Cellular & Molecular neuroscience

Group leader, Molecular & Cellular Neurophysiology

In order to cope with the continuous changes in our environment, nerve cells and synaptic communication underlie a continuous adjustment process called neural plasticity. The integration of signaling mechanisms into a signaling concept, from molecule to behavior, is the main topic of this working group.
Our work focusses mainly on the neurotrophin BDNF and its receptor, the receptor tyrosine kinase TrkB, molecular interaction partners in the regulation of neuronal excitability (Nav1.9), as well as homeostatic calcium fluxes. The purpose of our fundamental research is the identification of target molecules and target mechanisms for a mechanistic-based therapy to treat psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as pain syndromes.

Group leader, Molecular & Cellular Neurogenetics

Our group is interested in the identification and analysis of affected cellular targets as well as signaling pathways leading to α-motoneuron loss in two forms of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA, the proximal form of spinal muscular atrophy, and SMARD1, spinal muscular atrophy with respiratory distress type 1). SMA and SMARD1 are monogenic disorders which cause childhood death, characterized by muscle denervation in the upper and lower extremities and the diaphragm. Our research studies combine high resolution microscopy and life cell imaging studies with biochemical approaches preferentially performed with primary motoneurons from the different mouse models for SMA and SMARD1. The understanding of affected cellular mechanisms is the prerequisite for therapeutic strategies.

Chair, Molecular Psychiatry

The Division of Molecular Psychiatry with the Research Unit on Disorders of Neurodevelopment and Cognition in conjunction with the Laboratory of Translational Neuroscience as part of the Center of Mental Health at the UKWürzburg (UKW) is leading in its field with an outstanding track record in psychiatric neuroscience research at the boundary between molecular genetics, cellular neurobiology and behaviour. Interdisciplinary and translational research strategies are employed to elucidate the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental and a wide spectrum of life-spanning psychiatric disorders, ranging from depression and anxiety, psychotic (schizophrenia spectrum) and neurodegenerative disorders, to attention-deficit/hyperactivity, autism spectrum and substance use disorders. Finally, mechanisms of pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatments are studied.

Head of the Section of Developmental Neurobiology

Genetically caused neurological disorders of the nervous system are usually orphan diseases with poor or even fatal clinical outcome and no treatments. We showed in mouse models that neuroinflammation is a disease amplifier of many of these disorders. We are further analysing the disease-amplifying neuroinflammation in both the CNS and PNS, using histology, ultrastructure research, immunological techniques, cell culture, electrophysiology and imaging techniques such as optical coherence tomography. One aim of our lab is to develop therapeutic interventions using immunomodulators. Since neuroinflammation is also involved in some aging-related neurological diseases, targeting the identified neuroinflammation may also lead to an amelioration in the burden of these disorders. 

Director, Institute of Clinical Neurobiology

We are interested in the molecular mechanisms of motoneuron disease. We investigate mouse models of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and cell culture models using primary embryonic mouse motoneurons and human iPS cell derived motoneurons. We are particularly interested to study effects and signaling pathways for cytoskeletal dynamics, presynaptic function and regulation of axonal autophagy. 

Head, Experimental Neurosurgery

We are interested in the mechanisms of neuroprotection and -regeneration after brain injury and on translation of this knowledge into new therapeutic approaches for human brain disease using cell culture, transgenic animals, experimental models of brain trauma, behavioral testing, neuroimaging and microscopic techniques. In previous work we have identified a role for sustained inflammatory processes in chronic post-traumatic pathology. On-going work focuses on changes in presynaptic structural plasticity and their impact on functional impairments in chronic traumatic brain injury.

Head, Neurophysiology

In our group we investigate the mechanisms that regulate the excitability of neurons and cardiac cells. Our main focus aims at signaling pathways consisting of G-protein coupled receptors and ion channels which might be involved in the pathology of brain and heart dysfunctions. In our research we implement methods such as histochemistry, molecular biology and electrophysiology.

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