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Event-Bericht: Mapping the Brain: Reconstructing the Cerebral Cortex

Der englischsprachige Artikel resümiert den Vortrag des Nobelpreisträgers Dr. Bert Sakmann im German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) (New York) über seine Forschung zur Schaffung eines dreidimensionalen Atlas der Nervenzelle Körper, Dendriten und Axone

Dr. Bert Sakmann, who together with Erwin Neher was awarded the 1991 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for their invention of the patch clamp technique, presented his research at the German Center for Research and Innovation on November 3, 2010. Dr. Sakmann’s presentation focused on the creation of a three-dimensional map of the normal rodent brain. As the Inaugural Scientific Director of the Max Planck Florida Institute, Dr. Sakmann conducts a program dedicated to the precise structural arrangement of nerves in the cerebral cortex with the intention of creating a three-dimensional atlas of nerve cell bodies, dendrites and axons. During his lecture, approximately 60 scientists and other interested participants, learned that whiskers are instrumental in a rat’s decision-making process. 

“We want to understand the anatomical pathways that are active in the cortex when making a decision,” Dr. Sakmann said. In experiments, where rats need to decide in the dark whether or not to jump over a gap, he discovered that simple behavior activates a single cortical column in the vibrassal cortex. Using their whiskers, rats measure the width of the gap which leads to increased electrical brain activity: “We found out that there is a topographical relation between a single whisker and a single cortical column in the brain,” Dr. Sakmann said. Most of the rats’ behavior is guided by their whiskers: “Rats do not cross the gap when the whiskers are trimmed, no matter how hungry they are,” he said. Once rats cannot rely on their whiskers, the anatomical pathways  to the cortical columns decrease. The effect is reversed once the whiskers grow back.

Some of Dr. Sakmann’s results demonstrated that decision-making can be controlled by input to a single cortical column, that whisking and touching are represented in the cortex by activity, and that these insights enable the reconstruction of a cortical functional map based on the signaling in the brain.

With these insights, Dr. Sakmann aims to decipher inhibitory cell column structure and to identify pathological signaling. One of the goals of the Max Planck Florida Institute’s project is to lay a foundation for identifying anatomical changes that occur in  neurological diseases. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, for example, it is still unknown which compartments of the cells are affected when the disease first appears.

The German Center for Research and Innovation, which opened in February 2010, provides information and support for the realization of cooperative and collaborative projects with the goal of enhancing communication on the critical challenges of the 21st century. GCRI hosts a wide range of events from lectures and exhibitions to workshops and science dinners. Launched as a cornerstone of the German government’s initiative to internationalize science and research, it is one of five centers worldwide. The GCRI website,, will be launched soon. For more information on the Max Planck Florida Institute, please visit

Quelle: German Center for Research and Innovation New York Redaktion: von , Deutsches Wissenschafts- und Innovationshaus New Y Länder / Organisationen: Deutschland USA Themen: Lebenswissenschaften

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