Research Focus

We investigate neural processing from single cells to networks.

In particular, we would like to understand how neurons are optimized for their computational task. Therefore, we investigate the relationship between intrinsic neuronal properties and the signaling mechanisms shaped by them, as well as their relevance for network behavior. The aim is to link the molecular level of ion channels to characteristics of neuronal firing, focusing on topics like information transfer, synchronization, energy efficiency, and temperature robustness. To identify computational principles, conductance-based and phenomenological models are used in combination with data evaluation techniques and analytical approaches. We closely cooperate with experimental groups in order to test theoretical predictions.

We are part of the Institute for Theoretical Biology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin.


  • NEW paper: Our study on how cellular morphology impacts network synchronization has been published in PLoS Computational Biology! Congrats, Robert! (March 2024).
  • Prize for the best dissertation: Paul was awarded the Humboldt Prize for the best dissertation. The first to the ITB in 20 years. Congrats, Paul! (November 2023).
  • Award: Susanne was awarded the Caroline von Humboldt Professorship 2024. Big honour. (October 2023).
  • NEW paper: Congrats on Mahraz' first paper, in collaboration with the lab of Ulf Strauss at Charite, where we demonstrate a reverse operational mode of KCC2 and its role for potassium signalling, published in Cell Reports (August 2023).
  • NEW paper in Nature: Single neuron dynamics shape network behaviour: In Drosophila, a motonetwork exploits action potential generation close to the SNL point in order to produce desynchronised network spay states via electrical coupling, as we show in our publication in Nature in collaboration with our wonderful experimental partners in Mainz (June 2023).
  • Science Slam Award: Well done, Paul, for securing the first prize for the science rap at the “Long Night of the Sciences 2023” at the Bernstein Center Berlin (June 2023).
  • Ph.D. Defense: Paul has defended his PhD on the topic of ion channel cooperativity and the development of the capacitance clamp protocol. Congratulations, Dr. Pfeiffer! (Oktober 2022).
  • Public event in German: On the evening of Sunday September 11th 2022, three wonderful colleagues will provide fascinating insights into neural processing for non-specialists, from the war among ants to the happiness of understanding fellow human beings. We organise this event in collaboration with the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Bernstein Network for Computational Neuroscience and the BMBF. For further details and registration see the Academy's website "Einblicke ins Denken: Von Nervenzellen, Orientierungssinn und dem Glück, andere zu verstehen" (September 2022).
  • NEW paper: We are very proud of our Nature Communications paper showing how action potential dynamics impact network activity and produce synchronized or splayed-out states - featuring Janina as first author and a fruitful collaboration with the Schmitzlab. Beware of homoclinic spikes! (August 2022).
  • NEW paper: Congratulation to Paul on his eLife paper showing how the dynamic clamp technique can be used to artificially modify membrane capacitance - a fruitful experiment-theory collaboration with the lab of Imre Vida (April 2022).
  • Invited Cosyne Talk: Susanne presented our results on homoclinic spiking and its influence on network behaviour at a lovely Cosyne 2022 conference in Lisbon. A video of the presentation can be found online. Move to session 5, starting at 2h 24min 40sec (March 2022).
  • NEW paper: If you want to learn more about how to use Pareto theory for understanding neural optimisation, check out our paper co-authored by Fabian, Philipp, and Jan-Hendrik in Current Opinion in Neurobiology. Special congratulations to Philipp for getting us on the cover! You can also find the paper on arXiv (October 2021).
  • NEW paper: Our paper on neural homeostasis beyond firing rates, first-authored by Nelson, has come out in Current Opinion in Neurobiology. Also to be found on arXiv (August 2021).
  • NEW paper: Our joint paper with the Geiger and Vida labs has appeared in Science Advances. Paul's and Moritz's contribution shows that a polarised morphology of interneurons in the presubiculum can benefit head direction tuning (June 2021).
  • NEW paper: Susana's new paper in collaboration with Allan Gulledge (US) demonstrates that elevated levels of extracellular potassium switch neurons to homoclinic spike generation - a dynamical type that favours synchronisation of inhibitory networks (June 2021).
  • NEW paper: Our new paper (joint work of Jan-Hendrik, Janina, and Susana in Phys Rev E) characterises firing statistics in the bistable regime of homoclinic spikers, moving us a step closer towards detecting these action potentials in the brain (January 2021).
  • NEW paper: Pia's study highlighting the importance of sodium channels and their voltage dependence for heart arrhythmias was accepted in PLoS ONE (July 2020).
  • Ethics Council: Susanne has been appointed to the German Ethics Council, where she now serves as vice chair (May 2020).
  • NEW paper: Paul's work on how cooperative ion channels enable persistent firing and thus a memory on the order of seconds has appeared in eLife. We really enjoyed the collaboration with the Draguhn lab in Heidelberg (February 2020).
  • ERC Consolidator Grant: We are extremely happy that our ERC Consolidator project ANewSpike has been approved and look forward to gaining insights about homoclinic action potentials and their relevance in the brain (December 2019).
  • Bernstein Conference 2019: Join us at the Bernstein Conference in Berlin (Sept 17th - 20th) with exciting workshops and a wonderful main program (September 2019).
  • Talk at URANIA: Janina and Susanne give a public talk on temperature and the brain at the URANIA (May 14th, 7:30 pm).
  • NEW paper: Janina's work, just accepted in the Journal of Computational Neuroscience, shows how to correctly estimate phase-response curves from experimental data - a task that is not easy and requires appropriately designed stimulation. If following her advise, however, one can reliably distinguish the type of spike, i.e., SNIC versus homoclinic versus Hopf (May 2019).
  • NEW paper: Our review on spikelets was accepted in Reviews in the Neurosciences (to appear soon). Whatever you may want to know about spikelets in pyramidal cells, check out this review, which covers Martina's and Michiel's work and all the mechanisms beyond (May 2019).
  • COSYNE 2019: Susanne presents our work on homoclinic spikes in the Cosyne Workshop “Why spikes?” in Cascais, Portugal (March 2019).
  • Bernstein Network: Susanne follows Andreas Herz as the Chair of the Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience in Germany (February 2019).
  • NEW paper: Our collaborative work with the lab of James Poulet (Charité) on dendritic-specific input amplification has been published in Cell Reports (September 2018).
  • FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence: Susanne was selected to join the group of FENS-Kavli Scholars 2018. Looking forward to the interactions within the network and hoping to contribute to supporting neuroscience in Europe (July 2018).
  • ICMNS 2018: The lab participated in the 4th International Conference on Mathematical Neuroscience in Juan-les-Pins, France: Paul received the poster prize - Congratulations! - Susana gave a contributed talk, and Susanne a keynote lecture (June 2018).
  • NEW SFB project: The DFG approved our SFB on memory consolidation. We will soon start a collaborative project on the role of inhibition for consolidation of tutor songs in zebra finches. A postdoctoral position for modelling will become available. Previous experience in mathematical modelling of neural systems and the analysis of biological data is required. Please contact us if interested (including the details stated in Positions).
  • ENCODS 2018: Paul and Susana co-organize this year's European Neuroscience Conference by Doctoral Students together with other PhD students from Berlin. The conference will take place close to Berlin in beautiful Schmoeckwitz on July 5th and 6th 2018. You can register here (deadline: January 31st 2018).
  • National Bernstein Association: Susanne elected as a member of the national steering committee of the Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience (November 2017).
  • Teaching Award: The mathematics lecture series for biology students given by Susanne together with Hanspeter Herzel and Richard Kempter received the Teaching Award of Humboldt-University's Department of Life Sciences (October 2017).
  • International Symposium: Yet another great symposium took place on October 11th and 12th 2017, celebrating 10 years of our Bernstein Center and its continuation. You can browse the exciting program here.
  • Ph.D. Defense: Janina has defended her PhD on the topic of energy efficient neural morphologies and synchronisation-promoting neuronal bifurcations. Wonderful, Janina! (July 2017).
  • International Symposium: On July 13th and 14th 2017 our International Symposium “The Future of Theoretical Biology” took place in Berlin. Check out the exciting program here.
  • Ph.D. Defense: Katha celebrates her thesis defense on the topic of inhibitory gating of excitatory plasticity. Congratulations, Dr. Wilmes! (November 2016). Katha will soon join the Clopath lab at Imperial College, London, UK.
  • Dispatch in Current Biology: For some background on temperature-invariant processing and its homeostasis have a look at our Dispatch on a new study by O'Leary and Marder in Current Biology (November 2016).
  • Yet another Ph.D. Defense: This time it was Fred's turn to complete his PhD on the temperature dependence in an insect auditory system. Well done, Dr. Roemschied! (September 2016). Fred now moves on to the Murthy lab at Princeton University.
  • Bernstein Workshop: Susanne and Tatjana Tchumatchenko organize the workshop "Signatures of efficient coding" at the Bernstein Conference 2016 in Berlin (September 20th 2016).
  • Ph.D. Defense: Eric successfully defended his thesis on the analysis of phase precession in the entorhinal cortex. Great job, Dr. Reifenstein! (July 2016).
  • NEW paper: Eric's analysis of phase precession in the parasubiculum and EC in collaboration with the Brecht lab has been published in Cell Reports (July 2016).
  • Ph.D. Defense: Sven successfully defended his thesis on “Theoretical mechanisms of information filtering in stochastic single neuron models”. Congratulations, Dr. Blankenburg! (July 2016).
  • Science Slam: Fred wins the BCCN Science Slam at the “Long Night of the Sciences” (Die Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften) in Berlin - Congratulations! (June 2016).
  • Conference Talk: Janina presents her work on the saddle-node-loop bifurcation and its consequences for neural coding at the 2nd International Conference on Mathematical Neuroscience in Juan les Pins, France (June 2016).