Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research

Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research

The human brain analyses nutrient-related and hormonal signals of the body periphery and controls by hunger and saturation induction the energy homeostasis. This central nervous control is complex and until now not fully understood. Research at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research (formerly: Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research) is dedicated to deciphering these most intricate neuro-circuits. The researchers use multimodal and molecular imaging to describe intact but also abnormal metabolic regulation. Once neuronal signaling pathways of the metabolism are completely understood both in healthy people and patients, new molecular therapies for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity may be developed in the long run.


Gleueler Str. 50
50931 Köln
Phone: +49 221 4726-0
Fax: +49 221 4726-298

PhD opportunities

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

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

Obesity alters a subpopulation of immune cells, thereby increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes more
Zülch Prize 2016: Forms of cancer in the cerebellum
Award-winning researchers improve the diagnosis of different brain tumours in children and boost treatment success as a result more
High-fat diet starves the brain
Fat decreases glucose levels in the mouse brain more
Fat tissue in energy saving mode
AgRP neurons regulate sugar consumption in hungry mice more
From stem cell to nerve cell in a few weeks
Max Planck researchers observe stem cells in the living brain more
The 2014 Zülch Award – weighty award for medical doctors
Stephen O’Rahilly and Jeffrey M. Friedman investigate the causes of obesity more
Nobel Laureates gather in Lindau
From June 29 to July 4 around 600 young scientists from all over the world are meeting with the luminaries of their trade on Lake Constance. Among them are 19 young researchers from the Max Planck Institutes, as many as never before. more
Fasting time for tumour cells
Scientists cut off cancer cells' supply of nutrients more
Regeneration after a stroke requires intact communication channels between the two halves of the brain
Recovery depends on the exchange of information between the brain hemispheres more
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research and the University of Cologne discover that insulin acts as a messenger in neurons of the midbrain and find a connection with the brain’s reward system more
Insulin action in the brain can lead to obesity
Researchers decode an important mechanism through which insulin in the hypothalamus controls the body’s energy balance more
Max Planck researchers have discovered a new mechanism that leads to the development of type 2 diabetes in obesity more
Neurotransmitter could improve post-stroke rehabilitation
Prolonged efficiency of noradrenaline improves motor skills in stroke patient more
Rescue services at the cellular level
How stem cells help the brain to regain its functions after a stroke more
2010 Zülch Prize awarded to multiple sclerosis researchers
British and Austrian scientists receive award for basic neurological research more
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Genetic predisposition for obesity influences learning behaviour

2017 Tittgemeyer, Marc; Brüning, Jens

Variations in the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene are associated with obesity. The same variants of FTO affect dopamine-dependent midbrain responses and learning from negative outcomes in humans. They furthermore modulate the connectivity in a basic reward circuit of meso-striato-prefrontal regions and facilitate neural responses elicited by food cues. These findings provide evidence for FTO-specific differences in both brain structure and function in individuals, thereby contributing to a mechanistic understanding of why FTO is a predisposing factor for obesity.


Regulatory mechanisms of neuronal glucose uptake

2016 Jais, Alexander; Brüning, Jens C.
Medicine Neurosciences

This study demonstrates the complex regulatory mechanisms for the maintenance of physiological glucose transport and identifies vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as critical regulator of glucose transport across the blood-brain barrier. These experiments reveal that transient, high-fat diet-elicited reduction of brain glucose uptake initiates a compensatory increase of VEGF-production and assign obesity-associated macrophage activation a homeostatic role to restore cerebral glucose metabolism, preserve cognitive function and limit neurodegeneration in obesity.


Metabolic disorders: Nutrition during pregnancy affects offspring

2015 Hausen, Anne Christine; Brüning, Jens C.
Genetics Medicine Neurosciences

Obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and associated dieseases are on a constant rise and not only reduce quality of life but also are putting a burden on our society. Large efforts have been put into a better understanding of the homeostatic control mechanisms involved in regulation of body weight and energy homeostasis. It is known that maternal obesity, diabetes and hyperglycemia during pregnancy results in an increased risk for the offspring to develop obesity and diabetes later in life.  By performing studies in mice, scientists can gain insights into the underlying complex mechanisms. 


Genetic predisposition for overweight: Possible interactions of genome and environment

2014 Heß, Martin; Brüning, Jens C.
Genetics Neurosciences

The increase in the prevalence of obesity and the concomitant health problems are putting a burden on our modern society. Lifestyle and genetic predisposition define the individual susceptibility to gain weight. Through identifying the genetic alterations and the subsequent investigation of the affected genes/proteins – including studies in mice – scientists hope to gain insights into the complex interaction of our genome and environment to finally identify the mechanisms that may lead e.g. to weight gain.


New strategies for synthesizing intelligent radiolabeled probes

2013 Neumaier, Bernd;  Zlatopolskiy, Boris D.
Chemistry Medicine
In our research work we focused on novel labeling methods using (3+2) cycloadditions. Our main goal was to synthesize radiofluorinated 1,3-dipoles, which easily react with double and triple bonds. A second aim was to develop a simple method for the preparation of radiolabeled β-lactams. Furthermore 1,2-didehydrobenzene was used in association with the novel 1,3-dipoles to produce 18F-labeled homo- and heterocycles, which are difficult to prepare via conventional procedures. These approaches extend the spectrum of accessible radiolabeled probes and enable access to novel intelligent PET probes. more

Combination of invasive and non-invasive methods for the analysis of disease

2012 Backes, Heiko
Medicine Neurosciences Physiology
The development of smart therapeutic interventions requires a detailed analysis of the disease progression. In the case of ischemic stroke, non-invasive positron emission tomography (PET) is combined with invasive optical methods (laser speckle flowmetry and oxymetry) to examine the complicated interaction of the pathologically induced processes and to identify potential diagnostic parameters. Since PET is common practice in the clinic, experimental results can be readily translated into application in humans. more
Stroke is the most important cause for permanent disability in our society with a strong impact on the quality of life of patients. Functional imaging methods allow new insights into disturbances among brain regions following stroke. Such findings have already been used to develop new treatment strategies to overcome stroke-induced pathologies in brain networks in order to reduce neurological deficits in patients. more

Now, soon, ever: Time scales of frontal integration

2010 Schubotz, Ricarda I.
Cognitive Science
Anticipation, required in both prognosis and planning, occurs on different time scales, and we also become differently aware of being engaged in it. Recent findings of scientists at the MPI for Neurological Research corroborate the view that the frontal lobes play a crucial role in anticipation in general. In particular, the frontal brain’s function in integrating relations into superordinate ones seems reflected by its hierarchical functional-anatomical architecture. Interestingly, even highly abstract kinds of prognoses still call for regions that, on demand, spell out our expectations in the seconds range. more

To err is human – error processing and beyond

2009 Klein, Tilmann A.; Jocham, Gerhard; Ullsperger, Markus
Cognitive Science
Performance monitoring and behavioural control are everyday phenomena in human live. Most often they take place unconsciously and without effort. In case of an outcome deviation, i.e. a mismatch between an expected and an actual action outcome, the brain has to detect this deviation and act upon it. Potential deviations are manifold, reflecting the complexity of human existence. Nearly as manifold are the factors that impact the functioning of human performance monitoring. more
Waves of depolarization have often been observed in experimental stroke models. They periodically propagate across cerebral cortex, and the number of waves correlates with infarct size. Similar depolarizations have now been found in stroke patients. The waves cycle around ischemic foci suggesting that not only periodicity of appearance but also extent of progressive brain injury is related to cyclic propagation of depolarisations. more

MRT-based Morphometry

2007 Tittgemeyer, Marc
In neurobiological applications, brain morphometry is termed as a description of brain structure based on imaging modalities of size, shape, and texture. Hence, morphometry promises approaches on in-vivo characterisations of many neurological or psychiatric pathologies. This report shall outline the essential techniques of modern digital morphometry. Because structural alterations of brain tissues, as obtained by magnetic resonance imaging, are not necessarily related to a pathological process, the role of general physiological factors will be also discussed in this report. more
Research of the in vivo NMR laboratory focusses on the regeneration potential of stem cells after stroke. This therapeutical strategy of cell replacement acts during several days or weeks after the onset of the primary disease event. One of the fundamental prerequisites for a causal based therapy development is the understanding of the lesion in its chronic development. Inflammatory activity is an essential factor during this period. Investigations into the functional brain activation are expected to provide information about the spontaneous and the therapy induced recovery potential of the brain after stroke. These various pathophysiologically relevant phases of the disease development are followed and characterized in the experimental animal system using highly resolved magnetic resonance imaging. New therapeutic strategies of stem cell based regeneration are analyzed for their effectiveness, based on such detailed longitudinal studies. On the methodological end, development and application – achieved in international cooperations – of intelligent contrast agents as well as generation of transgenic cell lines which produce their own contrast agent utilizing suitable promotors, will essentially improve the detectability and the information content of functional characteristics of the implanted stem cells, facilitated by in vivo high field MRI. more

Molecular Imaging of Brain Tumours

2005 Jacobs, Andreas H.
Molecular Imaging enables a non-invasive assessment of the dynamics of disease-specific molecular events in the living organism in vivo. Various imaging modalities including positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and optical imaging are being used to assess a variety of molecular mechanisms, such as gene expression, transcriptional regulation and signal transduction. In brain tumors the imaging targets are endogenous genes as markers for the proliferative activity of the tumor, exogenously introduced genes as markers for the effectiveness of gene therapeutic strategies, and signal transduction and transcriptional regulatory pathways for the improved understanding of glioma development. The most important application of molecular imaging is in translational research, where new forms of molecular targeted therapies should be implemented in clinical application. more

Early diagnosis of Neurodegenerative Diseases to Prevent Dementia

2004 Herholz, Karl & Heiss. Wolf-Dieter
Medicine Neurosciences
Prevention of dementia by early diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease, in particular Alzheimer’s disease, and efficient testing of neuroprotective drugs is an important goal in all industrialized countries because of the prolongation of life span. With positron emission tomography (PET) we can identify a high-risk group of non-demented patients with mild cognitive impairment who have a very high likelihood to progress to dementia within 1-2 years. With this technique, one can also directly compare and validate animal models of neurodegenerative disease with human disease and test specific therapeutic approaches. more
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