We are a multidisciplinary team of neurobiologists, psychologists, mathematicians and computer scientists. It is our mission to better understand cognitively complex learning and decision processes in laboratory rodents at the level of interacting neuronal circuits.

We combine behavioural paradigms with modern chronic in vivo multichannel recording technologies and pharmacological, molecular, optogenetic, mathematical and computational tools to study cortical network activity during learning and choice behaviour.

  • Head


    Max Happel's scientific mission in our group is to investigate the neuronal basis of cognitive resources which are subject to learning and memory processes. The central goal of this project is to better understand and manipulate plastic changes in neuronal circuits at the functional-systemic network level during flexible, cognitively demanding behavioral adjustments and long-term memory retrievals or the extinction of memory content.


    Short vita:

    • Study of biology and neurosciences in Frankfurt/Main and Magdeburg
    • Doctorate in neurobiology (summa cum laude)
    • Postdoc in Oxford, England
    • Habilitation in Neurobiology
    • Today learning researcher in the field of hearing research, cognitive learning mechanisms and pathophysiology of memory.
  • Members


    PD Dr. Max
    Dr. Hartmut
    PhD students  
    Students & guests  
    Francesca Abela  
    Sümeyra Aksit  
    Shivam Maurya  
    Martin Kisse  
    Amr Faharat  
    Mohammed El-Tabbal  
    Julia Steinhardt  
    Sara Bertazzoni  
    Erika Kaschinksi  
    Ivan Bykov  


  • Projects


    Modulation of value representation in oscillatory activity patterns in the sensory cortex

    Using chronic animal experimental in vivo multichannel derivations and human MEG measurements, we investigate ubiquitous network mechanisms during uncertain decision-making processes and use the obtained data sets to formulate general functional principles of flexible and adaptive value representation in the brain. We use methods of Multivariate Statistics (Support Vector Machine Learning) to classify mesoscopic activation patterns of cortical circuits, which are subject to decision processes, e.g. during uncertainty.

    Funding: SFB779 - 2016-2020; Collaborators: Marina Zempeltzi, Sümeyra Aksit, Shivam Maurya, Francesca Abela, Martin Kisse; Cooperation: Prof. Gerhard Jocham (Univ. Düsseldorf), Dr. Matthias Deliano

    Optogenetic activation of the dopaminergic reward system and in vivo derivations in laboratory rodents during cognitively complex learning tasks
    By chronic multichannel recordings in the auditory cortex of behaving laboratory rodents we investigate plastic changes during learning processes at the synaptic network level. By cell type-specific optogenetic stimulation of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) we try to modulate targeted reward learning.

    Funding: LPN/PAKT of the WGL - 2015-2017; Collaborators: Michael Brunk, Martin Kisse; Cooperation: Dr. Matthias Deliano, Dr. Michael Lippert

    Influence of cortical extracellular matrix (ECM) on cognitive learning processes in laboratory rodents and translational relevance for neuropsychiatric disorders
    We investigate in laboratory rodent species (desert gerbils, wt/ko mouse models) the influence of the extracellular matrix on cognitive learning processes and flexible long-term memory, as well as its changes in mouse models for depression and Alzheimer's disease.

    Funding: WGL/LIN Special project - 2012-2016; collaborators: Hartmut Niekisch, Mohammad El-Tabbal, cooperation: Dr. Renato Frischknecht (Erlangen), Prof. Anna Fejtova (Erlangen), Prof. Martin Walter (Tübingen)

    Optogenetic control of synaptic integration by modulation of calcium channel dynamics
    In cooperation with Prof. Martin Heine (Mainz), we manipulate the channel dynamics of voltage-controlled calcium channels (VGCCs) in cell-type-specific cell populations by light-induced clustering in the presynapse using modern optogenetic techniques. We investigate the effect on synaptic integration and network physiology in vivo.

    Funding: WGL/LIN Special project - 2018-2021; Collaborator: Katrina Deane, Cooperation: Prof. Martin Heine (Mainz)

    Laser-induced lesion of corticothalamic circuits in the auditory system of ferrets
    In collaboration with Prof. Andrew King (University of Oxford) we investigate the cellular basis of the perception of time-complex tone stimuli in ferrets after laser-induced apoptosis of corticothalamic projection neurons.

    Funding: DAAD 2012 and Wellcome Principal Research Fellowship (PI Prof. King) 2013-2019

    Reorganization of cortical circuits after sound trauma as cause of central tinnitus
    We investigate the network pathophysiology of sound trauma-induced tinnitus in laboratory rodents as a cause for the development and manifestation of a central tinnitus.

    Cooperation: Prof. Holger Schulze (Erlangen), Dr. Marcus Jeschke (Göttingen)


  • Current Third Party Funds

    Current Third Party Funds

    2018 - 2020      
    Leibniz Special Project

    „Optogenetic control of synaptic integration by modulation of calcium channel dynamics“

    2016 - 2020     
    CRC 779 Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior
    „Value computations in sensory cortical areas during choice: network mechanisms and neuromodulation“

    2015 - 2018
    Pact for Research and Innovation of the Leibniz Association
    „Dopamine impact on reorganization of laminar cortical circuitry function during learning“

  • Teaching & Internships

    Teaching & Internships

    We are involved in the Master's program "Integrative Neuroscience" and the Bachelor's program "Philosophy, Neurosciences, Cognition" and offer among other things:

    • Lecture Introduction to Nervous Systems, Bachelor of Philosophy, Neurosciences, Cognition 
    • Block Internship and Seminar Auditory Neurophysiology, Master Program Integrative Neuroscience
    • Lecture Behavioral Pharmacology in the Master's Program Integrative Neuroscience
    • Lecture Psychophysiology in the Master's Programme Psychology

    We are always looking for motivated people, who want to get in touch with our research and have a keen interest in getting involved. We encourage young scientist to join our running projects or develop their own research ideas in our lab with respect to Bachelor- or Master-theses or HiWi-positions.

    Topics we offer for instance on a regular basis are:

    • Behavioural training of laboratory rodents in complex learning tasks
    • Histological/anatomical projects in collaboration with PD Dr. Eike Budinger
    • Programming and computational projects (Matlab, Python, R) for statistical data analysis (Linear models, multivariate statistics, RL-models, video tracking)

    If you are interested to get in touch with us, do not hesitate to come around or contact us at: agcortxplorer(at)


  • Open positions

    Open positions

    We search for

    Motivated students with multidisciplinary backgrounds, who want to join our young research group.


    We regularly advertise research assiatnt positions with different topics, and also offer the environment and supervision for Bachelor/Master theses.

    In case you…

    • are enthusiastic about doing brain science
    • have experience with programming (Matlab, Phyton, R)
    • and are willing to team-work….

    …we offer:

    • to support us in studying neuronal circuits and neuromodulatory systems during learning and memory,
    • learning state-of-the-art methods
    • a dynamic working environment in a young, interdisciplinary team
    • possibilities of graduation theses


    Interested? Please do not hestitate to contact us at: agcortxplorer(at)


    Currently we have the following open positions:

    • Research assistant in Optogenetics and Circuit physiology
    • Research assistant in Statistics in Brain Science
  • Cooperations
  • Media coverage

    Media coverage

  • CortXplorer @ Social Media

    CortXplorer @ Social Media

    Please find the latest news from the CortXplorer team on our Twitter channel:

Diese Seite teilen: