Yearbook 2015

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How do the networks in the brain enable navigation and how do they control movements? Addressing these questions in the simple nervous system of the fruit fly indicates that basic network structures that are relevant for the mammalian brain contribute to navigation behavior in the fly. Thanks to the small size of the fly brain and the available genetic tools these networks can be analyzed in detail. Such experiments are expected to contribute to our understanding of how abstract computations are encoded in biological networks. more
During cell division in animal cells, mistakes can occur, which can have serious consequences for a developing organ and organism. For example, if the nuclei of retinal progenitor cells do not move upwards in the cell before undergoing division, the two daughter cells cannot reintegrate into the tissue. Also, when parts of the centrosome – the regulator of cell division – are erroneously duplicated, abnormalities of cell division can occur. The research lab of Caren Norden wants to understand how cell biology drives morphogenesis. more
The gene ARHGAP11B is only found in humans. This gene causes basal brain stem cells to form a bigger pool. In that way, more neurons can be produced during brain development, and the cerebral cortex can expand – this expansion enables higher cognitive functions like thinking and language. Likewise, a sustained expression of the transcription factor Pax6 in basal brain stem cells is crucial for them to proliferate and to produce more neurons. This can be mimicked in mouse cortical stem cells: Their behavior switches to that of primate stem cells, resulting in the generation of more neurons. more
Many proteins in the focus of structural-biology studies cannot be elucidated by conventional methodology. The research group Solid-State NMR hence is concerned with the development and application of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) methods dedicated for the characterization of structure and dynamics of solid proteins. Developing improved methodology for solid-state NMR helps to make more targets amenable for their characterization with atomic resolution. more
Genes must be activated to make use of the genetic information in living cells. Gene activation starts with a process called transcription, which produces RNA copies of genes. Transcription by the transcribing enzymes, the RNA polymerases, has now been resolved in atomic detail. Future research will concentrate on processes that regulate transcription and thereby govern gene activity during cellular differentiation and the development of tissues and organisms. more
Extreme haze episodes shrouded Beijing during the winter of 2013, causing major environmental and health problems. We show that the severe winter haze was driven by stable synoptic meteorological conditions rather than by an abrupt change of emissions; the fast build-up of PM2.5 in Beijing was mainly controlled by the atmospheric transport; and the production of secondary aerosols is enhanced during the haze periods. This enhancement cannot be explained by the weakened photochemistry suggesting a missing source of PM2.5, which is likely the heterogeneous reaction. more
The timing of developmental trajectories in language acquisition is paradoxical. Some milestones are reached very rapidly. For example, embryos are able to discriminate vowels already in utero [1]. Other milestones, however, like understanding grammatically complex sentences, are not even reached at the primary school age. What is the reason for this? Current neurobiological findings suggest that a brain network involved in processing grammatical information has to reach an adult-level maturity until it can provide its full function. more
Banks typically grant long-term loans, but their liabilities are short-term. While this maturity transformation is one of the main features of banks, it also constitutes a major risk factor. A research project at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods shows that a strong government can reduce the refinancing risk of banks by providing them with government bonds. In case of countries that are financially interconnected, all parties might benefit if the strong country protects weaker ones by forming a banking union. more
Today the sustainable generation of fine and platform chemicals from biomass is desirable but still involves many problems. The Biorefinery group of the institute develops efficient separation techniques in order to design new product flows from biomass. New efficient catalytic methodologies are synthesized which withstand the partly extreme conditions while biomass is transferred. Biorefinery and its novel successful strategies for the upgrade of biomass into an array of valuable chemicals is a chance for material science to create a new unconventional generation of polymers and colloids. more
Biological organisms utilize a remarkable range of effective strategies for building high performance materials, many of which surpass the state-of-the-art in engineered materials. Researchers from the MPIKG have discovered that some organisms, including spiders and mussels, incorporate tiny amounts of metal ions into protein-based materials to vastly improve mechanical performance (e.g. high toughness, high hardness and even self-healing). Based on this work, researchers are now developing bio-inspired metallopolymers with enhanced performance. more
Information processing in mammalian brains requires exceptional coordination of neural activity ranging from local groups of cells to brain wide interactions. To bridge these scales and understand brain function at the system level, we investigate the relationship between action potentials, local field potentials, and blood oxygen level dependent activity in various structures. The development of simultaneous recordings methodologies and data analysis techniques enables us to characterize the brain states associated to memory functions. more
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