Labor Experimentelle Neurophysiologie
Professor Dr. med. Dirk Dietrich
The Dietrich group seeks to understand brain function from the perspective that synaptic computation is the basis of any information processing and storage in the brain.
Synapses are small but highly functional elements which quickly and persistently respond to incoming activity. Most things we learn and remember will at least in the beginning be identified and stored by synapses. Together with the group of Prof Schoch we try to understand how synaptic computation works, not only on the level of networks and single synapses but also on the micro- and nanostructural level and we jointly explore the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity.
Besides synaptic computation, the wiring scheme of the brain is of utmost importance. Traditionally, wiring is viewed as being fully determined by synaptic connections from one neuron to another. However, our recent observations challenge that view partially and suggest that neighboring synapses exchange more information than textbooks state. We look deep into how this additional diffusive connectivity might play a role for the brain’s function.
Another focus of the group is to study interaction between neurons and glial cells. In particular the interaction with oligodendroglial cells seems important for information processing as oligodendrocytes generate myelin and speed up conduction velocity. We study a highly localized and fast signals communicated from neurons to oligodendrocyte precursor cells. This signal might be used by neurons to instruct oligodendroglial cells where and when to generate myelin and we want to decipher the code neurons use to instruct glial cells to produce myelin – which should be helpful for novel therapeutical approaches to demyelinating disease, too.
In our research programs, we use methods studying the system level down to nanoscale function with in vivo imaging, cellular and subcellular physiological and optical recording as well as high resolution structural studies and super-resolution and electron microscopy.