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Welcome to the Optophysiology Lab led by Prof. Ilka Diester


Our Research

The ability to move is a fundamental feature of most animals which allows them to actively interact with our environment. We are investigating the underlying neural mechanisms and circuits of this ability. We do so with electrophysiological recordings and optogenetic manipulations combined with behavioral analysis in rodents. We look into the local processing of movement preparation and generation in the motor cortex as well as higher order structures, e.g. prefrontal cortex.

The goal is to create a better understanding of how neural subpopulations and pathways within and across brain areas influence motor behavior. In order to address these scientific aims we are constantly working on improving the existing techniques. We currently focus on the design of new optoelectronic probes and targeting strategies. Apart from advancing our basic knowledge about the neural mechanisms of movements, our results might help improving the design of new prosthetic devices and understanding of disorders in which the normal production of movements is disrupted.


Our current major research questions are:


  • What is the role of different neuron types for movement control?
  • How is the motor cortex coordinating its outputs to various brain structures?
  • Which role do specific neural oscillations take?
  • What is the contribution of prefrontal subsections to impulse control
  • How do cell assemblies interact during different types of movements?
  • Which mechanisms make the motor cortex robust against perturbations?


To address these questions we use the following techniques:


  • behavioral training and analysis
  • single unit and local field potential recordings
  • optogenetic manipulations to recruit or silence defined neuron populations
  • combining electrophysiological with computational approaches