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.


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.

Erin Schuman is awarded the 2020 Louis-Jeantet Prize

The foundation is recognizing the scientist for her work on local protein synthesis at neuronal synapses

Unraveling the connectome

Researchers map the local connectome in the cerebral cortex

Elucidating cuttlefish camouflage

Computational image analysis of behaving cuttlefish reveals principles of control and development of a biological invisibility cloak

Master of the tree

Novel form of dendritic inhibition discovered

Tracing cerebral cortex evolution

Molecular atlases of turtle and lizard brains shed light on the evolution of the human brain


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.

Max Planck Research Groups

Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt am Main August 10, 2020

Molecular tracks of learning and memory

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


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.


The Neocortex represents the largest and most powerful area of the human brain. Having expanded and differentiated the most during mammalian evolution, it mediates many capacities that distinguish humans from their closest relatives. It also plays a central role in many psychiatric disorders. In 2018 our research group has discovered fundamentally new mechanisms that enable neocortex to rapidly and flexibly adjust information processing to the behavioral requirements of the animal.


Can the various functions of the human brain be explained by a single model?

2018 Kraynyukova, Nataliya; Tchumatchenko, Tatjana


The neural networks in the brain are able to perform calculations such as normalization, information storage and rhythm generation. To date, various mathematical models have been established to imitate these individual calculations. We have used the stabilized supralinear network (SSN) as a basic model and found that it can perform several calculations simultaneously. This indicates the possibility of formulating a unified theory of cortical function.


Information coding using neuronal spikes

2017 Tchumatchenko,Tatjana


Neurons communicate by short electric pulses, the so-called action potentials or spikes. In order to fully understand cognitive functions, knowledge about how spikes encode information is necessary. The research group found that pairwise spike correlations and their linear components shape the coding of information. Linear response functions are one of the most versatile concepts and have been used to understand many neuroscientific topics, though their validity regime is not unlimited.


Recent technological advancement has opened up a new era of neuroscience research to acquire large-scale datasets from the brain, and to model and interpret them by novel analytical techniques and algorithms. Here, computational and mathematical approaches are used to understand how neural activity shapes circuit organization and dynamics. The focus lies on neural circuits that enable animals to navigate to a desired location in space.  

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