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


Balancing fear

November 18, 2021

The brain uses bodily signals to regulate fear


From amateur to expert

September 20, 2021

Mice’s learning skills help researchers pinpointing brain areas where acquired knowledge is stored


New mouse type reveals when neurons fail to cope with misfolded proteins


To fly straight, fruit flies need the ability to detect motion


Longer breaks during learning lead to more stable activation patterns in the brain


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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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.


Motion patterns attract conspecifics

2019 Larsch, Johannes; Baier, Herwig

Behavioural Biology Neurosciences

A glance or a gesture is often enough to assess the intention of a neighbor and adapt one's own behavior to it. In a virtual environment for zebrafish larvae, we have succeeded in animating individual fish to shoal with simulated conspecifics. The results provide insights into the mechanisms of perception of signals that trigger social behaviour.


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.

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