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Göttingen - Buffalo

German - US-American Collaboration in Computational Neuroscience

"Somatic sodium channels and temporal precision of action potentials"

Nerve cells in the brain send messages to each other using fast electrical pulses called action potentials. How action potentials are initiated is very important to nervous system function. Action potentials initiate and then travel forwards down a nerve cell's axon, which acts like a cable going to other nerve cells. In nearly every cell in the brain, the action potential also travels backwards up the axon and into the cell's soma and dendrites. But there are three types of nerve cells where the action potential does not travel backwards. These three cell types are found in the auditory system, and each of them encodes information about sounds in unusually precise timing of action potentials. However, it is not known if these features relate to each other. To investigate this, two US and German labs have set up a collaboration. The specialized proteins that initiate the action potential (sodium channels) will be studied with precise electrophysiological techniques, and this information will be used to drive a new computer interface to mimic their behavior in one of the cell types that lack them. The software for the computer interface will be made freely available on-line to other researchers. These results will be verified using a fully computational model of nerve cells.

This will give insights into how normal action potential initiation may limit precise timing, as well as the enhanced capabilities of these three unusual cells.


The following scientists take part in this collaboration:

  • Andreas Neef, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organisation, Göttingen
  • Matthew Xu-Friedman, Dept. Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
  • Bina Ramamurthy, Dept. Computer Science and Engineering, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA


German Coordinator:

Dr. Andreas Neef
Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organisation      
Theoretische Neurophysik
Am Faßberg 17
Room 1.28
37077 Göttingen

Phone: +49-(0)551-5176-424