“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

Albert Einstein

Research Unit 5159

Our environment is constantly changing. Successful survival under these conditions implies that our behavior has to be flexible as well. We experience different places and contexts, have to conduct different tasks in a rapid sequence and need to constantly develop and re-arrange acting strategies. These abilities are not inherited, but develop with age and their regression forms the core of several pathologies. It is commonly held that in mammalian species the prefrontal cortex is the hub brain area accounting for the flexibility of minds (i.e. cognitive flexibility).

The Research Unit 5159 has been launched in January 2022. Our mission is to decipher the dynamic principles of prefrontal processing underlying cognitive flexibility.

Upcoming Events

Synaptic development of sensory and prefrontal circuits

Short Summary:  During postnatal development, the brain undergoes a series of processes that bring about its mature architecture. These include neuronal migration, apoptosis, synapse formation and maturation. The timeline of cortical maturation is thought to be hierarchical, with primary sensory areas maturing earlier than higher-order areas, such as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The cortex is a laminar structure with distinct synaptic inputs targeting specific layers. Within each cortical area there is also evidence for layer-specific development. For example, sensory critical periods in the mouse somatosensory barrel cortex (S1BF) follow an “outside-in” pattern, occurring first in thalamo-recipient layer (L)4 followed by superficial L2/3. The maturation of the PFC is thought to be delayed to that of S1BF. However, much less is known about the timeline of this maturation, particularly with respect to the development of synaptic connectivity within specific layers. Determining this may provide insight into when different inputs or cell types undergo synapse maturation. This project aims to determine similarities and differences in the synaptic maturation of a primary sensory barrel cortex (S1BF) and the PFC. To do so we have developed a pipeline for high-throughput synaptic puncta analysis using transgenic mice that express the synaptic protein PSD-95 tagged to GFP. We will compare the maturation of synapses between layers and regions to determine both common rules and region-specific differences of synapse development between cortical areas.

Awards and Achievements

Burkhart Bromm-Promotionspreis 2022 awarded to Dr Jastyn A. Pöpplau

Thomas Bayes-Nachwuchsförderpreis 2022 awarded to Dr. Artur Schneider

Image source: Patrick Seeger/Universität Freiburg

Thomas Bayes-Nachwuchsförderpreis: Herausragende Abschlussarbeiten (Masterarbeiten, Promotionen) auf dem Gebiet der Datenanalyse und Modellbildung in den Lebenswissenschaften. Preisgeld 5.000 Euro.

Bernstein-CorTec-Award 2022 awarded to Dr. Artur Schneider

                                                                  Image source: Patrick Seeger/Universität Freiburg

Bernstein-CorTec-Award: Hervorragende wissenschaftliche Leistungen in Promotionen oder Masterarbeiten von Promovierenden oder Studierenden der Universität Freiburg in einem für Computational Neuroscience und Neurotechnologie relevanten Thema. Preisgeld 1.000 Euro.


Differential behavior-related activity of distinct hippocampal interneuron types during odor-associated spatial navigation


Behavioral state-dependent modulation of prefrontal cortex activity by respiration

Journal of Neuroscience

FreiBox: A Versatile Open-Source Behavioral Setup for Investigating the Neuronal Correlates of Behavioral Flexibility via 1-Photon Imaging in Freely Moving Mice