Dr. Tobias Bonhoeffer

Visiting Professor of Biology at Stanford, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Professor at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich

One of the most fundamental properties of the brain is its ability to adapt rapidly to environmental changes. This is achieved mainly by changes in the synaptic connectivity between individual nerve cells. Synapses can be modulated in their these, both from a cellular perspective and from a systems perspective, in which we study how functional and structural changes in synaptic connections support experience-dependent plasticity and learning. Studying the effects of experience on synaptic changes in cortical circuits has been hugely helped by novel imaging methods. In particular, in vivo two-photon microscopy has enabled us to study morphological as well as functional plasticity at the level of individual neurons and even individual synapses or dendritic spines in the developing and adult neocortex. In my lecture I will report a number of new findings ranging from cellular studies describing the detailed mechanisms and rules by which new connections are being formed to systems approaches in which we can assess how this synaptic plasticity impacts cortical function and ultimately behavior.