CRC 870

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Our goal

The long-term goal of the Collaborative Research Center / Sonderforschungsbereich (SFB) 870 is to bridge the gap between the detailed knowledge and understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neuronal function in the central nervous system on one hand, and our rather correlative and descriptive knowledge of higher brain function on the other hand. To do so, the SFB 870 focuses on an intermediate level, namely that of neuronal circuits, which can be well defined structurally and functionally. Studying such systems with different state-of-the-art techniques has and will continue to allow for a deeper understanding of key parameters in neuronal circuit structure-function relationships and associated neuronal computations.

First funding period

In the first funding period (2010 – 2013) our SFB focused mainly on sensory pathways that have the advantage of being structurally defined, making it possible to evoke neuronal activation via specific sensory stimulation under tight experimental control. Moreover, information computed in such circuits is of known behavioral relevance. With a variety of different experimental and theoretical approaches the SFB already contributed significantly to our understanding of sensory circuit function.

Second funding period

In the second funding period (2014 – 2017) SFB aims to broaden its focus by incorporating new model systems and concepts. One example is the structure and function of axons as important parts of all neuronal circuits. Based on current findings, and the incorporation of new principal investigators, different projects will now collaborate on a better understanding of the morphology, physiology, development and plasticity of myelinated axons in the mammalian CNS. By adding motor systems and sensory-motor interactions in circuits similarly well-defined as sensory circuits, the conceptual framework of the SFB will be significantly augmented.

Moreover, structural plasticity of neuronal circuits and neuronal regeneration will add to the scientific scope of the SFB 870. In particular, the integration of newborn neurons into existing circuits provides important new aspects to the research of the SFB. In connection with motor circuits, this will help us to, for instance, evaluate the impact of regenerated neurons on defined circuitry with specific and quantifiable behavioral read-outs.

Third funding period

Over the last 8 years, the CRC 870 developed into a highly dynamic network that, based on success, exchange, and collaborations widens scopes and topics in a highly-controlled manner and without giving up its initial goals and roots in sensory and motor circuits. In particular, the role of activity in shaping plasticity and regeneration of neuronal circuits will be of increasing significance for many projects. Moreover, the specific functions of internal feedback systems, an animal’s intrinsic state, and the context in which an animal processes specific signals will also become conjunctive topics of the CRC 870. With this, neuronal circuits specifically related to observable behavior will move into the scope of the CRC 870.

Therefore, in the third funding period (2018 – 2021), the overarching structure as well as the connecting elements will, again, remain the same as in the first two proposals. Hence, the grouping in project clusters A–Assembly, B–Function, and Z–Service and Tool development will be kept and further developed. Research on basic assembly will be significantly strengthened with the focus on activity-dependence and overall dynamics in remodeling and regeneration of neuronal circuits. At the same time, neuronal feedback mechanisms and context-dependent dynamics of signal processing at different levels of sensory and motor systems will become another major topic. Therefore “Circuit Dynamics Underlying Behavior“ is added as a new, 4th combining topic.