Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Biologie


Portrait AG-Leiter

Prof. Dr. Matthias Hennig

The way an animal perceives the world depends on information gathered by its senses which will then guide its behavioural actions. Our research targets the computational principles and neuronal mechanisms by which sensory pathways extract relevant information from the environment. We then ask how this information is used for decision making and appropriate motor action. As a model system we investigate the acoustic communication behaviour of crickets that evolved in the context of attracting and localizing mates. A particular advantage of insects as research objects lies first in their limited repertoire of behavioural actions and second in the relative ease by which the activity of single neurons and small networks in the mini-brains of insects can be quantified. Using behavioural and electrophysiological approaches we aim to identify computational algorithms and to track their neuronal mechanisms. Based on a comparative approach across several genera we address the evolution of behavioural traits as well as their neuronal and genetic basis.

Techniques encompass a range of behavioural and neuro-physiological approaches. Extra- and intracellular recording and staining techniques of individual nerve cells are part of our standard repertoire. A suite of computer-controlled set-ups with high through-put technology allows us to quantify motor outputs as well as to measure behavioural preferences and decisions for a large number of individuals.

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