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Henning Sprekeler

Bernstein Award for Computational Neuroscience, 2011

"Learning and Memory in Balanced Systems"

Henning Sprekeler investigates how the brain on the one hand maintains stable activity, such as memories, and on the other hand can change through learning processes. Each nerve cell in our brain is connected with thousands of other nerve cells. Such a network consists not only of cells that excite others, but also of inhibitory ones. The activity of inhibitory and excitatory nerve cells must always be balanced. Disturbances of this balance are thought to play an important role in diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. At the same time, the brain must be able to change through learning. Recently, Sprekeler presented, in collaboration with colleagues, a model that allows an ongoing balance between activation and inhibition within complex networks. It became apparent that this balancing in turn influences the learning process itself – how exactly is still unknown.

With his approach, Sprekeler combines two major research areas of neuroscience, learning and the model of balanced neuronal networks. “I want to contribute to a future understanding of how complex networks like the brain learn,” declares the awardee. In addition, he is interested in how these learning processes can be reduced to simple principles that describe the information processing of sensory stimuli in the brain.

Portrait of Henning Sprekeler