Groundbreaking work in the fields of neuroscience and endocrinology
Two new ERC Consolidator Grants for Charité researchers
Research at scientific boundaries and awards for excellent work - 313 scientists from 24 European countries are the winners of the latest competition for Consolidator Grants of the European Research Council (ERC), among them two researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and ECN member.
One of the new projects will focus on the regulation of body weight and causes of disease in the environment of the human genome. Another aims to contribute to the fundamental understanding of mechanisms of hearing. Both projects will receive nearly two million euros each for a period of five years.
Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council (ERC) are designed to consolidate research teams and enable breakthrough research on freely chosen topics using methods of choice. Support is provided to mid-career scientists whose work has the potential for far-reaching impact. The Charité neurobiologist and ECN member Prof. Dr. Benjamin Judkewitz as well as the endocrinologist Prof. Dr. Peter Kühnen succeeded in convincing the ERC selection committee with their projects:
GlassBrain: How are sounds processed by the body and brain?
Prof. Dr. Benjamin Judkewitz is working on methods that allow insights into intact tissues, for example networks of nerve cells. His goal: to observe brains in action and in this way contribute to the elucidation of cellular interactions in neuronal networks. Together with his team, the professor of bioimaging and neurophotonics was able to identify a model for neuroscience for this purpose: the tiny fish Danionella cerebrum.
Danionella cerebrum: 12 millimeters small and so transparent that even the eye behind it is visible through the brain.
© Charité | Judkewitz Lab
It is one of the smallest living vertebrates and is almost completely transparent throughout its entire lifespan. Although Danionella has the smallest known vertebrate brain, the fish exhibits a variety of complex behaviors, including acoustic communication. In the GlassBrain project, Prof. Judkewitz's group will address a previously unsolved question: In what way can fish localize a sound source? The work will, for the first time, reveal the entire processing chain from acoustic stimulus to mechanical transmission in the body to brain-wide neuronal activity at the single cell level. The researchers will combine approaches from behavioral biology, biophysics and physiology to test and extend theories of sound localization. The studies are expected to make a critical contribution to our understanding of hearing mechanisms in fish and the evolutionary origin of hearing in vertebrates. Beyond these questions, the work on Danionella opens up a whole new set of possibilities for optically probing the intact vertebrate brain across the lifespan - for example, through functional imaging and targeted photostimulation. The work could thus pave the way for a broad range of systemic investigations in neuroscience and biomedical research.
Prof. Dr. Benjamin Judkewitz
Leiter der Arbeitsgruppe Bioimaging und Neurophotonics
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin