Yearbook 2015

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A key function of the brain is to integrate incoming sensory information, and to select the optimal behavior in response to these external cues. The underlying computations in the brain are extremely complex and poorly understood. To address this area of research, scientists use the transparent larval zebrafish as model organism. With the aid of powerful microscopes, scientists can monitor the whole brain activity at single cell resolution in the intact, behaving animal. This helps to understand how neuronal circuit dynamics translate sensory processing into behavioral output. more
The brain's wiring diagram is a map of information paths, containing the brain's software. The first wiring diagram of an entire brain (published in 1986) came from the roundworm C. elegans with its few hundred neurons. In contrast, the mouse brain has almost 100 million and the human brain about 100 billion neurons. Nevertheless, today it is no longer unthinkable to obtain at least a mouse brain's diagram. The first step on this path is already made: the development of a preparation with sufficient resolution and contrast. Work on methods for cutting, imaging, and analysis is in progress. more
In the mouse a repertoire of ~1100 odorant receptor genes has evolved to detect a very wide variety of chemical structures in the external environment. The team of Peter Mombaerts is pursuing a genetic approach to understand the mechanisms of odorant receptor gene choice and of axonal wiring in the mouse olfactory system. A novel type of chemosensory neurons has been discovered that do not express odorant receptor genes and appear to have a specialized chemosensory function. more
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