Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology

Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology

In order to survive in the world, an organism must be able to adapt to an ever-changing environment. This would not be possible without the brain and the nervous system, which control all important activities in the body: they process sensations, control the function of organs, guide and enable movements and allow us to think. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried seek to understand how such a complex system develops, how it functions and how it is able to adapt to a continuously changing environment. To this end, they focus on the minute changes in the brain and nervous system from the molecular level up to the level of the synapses, the cells and the entire neuronal network.


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 for Molecular Life Sciences: From Biological Structures to Neural Circuits

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


In a tight spot

January 27, 2021

A newly discovered circuit helps fish to prioritize


New study decodes the molecular diversity of neurons in the zebrafish retina


Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2020 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 13 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year


New method marks proteins and reveals the receptors in which neurons are dressed


Neurons in a visual brain area of zebrafish are arranged as a map for catching prey


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.

A damaged nerve in a finger will heal, but a damaged nerve in the brain or spinal cord will not. Frank Bradke and his research group at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried want to encourage nerve cells in the spinal cord to regrow after injury.

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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.


Designer Proteins for Brain Research

2018 Griesbeck, Oliver

Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Neurosciences

Directed evolution of proteins in vitro harbors great potential to generate tailor-made tools for applications in neuroscience. Our group has built an imaging-based screening platform that allows high throughput validation of hundred thousands of protein variants expressed in bacteria. We have used the platform to optimize a fluorescent protein that is particularly useful for labeling structures that are located deep within the brain.


Pleasure neurons of the amygdala promote food consumption

2018 Klein, Rüdiger

Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Neurosciences

The amygdala is part of multiple neuronal circuits which coordinate energy balance, emotions and reward. In this process, distinct neuronal cell types of the amygdala take on different tasks. Recently described "pleasure neurons" of the amygdala associate food consumption with positive emotions. Artificial activation of these neurons increases food intake in mice even when they are not hungry. Malfunctions of this amygdala circuit could result in eating disorders.


How the brain makes sense of visual motion

2017 Kubo, Fumi

Behavioural Biology Genetics Neurosciences

Understanding how the brain processes incoming sensory information and generates appropriate behavior is one of the greatest challenges in science. Thanks to their transparent brain and readily modifiable genes, zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae provide an unparalleled opportunity to tackle this question at the level of individual neurons and neural circuits. Using zebrafish, the Max Planck scientists have discovered a key mechanism that distinguishes between different patterns of visual motion and drives the appropriate behavioral responses.


The unfolding of brain folding

2017 Klein, Rüdiger

Evolutionary Biology Medicine Neurosciences

The cortex of the human brain is folded into an intricate pattern of grooves and furrows, which affords the cortex surface to be large, despite the small cranial space. But not all mammals have such a folded brain surface. By using a genetic manipulation, scientists at the Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology have induced folds in the normally smooth surface of the mouse brain. The results have given insight into the underlying mechanisms that control brain folding.

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