“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

Title: Prefrontal-hippocampal neural dynamics as biomarkers of cognitive impairment and rescue in brain disorders

Short Summary: Cognitive deficits are a core clinical feature of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders but respond poorly to available medication. Understanding the neural substrates of these deficits may open new avenues for therapeutic intervention. The prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus play critical roles in executive function and memory and their communication is abnormal in genetic models of schizophrenia. Our laboratory aims to unravel whether disrupted neural synchronization in prefrontal-hippocampal circuits contributes to intellectual disability and whether it is target for pro-cognitive treatments. More specifically, we investigate abnormal neural network dynamics in mouse models of schizophrenia and Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and the recuing effects of several pharmacological (antipsychotic and serotonergic medication) and non-pharmacological (environmental enrichment, flavonoids) treatments. We found that local and circuit synchronization at theta and gamma frequencies are disrupted in both models during rest and memory performance and report the distinct actions of the pro-cognitive treatments. Our findings suggest that disrupted communication within prefrontal-hippocampal circuits could be a useful biomarker of severity of cognitive symptoms and prediction of response to treatment in clinical settings. Finally, the group also contributes to the development of state-of-the-art neurotechnologies (photopharmacology, graphene-based neural probes) for the treatment of brain disorders.

 

 

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.

Publications

A persistent prefrontal reference frame across time and task rules

Nature Communications

Sequential neuronal processing of number values, abstract decision, and action in the primate prefrontal cortex

PLOS BIOLOGY

A developmental increase of inhibition promotes the emergence of hippocampal ripples

Nature Communications