Upcoming IZN Events
14.12.2016      13:00

Neurobiology / SFB1134 Lecture


Emotional tagging, behavioral profiling, and PTSD

Gal Richter-Levin
Institute for the Study of Affective Neuroscience, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

Memory systems in the brain are required to identify the more from the less important stimuli and to memorize only those into long-term memory. One mechanism that may provide indications as to the importance of an incoming stimulus is its emotional load. We have suggested that the emotional load of an experience tags it as important and that this tagging supports consolidation of that experience into long-term memory. Searching for potential neural mechanisms that would support such a function we have identified complex interactions between the amygdala, as a source of emotional data and the hippocampus, as a site of memory formation. The dentate gyrus of the hippocampus was identified as a very relevant site of emotion-cognition interaction

To further examine the role of the DG in emotional tagging in the context of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) we have developed a novel animal model of PTSD, which holds a high level of face validity to the human condition.

Employing this model we have identified GABAergic mechanisms that may be of relevance to PTSD and targets to drug development. However, more detailed examination of the findings, employing the newly developed 'Behavioral Profiling' approach, reveals that some of the modifications may be related to resilience rather than the pathology.


Im Neuenheimer Feld 306


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In Memoriam

A tribute to Peter H. Seeburg (8.21.1944–8.22.2016)

by Rolf Sprengel, Florian Freudenberg

Seeburg-monoPeter H. Seeburg, a world leader in research on memory and learning, died in Heidelberg on 22 August 2016 at the age of 72. Peter managed to cross several frontiers in biology and opened many new avenues of research. Peter revolutionized fast DNA sequencing, one of the essential prerequisites for the human genome project. He isolated and characterized some of the most important peptide hormones, receptors and ligand-gated ion channels, and he provided the first genetic evidence defining which of these key mediators of cellular communication are critically involved in learning and memory.

In his early days as a postdoc at the University of California in San Francisco, Peter’s great passion was neuroendocrinology. His most important contribution from this part of his career was the cloning of the human growth hormone in 1979. This pioneering work in the cloning of pharmacologically important human proteins was fundamental for the founding of one of the first biotech companies, Genentech. In 1981, together with Joe Messing, Peter established the technology of using bacteriophage M13 for single stranded DNA sequencing. This was a major breakthrough for molecular biology research, and Peter used it extensively in his later research.

In the following years, Peter used his molecular tools, resources and technical skills to unravel the complexity of fast neurotransmission via inhibitory and fast excitatory ion channels in the human brain. Within a few years Peter and his team at the Center for Molecular Biology in Heidelberg (ZMBH) isolated all the subunits of inotropic excitatory and inhibitory receptors of the CNS and characterized them together with Bert Sakmann. He showed that the unexpected complexity of fast neurotransmission is due to multiple genetic factors that co-evolved with the complexity of the brain: many different receptor subunits, several subunit isoforms, pre-mRNA editing and receptor associated proteins.

Peter’s finding of pre-mRNA editing in higher organisms was unexpected – both for him and for the scientific community. But in his paper with Bernd Sommer in Cell, he provided convincing evidence that the single nucleoside difference between mRNA and the corresponding gene sequence of AMPA receptor subunits was not a sequencing artifact but was mediated by an enzyme that Peter was able to isolate in his subsequent experiments. More important still, Peter could show in gene targeted and transgenic mouse models that the epigenetic RNA editing of single nucleosides in the Gria2 pre-mRNA prevents juvenile mice from lethal seizures.

In the last 15–20 years, Peter and his research group, now at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, dedicated themselves to research on learning and memory. They modified or deleted key molecules for synaptic transmission in specific cell types in the mouse brain and described the physiological consequences in very close collaboration with Bert Sakmann’s research group in Heidelberg and Per Andersen’s group in Oslo. Most of the subsequent behavioral analyses of mutant mice were performed by his close collaborators Nick Rawlins and David Bannerman at the University of Oxford. Their findings challenged major dogmas in neuroscience. Peter and his collaborators showed that GluA1 containing AMPA receptors were necessary for short-term spatial working memory but not for long-term spatial reference memory, and that hippocampal NMDA receptors were involved in decision making but not in the storage of spatial maps. Both findings provoked controversial discussions on the function of synaptic plasticity as measured by long-term potentiation of synaptic transmission in learning and memory, and they raised two key questions for neuroscience: whether working memory is necessary for the formation of long-term memory and whether the hippocampus is the storage region for spatial maps. Further studies are necessary to answer these questions. Tragically, Peter will no longer be able to participate as he would have wished. However, his work has already contributed crucially to a major shift in learning and memory research away from the detailed analysis of single synapses and towards the complex analysis of neuronal networks and the communication between different brain areas during learning.

The field of learning and memory research will miss him greatly.



New Regulator of Immune Reaction Discovered

Calcium signal in cell nucleus regulates not only many brain functions but also defence reactions of the immune system

Photo*: Andrea Hellwig
Cells of the immune system can distinguish between protein molecules that are "self" and "non-self". ­For example, if we are exposed to pathogens such as bacteria or viruses that carry foreign molecules on their surface, the body reacts with an immune response. In contrast, cells are "tolerant" of the body's own molecules. This state of unresponsiveness, or anergy, is regulated by a cellular signal, a calcium-controlled switch that was known to control also many brain functions. Neuroscientists from Heidelberg University and immunologists of Heidelberg University Hospital identified this signal. The research results were published in the “Journal of Cell Biology”.

The research work was led by Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading from the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences working together with the research group of Prof. Dr Yvonne Samstag, Director of the Molecular Immunology Section. The Heidelberg research team identified a calcium signal in the cell nucleus of human T lymphocytes as a decision-maker in the immune system. They showed that a nuclear calcium signal is required for the immune reaction that T-cells trigger after contact with molecules foreign to the body.  Externer Inhalt

*Raster electron microscope image of human T lymphocytes



Open positions at the IZN

  • One PhD position is offered in Neurobiology (Prof R. Rudolf Externer Inhalt) to focus on the newly discovered sympathetic co-innervation of vertebrate neuromuscular junctions: development - biomedical relevance - mechanisms of action.  Adobe posted 10.2016
  • Two PhD positions are offered in Developmental Neurobiology (Prof G.E. Pollerberg Externer Inhalt) to focus on new cell adhesion molecule (CAM)-interaction partners which we identified and analyze the functional impact of these interactions on axon growth. The projects are basic research but also aim at contributing to the development of novel therapeutic approaches.  Adobe posted 03.2016


Managing Director:
Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading
IZN-Neurobiology, University of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 364
D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany

Phone:  +49 - 6221 - 54 8218
Fax:  +49 - 6221 - 54 6700
email:  Bading@nbio.uni-heidelberg.de


Dr. Otto Bräunling
IZN-Neurobiology, University of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 364, 1.OG
D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany

Phone:  +49 - 6221 - 54 8694, 56 39007
Fax:  +49 - 6221 - 54 6700
email:  Braeunling@nbio.uni-heidelberg.de


Administration & Information:
Irmela Meng
IZN-Neurobiology, University of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 364, 1.OG
D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany

Phone:  +49 - 6221 - 54 8219
Fax:  +49 - 6221 - 54 6700
email:  Sekretariat@nbio.uni-heidelberg.de
Editor: Webmaster
Latest Revision: 2016-12-07
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