Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence (Martinsried site)

Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence (Martinsried site)

The Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence emerged from the two Max Planck Institutes of Neurobiology and for Ornithology in January 2022. The final, legal establishment of the institute took place on January 1, 2023. About 500 employees from more than 50 nations are dedicated to basic research on topics in behavioral ecology, evolutionary research and neuroscience. The institute research focuses on biological intelligence, i.e. the abilities of animal organisms that have evolved through evolution to acquire, store, apply and pass on knowledge about their environment in order to find ever new solutions to problems and adapt to a constantly changing environment. The mechanisms of biological intelligence are being examined at various levels: studies range from molecular interactions to entire groups of individuals.

The institute has two locations, the nature-oriented Campus Seewiesen near Starnberg, and the Campus Martinsried in the southwest of Munich.


Am Klopferspitz 18
82152 Martinsried
Phone: +49 89 8578-1
Fax: +49 89 8578-3541

PhD opportunities

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

IMPRS - Biological Intelligence

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

Department Genes - Circuits - Behavior


Department Synapses – Circuits – Plasticity


Department Circuits - Computation – Models


Department Electrons - Photons - Neurons


Department Molecules – Signaling – Development

Four zebra finches sitting on a perch: from left to right, a female, a chick, a male and another female.

Their first vocalizations help young zebra finch males to memorize the songs of adults

Mouse, who is feeling sick, stands in front of delicious food such as cheese, donuts, grapes and biscuits.

A brain circuit inhibits food intake during nausea

Abstract drawing of a neuron whose dendrites form a kind of barcode.

Study reveals how proteins direct nerve cell precursors to turn into specialized neurons

Illustration of two mitochondria (cellular power plants) that form the two halves of a Yin-and-Yang sign.

In nerve cells, the hormone regulates whether mitochondria are shut down or kept running

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Guided by Light

4/2014 Biology & Medicine

A zebrafish larva that is only a few days old isn’t yet very mobile: at this age, it is capable of a few vigorous tail movements and not much else. For Herwig Baier at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, however, that’s enough. For him, a simple and, above all, transparent brain is much more important. His particular aim is to switch individual neurons on and off using light and thus discover how the brain controls movement and behavior.

In the early days, only a small path connected the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried with the outskirts of Munich. Now a huge biocampus is located on the periphery of Munich, and the path has been transformed into a wide road. According to Tobias Bonhoefffer, learning and memory function in a very similar way: intensively used pathways are expanded, while unimportant routes and dead ends are eliminated.

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Odors and memories – In search of clues in the zebrafish brain

2022 Frank, Thomas

Behavioural Biology Medicine Neurosciences Physiology

We do not always perceive odors in the same way. Instead, our perception is modulated by previous experiences, context and internal states such as hunger or stress, which also modulates the behavioral response. Our research group investigates what happens in the brain during this process, using the zebrafish as a model. In the transparent brains of the animals, we are able to investigate how sensory, associative and motor circuits interact to produce odor-controlled behavior.


To act or not to act?

2021 Macé, Emilie

Cognitive Science Neurosciences

Depression is a disorder that affects thoughts, but also the ability to engage in the most basic actions, as simple as getting out of bed. Therefore, this disorder must perturb a core network of brain regions implicated in our motivation to act. Our team at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology investigates in mice what part of the brain is active when they spontaneously engage in an action, using a novel method to record whole-brain activity. The goal is to better understand what brain circuits controls our drive to act and how they become dysfunctional in psychiatric disorders.


How protein aggregates change the brain

2020 Dudanova, Irina

Medicine Neurosciences

Neurodegenerative diseases are devastating disorders for which no cure currently exists. The molecular mechanisms of these diseases are still not well understood. A characteristic feature of neurodegeneration is the accumulation of protein aggregates in the brain. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology investigate the effects of aggregates on nerve cells, using histological and biochemical methods, behavioral tests and in vivo microscopy. The aim of these studies is to gain a deeper understanding of how diseases develop, in order to develop better treatments in the future.


How do nerve cells compute?

2020 Borst, Alexander

Cell Biology Genetics Neurosciences

As soon as we open our eyes and look around, we immediately realize where we are, which objects surround us, and in which direction they are moving. All this information is contained within the images that our e eyes deliver to our brain, but only implicitly: to extract it in an explicit way, our brain has to compute. But how do nerve cells compute? Using motion vision in the fruit fly Drosophila as an example for neural computation, we were able to answer this question in large parts within recent years. 


Developmental diversification of interneurons

2019 Mayer, Christian

Developmental Biology Genetics Medicine Neurosciences

The mammalian brain consists of hundreds of cell populations that all carry the same genetic information in the cell nucleus. How do neurons become specified as one differentiated subtype versus another? The ganglionic eminences (GE) are embryonic brain structures that produce many GABAergic cell types which disperse widely throughout the brain. We use single-cell RNA sequencing to profile the transcriptomes of developing neurons, in combination with genetic fate mapping techniques. Our findings shed new light on the molecular diversification of precursor cells.

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