Archived News

New proteins for new memories

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research have found a way to measure newly synthesized proteins in artificially grown nerve cells from the rat hippocampus after regulating their connectivity for a certain amount of time. The researchers observed for the first time that conditions, such as time and up- or down regulation, determine which new proteins were synthesized.

Each time the brain stores information, it changes the strength at the synapses, the connections between nerve cells. When two neurons at a synapse are active at the same time, they will become stronger connected, enabling the first neuron to activate the second even more easily. If this process continues unchecked, the synaptic strength will reach a threshold value, which will make it harder for the brain to form new memories. To prevent this from happening, the brain responds to prolonged changes in the activity of neurons by adjusting the strength of synapses in the opposite direction. If neurons are too active for an extended period of time, the brain reduces the strength of synapses. The brain can also do the opposite when neurons show too little activity. This regulatory process is known as homeostatic scaling, and the brain achieves this by adjusting the number and/or type of proteins present at synapses.

In order to track changes in proteins after manipulating the synaptic strength, researchers grew cells in a petri dish in the presence of modified building blocks. Schanzenbächer: “All new proteins will contain these amino acids, making them easy to spot.” The Max Planck researchers applied this technique to neurons obtained from the rat hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in learning and memory. Bathing the neurons for two hours in chemicals that either enhanced or reduced their activity triggered changes in more than 150 proteins

They now compared these results to those of a previous experiment in which neuronal activity had been manipulated for 24 hours. Surprising, each set of conditions produced a distinct, characteristic profile of protein expression. This allows researchers to “read-out” from the system whether the network was enhanced or decreased and for how long. Schuman: “This is the first study of its kind to monitor the dynamics of brain proteins, or the ‘proteome’ during plasticity. These findings may provide insights into disease states in which there is too much or too little brain activity.”

Paper: Schanzenbächer, C.T., Langer, J.D. and Schuman, E. (2018) Time- and polarity-dependent proteomic changes associated with homeostatic scaling at central synapses. Elife 7: e33322

Contact: Prof. Dr. Erin M. Schuman, Max Planck Institute for Brain research, Max-von-Laue-Str. 4, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Email:, T: +49 69 850 033 1001 (Ms. Nicole Thomson)

Figure caption: Proteins at neuronal synapses exhibit changes in expression levels following prolonged increases or decreases in network activity.

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 09.12.27


ERC Advanced Grant

Erin Schuman receives her second ERC Advanced Grant for NeuroRibo project.

With this prestigious grant of 2.5 million Euro, Erin Schuman, Director at the Frankfurt-based Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (MPI-BR) since 2009, will study extended functions of the ribosome, the protein-making machine, in neurons. Ribosomes are complex, yet conserved, multiprotein machines and Schuman’s team will study how they are specialized to synthesize proteins in the distal aspects of neuronal dendrites.

Erin and three other investigators at Max Planck Institute for Brain Research have received funding from the European Research Council in the past five years, despite intense competition. At the level of Advanced Investigators, funding is typically given to the top 10% of applicants. The Max Planck Institute congratulates Erin Schuman and her research team for this achievement.



Reapplication Success

Following a successful first funding period, the German Research Foundation (DFG) approved 12 million euros of funding for the Collaborative Research Center 1080. Over the coming four-year period, the group will investigate the molecular and cellular interactions that enable the brain to maintain a balanced functional state and advance neuroscience research in the Rhine-Main area.
In terms of leadership, 2017 will see the speakership move to Amparo Acker-Palmer whose roles, as head of the Institute for Cell Biology and Neuroscience at the Goethe University Frankfurt as well as that of fellow of the Gutenberg Research College of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, will further enhance collaboration in the Rhine-Main area. Deputy speaker will be Heiko Luhmann, head of the Institute for Physiology of the Mainz University Medical Center, who has been a member of the CRC1080 committee since its inception. Tom J. Kay will remain in place as manager.

A number of notable scientists with proven track-records in the field of neuroscience will join the CRC1080 from January. Their inclusion in the group will bring a further strengthening of ties and cross-group investigation within the Rhine-Main neuroscience networks and a focus on the promoting of excellence and the open exchange of ideas. The work to date and the future direction of the group is strongly supported through a renewed commitment from Goethe University Frankfurt and Johannes Gutenberg University / Medical Center Mainz.



On-site visit from the DFG

This event was the culmination of the efforts and advances of the past four years. The on-site visit saw our project leaders making their pitch for further funding based on the successes of the 2013-2016 funding period and their well-laid out plans for 2017-2020.

Our CRC was confidently taken forward under the new stewardship of Prof. Amparo Acker-Palmer who galvanised the group, fielded inquiries from the DFG and ultimately led the group to a successful reapplication.



4th Biennial meeting of the rmn² 2016

Oberwesel saw the best and brightest of the rmn2 Neuroscience Community meet yet again for a productive and educational three-day event. Not only was this an opportunity for our 1080 lead scientists to enhance working relationships with those in the Rhine-Mainz neuroscience environment, but it also acted as the perfect chance for our junior scientists to meet with more established scientists with reputations for making advancements in our field.

The rmn2 is led by the CRC 1080’s Jochen Roeper.


5x800-white-dividerInternational Symposium 2015

Feedback from October’s international symposium was incredibly positive. This was – in no short measure – due to our securing  of a number of internationally outstanding colleagues (including Eve Marder) as guest speakers.

The event also saw our lead scientists present their progress to date and – over the three days in Frankfurt – build on existing connections whilst laying down solid foundations for future collaborations with people from within the Rhine-Main region and beyond. In every measurable way, this event was regarded as success.



Biennial meeting of the rmn² 2014

The 3rd Biennial Meeting, which took place in June 2014 in Oberwesel, proved to be an inspiring event for the rmn2 Neuroscience Community. The event was heavily attended by 1080 project leaders and their scientific support staff with feedback being extremely positive.



October Event 2013

Following on from a strong start to our first year together, the 1080 held an “Autumn Retreat” for our CRC members and associated parties. The status meeting was an opportunity for our project leaders to share their results and for us to explore some of the themes presented.



Inauguration Event 2013

March 2013 saw the CRC 1080 hold its first official event bringing together all of those involved with the collaborative research centre. The event was hosted by Erin Schuman at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt with the title of the event being:

“New Frontiers in CNS Homeostatic Research”

In addition to talks by the principal investigators, Gina Turrigiano, Professor of Biology at Brandeis University, gave a Master Class.



Tom Kay – Science and Finance Manager