Expertise in all fields of Neuroscience

That drives us

From the study of single cells, to organisms such as zebrafish and mice, through to human behavior, we are trying to understand understanding.

Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Research groups in the molecular and cellular neurosciences are broadly represented in the faculties of the natural sciences in Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt, the University clinics in Frankfurt
and Mainz, the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research (LIR, Mainz) as well as in the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (Frankfurt) and the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB, Mainz). They investigate individual elements of neural circuits (proteins, spines, synapses, neuron) and how these circuits execute particular functions to regulate the flow of information necessary for cognitive performance. This research focuses, e.g., on calcium (Ca2+), chemical, and electrical signaling and neural stem cells.

  • Examples of our research questions are: how are these processes regulated? How do these elements respond to challenges from the environment to enable the nervous system to combine functionality, adaptability and flexibility of its network components throughout life. What is the influence of radiation on the developing and adult brain?

    We study diverse classes of genes, including those that encode transcription factors, signaling molecules, transporters, or molecules that control cell-to-cell interaction and communication. This research on the molecular and cellular level looks at, e.g.:

    – ion channel regulation using electrophysiology and optogenetic techniques
    – regulation of presynaptic and postsynaptic functions,
    – local regulation of transcriptomes and proteomes in neurons,
    – synapse development and structural plasticity,
    – molecular and cellular mechanisms of neurodegenerative processes and neurovascular communication.
    – Neural stem cells, radiation and behavioral performance.

    At all locations, Frankfurt, Darmstadt and Mainz, there is a strong cooperation between experimentalists and with computational scientists, which allows to generate mathematically explicit models to analyze the wealth of data generated experimentally. The molecular and cellular neurosciences in Frankfurt and Mainz constitute the major basis for the CRC1080, Neural Homeostasis (

Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience

Systems Neuroscience studies how individual neurons and their components form networks, and how the structure and function of these neuronal circuits contribute to a wide range of brain functions, including perception and behavior. Systems Neuroscience often uses animal and cell models and sophisticated measurement tools such as in vivo 2-photon microscopy, electrophysiological depth recordings, optogenetics and imaging of voltage sensitive dyes. These physiological approaches are complemented with anatomical techniques which allow for the visualization of the underlying anatomical network architecture.

  • Cognitive Neuroscience has a very similar research interest. It focuses on understanding the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying human cognition and behavior. As it mostly relies on non-invasive imaging of the human brain (electroencephalography/EEG, magnetoencephalography, or MRI), Cognitive Neuroscience typically operates at a slightly more macroscopic level of resolution than System Neuroscience.

    Much of this work is conducted at the Brain Imaging Center (BIC) in Frankfurt or the Neuro Imaging Center (FTN/NIC) in Mainz. Both are state-of-the-art core facilities for research in human Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience. They function as central hubs for researchers from the Departments of Psychology and Sports Sciences, for Medical Psychology and clinical Departments of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, and Neurology, and, in the last years, also for a strong new group of human neuroscientists at the MPI for Empirical Aesthetics.

    As a result of seminal work on the neuronal synchronizations and oscillatory dynamics underlying perception, attention and memory conducted in the last decades at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience (ESI), Frankfurt is internationally acknowledged for its strength in Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience.

    Research groups in Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt investigate an exceptionally broad range of the brain’s functional systems, from the fundamental processes of perception, attention, motivation and motor control, to long-term memory, working memory and executive functions, to high-level cognition like language processing and human intelligence. In many of the labs working in the field of Systems and Cognitive Neurosciences, research focuses on understanding fundamental properties of how information is neuronally coded and represented in the brain. These labs also cooperate and interact intensely with Computational Neuroscience.

Computational Neuroscience

Computational Neuroscience uses mathematical modeling to understand ‘neural algorithms’, i.e., the nature of neural representations (of, e.g., a sensory stimulus or an internal state) and the transformations between different representational states (like perception) in the brain.

  • Investigating the implementation of neural algorithms and their establishment in learning and development involves studying spatio-temporal patterns of neural population activity:

    – how these patterns are rooted in the structure of neural circuits,
    – and how they, in turn, shape these circuits through mechanisms of activity dependent plasticity.

    It is the key to ask questions like:
    – what is it that makes neural algorithms so flexible, and yet so robust and reliable?
    – how can neural circuits learn new tasks so efficiently with so little explicit training?

    This small amount of explicit training is in stark contrast to current state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI / Deep Learning) requiring astronomically large amounts of explicit teaching signals to achieve human-level performance in specific real-world tasks. These fundamental research questions surface at different levels. They are relevant for understanding neuronal computations during circuit-level, molecular and cellular, as well as cognitive processes in the brain.

    Currently, there are half a dozen computational neuroscience groups in Frankfurt, particularly at the FIAS, the ESI and the MPI for Brain Research, focusing on circuit function, learning and development, computational anatomy, and neural data analysis. Several of experimental labs at all 3 locations also have a strong computational focus. The interaction between experimental and computational research groups are particularly strong leveraging state-of-the-art modeling and machine learning techniques for neural data analysis. In Darmstadt this interdisciplinary approach is represented by the Centre for Cognitive Science (CCS, which covers the full range of scientific disciplines from systems neuroscience, cognitive science, sports science and computer science. Among others, the scientific impact of the CCS is bundled in the LOEWE research cluster WhiteBox (

Clinical and Translational Neuroscience

Clinical Neuroscience uses neuroscientific methods to uncover mechanisms in Central Nervous System Diseases (CNS disorders) as well as to facilitate the translation of neuroscientific research to the treatment of patients.

At both, the Medical Faculty of Mainz and Frankfurt, Clinical Neuroscience is represented by the Departments of Neuroradiology, Neurosurgery, Neuropathology, Neurology, Clinical Pharmacology, Otorhinolaryngology, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy as well as Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.

  • A good example for our approaches in Clinical Neuroscience is illustrated by ongoing scientific work in the psychiatric and neurological departments: research in psychiatry focuses on the neurobiology underlying the development of mental disorders (especially autism, ADHD, anxiety and mood disorders) over the early life span applying a variety of methods from genomics, animal and cell models to multimodal imaging and behavioral methods like eye tracking. By disentangling the obvious heterogeneity of psychiatric disorders based on objective measures, this research is geared towards establishing precision medicine and stratified therapy approaches. Phase-IIa and Phase-III clinical studies are accordingly coordinated on a regular basis.

    Clinical neurology has a longstanding tradition in translational neurovascular, neuro-oncological and neuro-pharmacological research and epileptology. Also here research approaches bridge the gap between all subfields of neuroscience in interdisciplinary teams. Often, this work requires access to large samples of patients, so that clinical neuroscience research groups are very active (including coordination) in national and international research consortia funded by the EU, BMBF and DFG.

    Bringing together neuroscientific research from all the different levels there is the Focus Program Translational Neuroscience (FTN) in Mainz. Here, about 80 research groups ( are active in many departments ranging from basic research to clinical patient work The FTN ( serves as a hub for neuroscience research in Mainz and aims to support neuroscience research by offering services in the collaborative network of rmn2. The goal of the basic researchers and clinicians working in the FTN is to clarify physiological and pathophysiological measures for processes of neural adjustment and homeostasis of the nervous system, as well as translating the results into clinical activities. FTN is aiming at contributing to the clinical implementation of the almost exponentially growing increase of knowledge in the fields of molecular and cellular neurosciences.

    The Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research (LIR) ( in Mainz, established as a member institute of the extra university Leibniz Association in January 2020, focuses on resilience research, meaning the ability to maintain or restore mental health during or after stressful life situations. The main goals of LIR are to understand resilience mechanisms from a neuroscientific perspective, to develop appropriate interventions to promote resilience and to work towards changing the living and working environment to finally strengthen resilience. To achieve this, neuroscientists, physicists, clinical scientists and psychologists work together in an interdisciplinary team. In currently 10 research groups, basic molecular research and human research are combined with genetic, epigenetic, metabolic, physiological, psychological and social science methods. Special competences exist in the fields of molecular biology, systems neuroscience, functional imaging, neurostimulation, as well as randomized controlled studies with patients, systematic reviews and meta-analyses. In addition, there are three research platforms (Mouse Behavioral Unit, MBU, Mainz Animal Imaging Centre, MAIC, and Clinical Investigation Centre, CIC) whose services are also available to cooperation partners.