Our lecture series covers a broad spectrum of neurosciences, from the molecular machinery inside cellular compartments to the system level of complex behaviours and diseases. Four lecture hours per week are accompanied by tutorials to deepen the understanding of lecture topics.
Outline: This lecture will give you an overview on the macroscopic structure of the human nervous system. We will first discuss basic principles underlying brain organization and functioning, its cellular components and its development. We then will highlight its major structural landmarks and their functions.
Reading: Kandel, Principles of Neural Science, 5th edition, descriptions of brain morphology; Nolte, Angevine: The human brain in photographs and diagrams
Outline: The lecture provides comprehensive and up-to-date coverage of techniques and concepts in tissue research. Both basic concepts of the cellular architecture of neural tissue and the application of histological techniques to the analysis of neural tissue in disease will be discussed. Moreover, both routine and specialized cutting-edge techniques for tissue processing and cellular imaging will be introduced and illustrated.
The first lecture will focus on the anatomical basis of distributed central nervous structures engaged in learning, emotions, and motivation covering the topics
History and definition of the term “limbic system”,
Topography of limbic structures and fiber connections,
Cytoarchitecture and microcircuitry of selected limbic structures,
Interaction of limbic structures with sensory, motor, and autonomic systems,
Some examples of functional properties.
The second lecture will focus on the anatomical basis of sensory perceptions. After a brief classification of the senses, we will try to figure out a blueprint of sensory systems. Then, the organization of various sensory systems will be dealt with in greater detail. Details on the sensory periphery, like retina and cochlea, will be covered by other lectures. Topics include Neuronal pathways from the periphery to the cortex and other primary subcortical targets,
Topical organization of sensory pathways,
Somatosensory, visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory systems.
Reading: Kandel et al, Principles of Neural Sciences (5th edition), Chapters. 15, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25, 31, 32, 47, 48, 49, 65, 66; Bear, Connors, Paradiso, Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain (3rd edition), Chapters 18, 24, 25 (obligatory); Purves, Neuroscience (5th edition), Chapters 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 29, 31; Nieuwenhuys, Voogd, van Huijzen, The Human Central Nervous System. A Synopsis and Atlas (recommended, can be made available on request)
Outline: This lecture will focus on the anatomical basis and circuitries of central and peripheral nervous structures engaged in motions. The first lecture repeats the organization of the spinal cord with the important ascending and descending pathways. Further we will speak about neuronal (motor) effectors and motor units, central motor regions and the pyramidal tract. The pyramidal tract is the most important tract of voluntary motor activity, and its location and function is essential to understanding the processes involved in the execution of a movement.
The second lecture will focus on the extrapyramidal system. We will look at the anatomical components, especially the cerebellum, and work our way through the information loops. These include, first, the basal nucleus loop, the cerebellar loops, and the descending motor pathways adjacent to the pyramidal pathway. In addition, we will learn about the physiological properties of the circuits and what consequences the information loops have on the control of a movement.
Reading: Kandel et al, Principles of Neural Sciences (5th edition),Chapters 33‐35, 37, 42‐43 (obligatory) ; Mai and Paxinos: The Human Nervous System (3rd edition), chapters 5, 7‐9, 11, 21, 26
Outline: The Autonomic Nervous System Is a Visceral and Largely Involuntary Sensory and Motor System
As long as we are in steady-state (homeostasis), this part of the nervous system stays subconscious and is therefore more difficult to address and understand than many others. Nevertheless, you can be sure that your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing frequency (and thus pO2) is as optimized by your ANS and its interplay with the hormonal system, as you digestion, urine production and hormonal levels. It is the goal of this lecture to lay-out the anatomy of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), with a focus on the brainstem and the spinal cord (both housing the major central nervous system components of the parasympathetic and sympathetic branch of the ANS)– not forgetting about the hypothalamus (providing higher-order control). Cortical control via the insula will also be included.
In a nutshell: the sympathetic nervous system drives “fight or flight” whereas the parasympathetic nervous system drives “rest or digest” bodily states.
Outline: This lecture deals with circadian clocks and circadian rhythms and cover
the following specific topics:
Purpose of circadian rhythms,
Anatomy of the circadian clock,
he design principles of circadian clocks that drive the circadian
Measuring and features of circadian rhythms,
The circadian clock and light,
Mutations in circadian clock genes,
Reading: Bollinger, T and Schibler, U (2014) Swiss Med Wkly. 144:w13984. ;
Partch, C.L. et al. (2014) Trends in Cell Biology 24, 90‐99.
Outline: This lecture introduces invertebrate model organisms. We begin by revisiting classical invertebrate model organisms, such as Aplysia (snail), Locusta (grasshopper), Calliphora (blowfly) and why they were chosen. We will than move on to Drosophila and the possibilities of neuro‐genetic approaches. We will cover classic experiments and break‐throughs made in invertebrate models.
The Oxford Handbook of Invertebrate Neurobiology, Edited by John H. Byrne, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190456757.001.0001
Outline: The first part of the lecture series is intended to provide a very general overview of DNA/genome structure and function. Basic themes are: Chemical structure of DNA; chromosome structure; genes and 'non-coding' chromosomal DNA; chromatin structure; histone function, regulation, and dynamics; DNA replication, DNA polymerase complex, topoisomerases; telomers.
The second part provides a very general overview of the processes of RNA biosynthesis, RNA function, and protein biosynthesis. Basic themes are: DNA transcription, RNA polymerases, RNA structure and types; mRNA synthesis and processing; ribosome synthesis and function; protein biosynthesis; damaged mRNAs .
Outline: The lectures give a brief overview over the biosynthesis of membrane- and secreted proteins, including co-translational insertion into the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), folding and quality control. It covers vesicular traffic between the ER and the Golgi apparatus, the plasma membrane, various endosomal compartments, and lysosomes, with special emphasis on neuronal subcompartments and the molecular mechanisms of exo-endocytosis in the synapse. Selected molecular details of individual trafficking steps are presented such as the function of small GTPases, coat proteins (COPII, COPI, clathrin), tethering factors, and SNAREs in vesicle budding, docking, and fusion, as well as regulation of these steps by coincidence detection, by calcium sensors, or by GTPase regulators. A very brief overview is also given about the main components of cytoskeletal fibres (microtubules, actin microfilaments, neurofilaments), their control by accessory factors, the movement along actin and microtubule tracks mediated by kinesin, myosin, or dynein motor proteins, Examples are given for specific structures and function of cytoskeletal components in axons, axon initial segments, synapses, dendrites and the soma of neurons.
Outline: This lecture will address some basic immunology and then focus mainly on the immune surveillance of and (auto‐) inflammatory response within the central nervous system (CNS). The concept of the blood-brain-barrier (BBB) will be developed, combined with the reasons why the CNS is protected to a certain degree against attacks by the immune system. Furthermore, the role of microglia as main cell type of the innate immune system within the CNS in homeostatic and pathological conditions will be discussed. Last, different stages and the underlying mechanisms of an autoimmune attack of the CNS by the immune system will be exemplified by the human disease multiple sclerosis and its animal model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).
Outline: This group of six lectures covers the biophysical bases of electrical signaling, addressing the composition, function and properties of biological membranes, the generation and modulation of membrane potential, the causes and consequences of changes in the membrane potential, and the structure and function of ion channels. Voltage-gated ion channels and related molecules are extensively explained in the light of the latest structural information. For ligand-gated channels the lectures focus on structural aspects, given the in-depth functional descriptions in other lectures. The functional impact of ion channels is illustrated with examples of channelopathies.
Outline: These lectures provide a deep overview of the function and organization of synapses in mammalian systems, with examples taken from studies on both mice and humans. Synapse structure will be explained, including the principles behind it. This will be followed by an overview of exo- and endocytosis, and by an explanation of the functional principles of postsynaptic receptors. Synaptic integration and plasticity will be then discussed, on the basis of complex, real human circuitry. Finally, we will deal with the role of glia in synaptic activity and synaptic network integration.
Outline: This lecture introduces simple neuron models and discusses topics of neural coding and decoding. We study principles underlying supervised learning in neural networks. The introduced concepts will be elaborated in computer tutorials on the basis of the Python programming language. Following topics will be covered Linear‐nonlinear models; Stimulus reconstruction; Neuronal networks for classification; Perceptron learning; Efficient coding theory.
Outline: The lectures provide comprehensive and up-to-date coverage of the interrelationships between the central nervous system and the endocrine system in humans. The lectures also provides the student with basic concepts in neuroendocrinology, including cellular and molecular actions of hypothalamic and pituitary hormones and the role of these hormones in controlling reproductive functions, body metabolism (e.g. obesity), stress, growth, aging, biological rhythms and immunity.
Reading: Wilkinson and Brown: An introduction to neuroendocrinology (pp 1-77)
Outline: This lecture is an introduction to basic principles of pharmacology and gives an overview of interactions of drugs with the nervous system. The students will learn about the anatomy, function, neurotransmitters and receptors of the autonomic and somatic nervous systems, with an emphasis on available drugs and their targets. Examples for mechanistic insight into and treatment options for neurological diseases are given for Parkinson’s disease, depression and anxiety disorders.
Reading: Nestler, E.: Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience.
Outline: This course will start with an introduction to the basic concepts of quantifying behavior and perception by psychophysical methods. Then each student will receive a practical in the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the German Primate Center as part of a group of students. In this practical there will be the opportunity to perform some simple psychophysical measurements of human visual perceptual performance. The students will get to know various experimental designs for determining detection and discrimination thresholds. The practical will enable them to get a feel for the strengths, weaknesses, limitations and potential pitfalls of psychophysics.
The second part of the lecture by Prof. Ehrenreich will focus mainly on behavioral paradigms and behavioral phenotyping of mouse models of psychiatric disorders. The following topics will be covered: Validity issues of mouse models of human disease; Principles of behavioral model development; Factors that can influence the behavior of mice, and methods to minimize the impact of these factors in experimental situations; Behavioral paradigms for assessing sensory, motor, emotional, social, cognitive and executive functions in mice; New technologies in the analysis of behavioral circuits .
Outline: This lecture will focus mainly on the general principles of sensory physiology. After defining the cascade from stimulus to percept, we will define sensory modalities and discuss the 4 elementary types of information processed in sensory systems using the example of mechanosensation in vertebrates.
Following topics will be covered: Perception vs sensation; Basic attributes of a stimulus; Different receptor types in the mechanosensory system of
vertebrates; Lateral inhibition; Psychophysics.
Outline: This lecture will explain how sound is captured and processed in the ears. We will mainly discuss the processes in the inner ear and have a closer look at the structures that enable mechanotransduction and sound encoding. The following topics will be covered: Human auditory perception space (sound frequency and intensity); Structure of the ear and the auditory pathway; The principle of tonotopy; Generation of endocochlear potential; Hair cell mechanotranduction and sound encoding; Electromotility; Sound localization and audiovisual integration.
Outline: This lecture will focus on the processing of visual information across the first few stages of the vertebrate visual system. We will discuss both anatomical and physiological aspects of the neurons and circuits along the pathway from the eye to primary visual cortex. Where possible, we will relate these aspects to visual perception.
The main topics are as follows: Layout of the retina; Photoreceptors and phototransduction; Neural processing in the retina; Thalamus and subcortical vision centers; Primary visual cortex (organization and cell types).
Reading: Principles of Neural Science (Kandel et al.), Chapters 25 & 26
Outline: This lecture will focus mainly on the mammalian olfactory and gustatory system. Chemosensation in arthropods will be briefly covered in addition.
After touring the anatomy of the human olfactory epithelium and gustatory taste buds, we will discuss signal transduction in chemosensory systems, mechanisms of adaptation, labeled line versus across fiber patterns, olfactory and gustatory receptors, second messenger cascades, synthetic versus analytic chemosensation, chemotopic maps, temporal aspects of signal processing, higher order processing, olfactory learning.
Reading: Kandel, Principles of Neural Science, 5th edition, pp. 625-645
Outline: These two lectures focus on an overview of sensory information processing in the visual cortex of (non-human) primates (“Higher Vision” lecture) and its modulation by cognitive (top-down) effects, using attention as the specific example (“Attention” lecture). The topics include:
Higher Vision: Gross anatomy of the visual system; Core aspects of early (retina to V1) visual information processing; Core aspects of V1 visual information processing; Visual areas in primate cortex; Aspects of visual information processing beyond V1; Functional anatomy and parallel pathways; Complex sensory selectivities in areas beyond V1 .
Attention: The challenges of highly evolved feed-forward sensory systems; Neurobiological solutions for these challenges; Quantitative studies of attention: Psychophysics; EEG; fMRI;
Outline: The two lectures (4 h) will focus on the physiology of skeletal motor systems and their functional control by spinal neural circuits. Additionally, the properties of vertebrate skeletal muscle will be compared with smooth and heart muscle cells. Furthermore the pathophysiology of motor units will be exemplified.
Following topics will be emphasized: Molecular organization and physiology of vertebrate skeletal muscle; From action potential to contraction; Differences of smooth muscle and heart muscle cells; Control of force; Muscular afferent and spinal reflex pathways General organization of motor control .
Reading: Kandel, Principles of Neural Science, 5th edition, chapter 33-37
Outline: This lecture series starts with an introduction into MRI and MRS with a particular focus on its application in
Moreover, the lecture will provide the theoretical basis for the following lectures “functional magnetic
resonance imaging” given by PD Dr. Peter Dechent and Dr. Renate Schweizer and will be
accomplished by a practical demonstration at the imaging facilities of the German Primate Center
After an introduction into the physical principles of MRI and MRS we will discuss different methods
and technical requirements to obtain spatially high resolved, contrast-rich images of the brain and
to determine metabolite concentrations in certain brain regions.
Outline: This lecture focused on the anatomy of the human central nervous system and neurological diseases. In particular, the lecture provided students with basic concepts of neurology, including the basic functions of the cerebral cortex and brainstem, the components of the motor and sensory systems, the difference between flaccid and rigid palsy, the different types of aphasia, and relevant clinical cases to help students understand.
Reading: Bähr and Frotscher: Topical Diagnosis in Neurology
Outline: This lecture focused on the clinical symptoms of ischemic stroke, the principles of diagnosis and treatment, and future perspectives on new therapeutic approaches. The lecture also provided students with an introduction of basic laboratory techniques, models of cerebral ischemia: including in vivo models of oxygen-glucose deprivation and in vitro models of middle cerebral artery occlusion, blood-brain barrier models, the function and extraction methods of exosomes, and the design of studies. The students' understanding is also helped by our previous topics and published articles.
Reading: Bähr and Frotscher: Topical Diagnosis in Neurology
Outline: This lecture will review motoneurons, peripheral nerves, the neuromuscular
endplate and the skeletal muscle as peripheral system that controls motor
function. Characteristics of movement impairment as well as topical
correlation of clinical signs after damage in these structures will be
demonstrated and discussed. The clinical features and pathophysiology of
disorders of the skeletal muscle, nerve, motoneuron and neuromuscular
endplate will be presented.
Reading: Kandel, Principles of Neural Science, 5th edition, pp. 533-547 (mandatory), pp. 581-607 (optional), pp. 609-(covering Movement disorders in general) 659 (mandatory), pp. 660-667 (optional); Engel, Franzini-Armstrong: Myology, Volume I and II.
Outline: The first lecture will cover the principles of the pathophysiology of epilepsies. It will deal with mechanisms of action of epileptic neurons, the paroxysmal depolarisation shift (PDS) and the involvement of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter systems. Clinical aspects of epilepsies with focal and generalized epileptogenesis will be taught, including video presentations, and clinical tools for diagnosis of epilepsies will be introduced, with a special emphasis on electroencephalography and typical findings in MRI. We will also cover some concepts of systems neuroscience / network analysis and its applications in epilepsy. Finally, therapeutical aspects will be discussed different modes of action of antiepileptic drugs as well as other types of antiepileptic treatment.
The second lecture will focus mainly on the organization of voluntary movement. It will deal with the
organization of movement generation in the cortex, with the different tasks of different motor areas,
with the differences in motor execution and motor planning. Furthermore techniques how to
explore and modulate motor function in man will be taught.
Outline: The lecture “Mechanisms of Memory and Learning“ introduces the various assays used to study learning and memory retrieval in animal models and humans and describes the corresponding approaches to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms with a specific focus on synaptic plasticity and epigenetic gene-expression. We will also discuss the idea that learning abilities and memories might be transgenerationally inherited. The lecture “Neurodegeneration” will discuss Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease as examples for monogenetic and multifactorial neurodegenerative diseases. A main focus will be on Alzheimer’s disease and the need to discover biomarker that would allow therapeutic intervention at an early stage of molecular pathology, hence before the memory decline can be detected. Another aspect will novel therapeutic strategies such as RNA therapeutics. The following topics will be covered: Classification of memories; Historic approaches to address the molecular mechanisms underlying learning & memory; The role of de novo protein synthesis and gene expression in learning & memory; Hebbian plasticity; Synaptic tagging & capturing; Molecular approaches to study the engram; RNA based memory inheritance; Basic processes related to Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease; Biomarker detection and why this is key to successful therapy; Novel therapeutic approaches such as RNA therapeutics.
Reijmers LG, Perkins BL, Matsuo N, Mayford M. Localization of a stable neural correlate of associative memory., Science, 2007;317(5842):1230-1233; Fischer A, Sananbenesi F, Wang X, Dobbin M, Tsai LH. Recovery of learning and memory is associated with chromatin remodelling., Nature, 2007;447(7141):178-182.; Liu X, Ramirez S, Pang PT, et al. Optogenetic stimulation of a hippocampal engram activates fear memory recall.,Nature, 2012;484(7394):381-385.
Castro-Hernández R, Berulava T, Metelova M, Epple R, Peña Centeno T, Richter J, Kaurani L, Pradhan R, Sakib MS, Burkhardt S, Ninov M, Bohnsack KE, Bohnsack MT, Delalle I, Fischer A.; Conserved reduction of m6A RNA modifications during aging and neurodegeneration is linked to changes in synaptic transcripts. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Feb 28;120(9):e2204933120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2204933120. Epub 2023 Feb 22
Damase TR, Sukhovershin R, Boada C, Taraballi F, Pettigrew RI, Cooke JP. The Limitless Future of RNA Therapeutics. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 Mar 18;9:628137. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2021.628137. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbioe.2021.628137/full
Josselyn SA, Tonegawa S. Memory engrams: Recalling the past and imagining the future. Science. 2020 Jan 3;367(6473):eaaw4325. doi: 10.1126/science.aaw4325. PMID: 31896692 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7577560/
Brand AL, Lawler PE, Bollinger JG, Li Y, Schindler SE, Li M, Lopez S, Ovod V, Nakamura A, Shaw LM, Zetterberg H, Hansson O, Bateman RJ. The performance of plasma amyloid beta measurements in identifying amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease: a literature review. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2022 Dec 27;14(1):195. doi: 10.1186/s13195-022-01117-1; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9793600/
Outline: This lecture will focus mainly on the cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in invertebrate model organisms (Aplysia, honeybees and Drosophila). After touring the general definition of learning and memory, we will discuss the cellular substrates of habituation, sensitization and classical conditioning. Following topics will be covered: non-associative vs associative learning, molecular pathways, CREB-2, coincidence detection, memory phases.
Reading: Neuroscience, From Molecules to Behaviour: A University Textbook, Springer, 2012 pp. 577-608 (obligatory)
Outline: This lecture will focus mainly on molecular aspects of neurodegenerative dementias especially on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related proteinopathies. We will discuss the following topics: Alzheimer’s disease (neuropathology, genetics, animal models, diagnosis, therapeutic options); Risk factor ApoE for sporadic AD; Familial AD, mutations in APP, PSEN1 and PSEN-2; AD animal models; Approved AD drugs; Future AD drug options .
Outline: The first part of the lecture is about general aspects of rare cognitive diseases including main symptoms of cognitive diseases, clinical approach to such patients and the classification of these diseases, for instance by their causes. Dementia is then discussed in detail with regard to its causes and clinical findings, especially using modern techniques like MRI and PET. Finally, protein aggregation, especially intracellularly, is discussed as the main pathophysiological finding for the (sub-)classification of almost all neurodegenerative diseases including cognitive diseases, movement disorders and motor neuron diseases.
The second part of this lecture will focus mainly on neurometabolic disorders. As examples Glutaraciduria Type I, CDS-syndrome and MCAD deficiency will be discussed. The discovery and characterization of cystic leukencephalopathy caused by RNaseT2 deficiency as a new rare cognitive disease will be explained.
Outline: The first lecture will focus on mental diseases particularly schizophrenia. Following topics will be covered: Epidemiology, patient presentations and core symptoms; Schizophrenic prodrome and differential diagnoses; Disease heterogeneity, basics of disease classification and diagnosis; Genetic approaches to schizophrenia etiology including genome‐wide association studies (GWAS); Environmental risk factors; Necessity to define biological subgroups of mental diseases and of shifting paradigms in neuropsychiatry; Phenotype based genetic association studies Mouse models of schizophrenia
The second lecture lecture will focus on major depressive disorder and will cover the following topics: Epidemiologic aspects and diagnosis; Neuroanatomy of mood and emotion; Neurochemistry of major depression; Neurobiology of major depression; Animal models of depression; Treatments for depression .