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From Neurons to Networks

Numerous neurons of the cerebral cortex. Image by the MPFI Taniguchi Lab

Each neuron in the brain is an amazingly complex computational device, integrating synaptic inputs from thousands of other neurons to deliver a coherent output signal that makes brain function possible.

Using a variety of new molecular probes and cutting-edge microscope technologies, Max Planck scientists are leading the field in visualizing the response properties of individual synapses that converge onto single neurons in the living brain. By focusing on the visual cortex –the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for sight– this innovative research is making it possible to decipher the principles that underlie the input/output computations of individual neurons, and how interactions between different types of neurons give rise to the selective patterns of network activity that create our visual world. ┬áThis research is also unlocking the developmental mechanisms responsible for building these networks and the role that experience plays in this process, providing novel insights into the broad range of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions that derive from the cerebral cortex.