Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine

Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen conduct basic medical research in the neurosciences and oncology. In line with the Institute's mission, "from the lab bench to the hospital bed", fundamental work in the neurosciences and clinical studies on new therapeutic approaches are combined. The scientists’ objective is to understand molecular and cellular processes in the nervous system and other organs, as well as their pathological disorders. The scientists’ findings form the basis for new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches that can be applied to a range of psychiatric diseases such as autism and schizophrenia, to neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and strokes, or to cancer. For example, scientists from the Institute study the development of the brain and the molecular basis of signal transmission between nerve cells. Furthermore, their research focuses on the function of channel proteins in cell membranes and their role in the development of cancer. Numerous research groups at the Institute work on turning the findings obtained at the Institute into clinical applications.


Hermann-Rein-Str. 3
37075 Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 3899-0
Fax: +49 551 3899-389

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):
IMPRS for Molecular Biology
IMPRS for Neurosciences
IMPRS for Genome Science

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

Department Molecular Neurobiology more
Department Molecular Biology of Neuronal Signals more
Aberrant synapse protein can lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders
Scientists in Göttingen discover cause of brain disease more
Research highlights from the Yearbook
Our Yearbook 2016 showcases the research carried out at the Max Planck Institutes. We selected a few reports to illustrate the variety and diversity of topics and projects. more
Deciphering the protein signature of chronic pain

Yearbook article 2016, Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, Göttingen
Emmy Noether Research Group Somatosensory Signal Transduction and Systems Biology
Author: Manuela Schmidt

New learning procedure for neural networks
Neural networks learn to link temporally dispersed stimuli more
Enhanced brain activity and irregular sleep cycles improve long-term memory in mice more
Synapses always on the starting blocks
Vesicles filled with neurotransmitters touch the cell membrane, thereby enabling their rapid-fire release more
Potential therapy for incurable Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
Researchers discover new treatment approach for this hereditary neurological disorder more
A turbocharger for nerve cells
Max Planck scientists in Göttingen have discovered a key mechanism that boosts the signalling function of neurons in the brain more
Glial cells assist in the repair of injured nerves
When a nerve is damaged, glial cells produce the protein neuregulin1 and thereby promote the regeneration of nerve tissue more
Glial cells supply nerve fibres with energy-rich metabolic products
Glial cells pass on metabolites to neurons more
Stress genes out of kilter

Stress genes out of kilter

August 08, 2011
Max Planck researchers succeed in predicting risk of alcoholism more
Synapses recycle proteins for the release of neurotransmitters
Reclaimed proteins enable the fusion of transmitter vesicles with the cell membrane more
How nerve cells grow

How nerve cells grow

February 19, 2010
Göttingen-based Max Planck researcher decodes a molecular process that controls the growth of nerve cells more
Expression of a membrane protein in peripheral tissue linked to cancer: A novel tumour marker
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen identify a tumour-specific surface protein. more
When nerve cells can’t make contact
Max Planck scientists have decoded the molecular details of a genetic defect that disrupts signal transmission in the brain and causes autism more
The "Outpatient Long-term Intensive Therapy for Alcoholics"
has proven successful. Nevertheless, its future is uncertain
– the dispute over who will pay for it remains unresolved.
Schizophrenia and autism may both stem from the same cause – a faulty transfer of signals to the synaptic connections between individual neurons.
PhD position in systems biology of chronic pain
Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, Göttingen April 17, 2018

Activity-independent neuronal network formation in the brain

2018 Brose, Nils; Sigler, Albrecht; Imig, Cordelia; Altas, Bekir; Kawabe, Hiroshi; Cooper, Benjamin; Kwon, Hyung-Bae; Rhee, Jeong-Seop
Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Immunobiology Medicine Neurosciences
According to the current dogma in neuroscience, neurons in the brain must communicate actively with each other to establish functional networks. Recent results now demonstrate that neurons in a brain region that is critically involved in learning and memory processes can connect and form structurally normal networks without active signal transmission at their synaptic contact points. more

The role of Kv10.1 potassium channel in cancer

2017 Stühmer, Walter; Pardo, Luis A.
Medicine Neurosciences
Ion channels are membrane proteins that regulate cellular processes by transmitting signals across membranes. Thus it is not surprising that they are also involved in cancer. In this respect, Kv10.1 is the most intensively studied potassium channel. It is overexpressed in over 70% of all cancer forms, and its expression level is up- and down-regulated during the cell cycle. This genetic regulation happens at the centre of signalling cascades involved in cancer and cell division regulation. Consequently, Kv10.1 represents a novel target for cancer treatment. more

Deciphering the protein signature of chronic pain

2016 Schmidt, Manuela

Pain is a major symptom of many diseases and the worldwide number one reason for people to seek medical assistance. While acute pain subserves protective functions, chronic pain conditions present a big challenge to patients and clinicians alike. In light of these difficulties, the identification of proteins specifically involved in chronic pain states would open new avenues for designing selective and efficient therapeutical interventions.


Thought-reading: Decoding spike-based neuronal representations

2015 Gütig, Robert
Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Medicine Neurosciences

The question how the almost 100 billion nerve cells of the human brain represent and process sensory stimuli and thoughts is one of the most fascinating challenges in neuroscience. Contrary to common belief that nerve cells encode information by the rate of action potential firing, a growing number of experimental and theoretical accounts is strengthening alternative hypotheses that neural codes could be more refined and for instance incorporate also temporal intervals between action potentials of different neurons.

One of the most spectacular interactions of cells in the central nervous system is the myelination of axons by oligodendrocytes, which serves the rapid impulse propagation. Max Planck scientists have discovered a novel function of oligodendrocytes in the metabolic support of myelinated axons. Genetic evidence suggests that oligodendrocytes are glycolytic cells that release lactate as an energy-rich metabolite. Loss of this trophic function of oligodendrocytes may play a critical role in inherited and acquired myelin diseases. more

Regulation of axon growth

2013 Kannan, Madhuvanthi; Schwedhelm-Domeyer, Nicola; Stegmüller, Judith
Axon growth is an essential event in the developing central nervous system. While a large body of evidence characterizes extrinsic mechanisms, there is little knowledge about intrinsic signaling pathways of axon growth regulation. The E3 ligase Cdh1-APC has been identified as a novel intrinsic inhibitor of axon growth. Thus, the research focuses on the elucidation of the Cdh1-APC signaling pathway. more

Mechanisms of the Myelin-Biosynthesis

2012 Aggarwal, Shweta; Simons, Mikael
Myelin is an electrical insulator essential for the rapid conduction of nerve impulses in the central nervous system. In order to do so, myelin requires a unique lipid and protein composition. Recent findings demonstrate that oligodendrocytes generate a barrier that functions as a physical filter to form the lipid-rich myelin membrane sheets. Myelin basic protein establishes this molecular sieve and restricts the diffusion of proteins into myelin. This mechanism generates the anisotropic membrane organization of oligodendrocytes that facilitates the assembly of highly insulating membranes. more

Ion channel as target for cancer therapy … or how you drive tumor cells into suicide!

2011 Hartung, Franziska; Stühmer, Walter; Pardo, Luis A.
Cell Biology Immunobiology Medicine Structural Biology
Tumor therapy relies on tumor markers for the specific destruction of tumor cells. Max Planck scientists discovered and characterized a potassium channel (Eag1) as a new tumor marker [1, 2]. This channel was used to bind a cell-death inducing mediator TRAIL to cancer cells. In cell culture they could show suicide activation, specifically in the Eag1 positive prostate cancer cells. Cell death could also be induced in neighboring Eag1 negative prostate cancer cells, whereas normal prostate cells were unaffected. more
Fast neuronal communication in the central nervous system takes place at excitatory and inhibitory synapses. The accuracy and efficiency of synaptic transmission rely on the proper assembly of specific adhesion, scaffold, receptor, and signaling proteins. Postsynaptic adhesion proteins of the Neuroligin family were identified as key regulators of this assembly process at excitatory glutamatergic synapses. Recent studies showed that Neuroligins also regulate the formation of GABAergic and glycinergic synapses. Thus, Neuroligins are essential regulators of synaptogenesis at all fast synapses in the central nervous system. more

New approaches in modelling and therapy of schizophrenia

2009 Ehrenreich, Hannelore; Bartels, Claudia; Begemann, Martin; Krampe, Henning
Medicine Neurosciences
Scientists at the MPI for Experimental Medicine developed a mouse model where they induce neurodegeneration in juvenile mice by stereotactic unilateral parietal cortical cryolesion. This procedure causes non-gliotic neurodegeneration and changes in plasticity comparable to schizophrenia which are all prevented by erythropoietin (EPO). Similarly, amelioration of cognition and deceleration of brain atrophy in schizophrenic patients is seen after a 12-week EPO treatment. Mechanistic explanation of cognitive improvement is delivered by EPO-induced increase in long term potentiation, an indicator of learning and memory. more
'Genechips' are powerful tools to study simultaneously the expression of essentially all genes. The enormous cellular complexity of the mammalian brain, however, is a major obstacle for sensitive gene expression profiling, for example when analyzing mouse models of neurological diseases. Scientist at the MPI for Experimental Medicine have solved this problem by labeling individual cells in transgenic mice that express a nuclear fluorescent protein. Using laser-directed microdissection, expression profiles can be obtained from as few as 100 isolated neurons. more

Sip1 Transcription Factor as a Key Regulator of Hippocampus Development in the Mouse

2006 Miquelajauregui, Amaya; Tarabykin, Victor
Developmental Biology Neurosciences
SIP1 is a transcription factor that has been implicated in the genesis of Mowat-Wilson syndrome – a disease that affects normal brain development in humans. In order to uncover molecular mechanisms of Sip1 gene action scientists of the MPI for experimental medicine created a mutant mouse as a model for the syndrome. In this mouse Sip1 gene was inactivated in the cerebral cortex only, while in other organs it remained intact. The mutant mice showed loss of the entire hippocampus, which was based on elevated cell death and decreased proliferation during development. more

OLITA - Outpatient longterm intensive therapy for alcoholics

2005 Krampe, Henning; Stawicki, Sabina; Wagner, Thilo; Ribbe, Katja; El Kordi, Ahmed; Niehaus, Silja; Ehrenreich, Hannelore
OLITA, the Outpatient Longterm Intensive Therapy for Alcoholics, was developed as a comprehensive research project in 1993. This paper reports on the results of the OLITA project and its future perspectives. In summer 2003, the monocentric pilot study in Göttingen was completed successfully after ten years and the enrollment of 180 patients. More than 50% of the patients remained abstinent during a follow-up of up to seven years after termination of therapy. The unemployment rate declined from 58% to 22%, comorbid psychiatric disorders decreased from 60% to 13%. An ongoing video-based prospective longitudinal study investigates the therapeutic processes associated with this success. At present, a multicenter trial for the translation of OLITA using the franchising approach is initiated. more

The venoms of cone snails - learning from 50 million years of neuropharmacology

2004 Terlau, Heinrich
Neurosciences Structural Biology
Ion channels are membrane bound proteins that are involved in a great variety of different physiological processes like electrical excitability of cells or absorption and secretions within the epithelia. Ion channels can be activated by different signals and malfunction of these proteines can lead to diseases. Several hereditary diseases like cystic fibrosis or special forms of epilepsy, deafness or heart arrhythmia are known to be correlated with mutations of certain ion channels. Due to their special role in different areas of cellular function ion channels are "popular" targets of biological active substances from different venomous organisms. The laboratory of Heinrich Terlau tries to understand how these substances interact with their target molecules. The focus of their research is the investigation of the mechanism of action of toxins from cone snails interacting with voltage gated ion channels. The aim is to establish new tools for studying the physiological role of a given target and to create the basis for a potential pharmacological or even clinical use of these substances. more
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