated to the study of brain function on mechanistic and computational levels. The scientific focus of the Institute is on circuits, or networks of interacting parts, including molecules in a neuron, neurons in a local circuit and local circuits in larger brain systems. Scientists at the Institute strive to gain fundamental insights on brain function by studying mainly less complex nervous systems such as those of rodents, turtles or fish. They measure how nervous systems process sensory information, how memories are formed and stored, how circuits are structured, how sleep is produced, how adaptive behaviors are generated, while trying to understand the overarching computational principles governing these processes. The studies apply molecular, imaging, electron-microscopic, genetic, behavioral and electrophysiological methods, as well as numerical simulations and theory.

Contact

Max-von-Laue-Str. 4
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 850033-0
Fax: +49 69 850033-1599

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Neural Circuits

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Tobias Erb and Moritz Helmstädter receive the Leibniz Prize 2023

Tobias Erb and Moritz Helmstaedter are honoured with the most important German research prize

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A new study recently published in CELL is reshaping our understanding of the fundamental building blocks of the brain, the proteins that are present at synapses.

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Max Planck scientist receives the world’s top prize in neuroscience for her pioneering work on molecular mechanisms of brain development and plasticity

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The image shows a tile with pictures of 10 Max Planck researchers who were successful in the 2022 ERC Consolidator Grant award process. They are Annalisa Pillepich, MPI for Astronomy, Philip J.W. Moll, MPI for Structure and Dynamics of Matter, Simone Kuehn, MPI for Education Research, Joshua Wilde, MPI for Demographic Research Meritxell Huch, MPI for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dora Tang, MPI for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Aljaz Godec, MPI for Multidisciplinary Natural Sciences, Stéphane Hacquard, MPI for Plant Breeding Research, Hiroshi Ito, MPI for Brain Research, and Daniel Schramek, MPI for Molecular Genetics.

This result puts Max Planck in second place in a Europe-wide comparison

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The Australian bearded dragon Pogona vitticeps.

A molecular atlas of an Australian dragon’s brain sheds new light on over 300 million years of brain evolution

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The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research was founded in Berlin 100 years ago. The first Director was Oskar Vogt, an ambitious scientist who became famous when he investigated Lenin’s brain. His wife Cécile and he provided important findings on the structure of the cerebral cortex – and also labored under a misconception or two.

The building blocks of communication in our brain

2023 Erin Schuman, Julian Langer 

Neurosciences

Our brain is a complex network of nerve cells that communicate with each other through synapses. We are investigating which proteins are used at these synapses and how different nerve cells and synapses differ from each other. Our findings help us to understand the molecular basis of communication in our brain. This communication is essential for all our brain functions and can be disrupted, for example, in neurodegenerative diseases or in old age.

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Neural mechanism of navigation simulations

2022 Ito, Hiroshi

Neurosciences

The brain must create an internal model, a so-called ‘cognitive map’, of its environment in order to successfully navigate to a desired destination. Another purpose of this map is to be able to assess the consequences of a decision in a hypothetical environment that we have not yet experienced in the real world. This may be the basis for our creativity and imagination. It is the goal of our research to understand the neural circuits that underlie our inner thought processes.

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Our visual ability to separate objects from background depends greatly on detecting local discontinuities of motion, color, contrast or texture. Computing the characteristics of a texture is surprisingly difficult, as confirmed by the hundreds of thousands of trials that neural networks require to “learn” them. Yet our brains segment and differentiate textures without apparent effort. Our research aims to understand how this is done, using cephalopods’s unique ability to camouflage.

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Traces of learning in the cerebral cortex

2020 Helmstaedter, Moritz

Neurosciences

The mammalian brain, with its immense number of neurons and extreme density of communication, is the most complex network we know. Methods for partial and sparse analysis of these networks exist for more than a hundred years. However, obtaining locally complete wiring maps of neuronal networks in the mammalian brain only became possible a few years ago. Our research team has now succeeded in mapping brain tissue from the mammalian brain and analyzing it for traces of previous learning processes.

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Molecular tracks of learning and memory

2019 tom Dieck, Susanne; Hafner, Anne-Sophie; Donlin-Asp, Paul; Rangaraju, Vidhya; Schuman, Erin

Neurosciences

Although learning and memory are tasks performed by our brain on multiple interconnected levels, we can trace them down to chemical reactions leaving molecular footprints. By visualizing these tiny footprints, we aim to build a molecular model of learning. One important factor seems to be the local production of new proteins near the site of information transfer between nerve cells. We have decoded a logistics principle connecting local protein assembly to increase or decrease of information transfer and clarified questions of energy supply for this process.

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