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Max Planck Florida Institute Scientists Present Leading Edge Research at Society for Neuroscience Conference

11-16-2011 04:41 PM CET | Science & Education

Press release from: Tartaglia Communications

/ PR Agency: Tartaglia Communications
Contact: Dennis or Sheila Tartaglia
Tartaglia Communications
(732) 545-1848

For Immediate Release

Max Planck Florida Institute Scientists Present Leading Edge Research at
Society for Neuroscience Conference

Thirteen Presentations Will Discuss Findings on Brain’s Circuitry

Jupiter, FL, November 16, 2011 – Researchers from the Max Planck Florida Institute (MPFI) are contributing to 13 symposia, lectures and poster sessions at the Society for Neuroscience 41st Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, November 12-16, 2011. The first U.S. institute of the German-based Max Planck Society, the Institute brings together leading scientists representing a diversity of scientific disciplines and approaches in order to seek fundamental answers about brain function and neural circuits. These circuits form the complex synaptic networks of the brain, which determine who we are, how we think, and how we behave. Understanding of these circuits is still in its infancy.

“One of the ultimate challenges in biology and in deciphering the human brain is in understanding neural circuits,” says David Fitzpatrick, CEO, scientific director of the Institute and leader of its Functional Architecture and Development of Visual Cortex research group. “By focusing on the structure, function and development of neural circuits, we hope to increase understanding of the devastating neurological and psychiatric disorders that affect humanity.”
On November 16 at 11:30 a.m., Dr. Fitzpatrick will deliver a special lecture entitled, “Building Cortical Representations with Experience: Insights from Visual Cortex.” The lecture will discuss research on development of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes visual information and serves as a model system for understanding the role of experience in the development of brain circuits. The visual cortex continues to develop in the weeks after birth, and visual experience is critical for the proper maturation of the circuits that mediate visual perception. New research has shown that experience can quickly alter these circuits, and that moving visual stimuli are critical for the construction of circuits that process motion direction. His lecture will provide an overview of the state of knowledge in this area, including recent findings from his lab and others, and discuss this research’s implications for understanding neurodevelopmental disorders.

Dr. Fitzpatrick will also participate in a nanosymposium on experimental techniques in visual cortex circuit research. Additionally, members of Dr. Fitzpatrick’s research group will present a new approach to dissecting the contribution of neural circuits to the response properties of cortical neurons during the conference.

Nobel laureate Bert Sakmann, MD, PhD, inaugural MPFI scientific director and leader of the Institute’s Digital Neuroanatomy research group, co-chairs “Large-Scale Automated Histology in the Pursuit of Connectomes,” a mini-symposium November 14, 8:30 a.m. The mini-symposium features discussion by Dr. Sakmann and other leading scientists of their work in developing neuronal wiring diagrams, which are needed to understand how the brain computes. Presentations focus on state-of-the-art research on the reconstruction of circuits that link brain anatomy and function. These new models provide unprecedented levels of detail on diagrams of the connections between different brain cell types and blood vessels that service these cells.

A number of researchers from Dr. Sakmann’s group will also present posters on brain anatomy research, including three-dimensional rodent cortex models and studies that use mechanistic models of brain circuitry in order to study decision-making behavior.

Representing a different approach to studying neural circuits, Monica Montesinos, PhD, from Dr. Samuel Young, Jr.’s Molecular Mechanisms of Synaptic Function group, presented a poster (November 12, 2:00 p.m.) on studies of GIT1, a gene-encoded brain enzyme that helps balance excitability and inhibition. Dr. Montesinos’ research looks at the role of GIT1 in the formation of synapses, the contact points in the brain in which neurons pass electrical and chemical signals to one another. Dr. Young’s group studies the mechanisms regulating synapse structure, as disruptions of synapse structure are a major factor in brain diseases. Dr. Young and members of his team will present two additional posters on the role of genes in the Munc13 family in synaptic signal transmission.

“It is a testament to our scientists’ creativity and productivity that we are presenting so much research so early in the Institute’s existence,” says Dr. Fitzpatrick. “We look forward to a busy schedule of scientific publications and presentations in the years ahead.”

The Max Planck Florida Institute currently has six research groups, each focusing on a different aspect and approach to neural circuit research. In addition to those mentioned above, they include the following groups: Disorders of Neural Circuit Function, directed by McLean Bolton, PhD; Mechanisms of Synaptic Signaling and Computation, directed by Jason Christie, PhD; and Cellular Organization of Cortical Circuit Function, directed by James Schummers, PhD. Currently located in temporary quarters on the campus of Florida Atlantic University (Jupiter), the Institute is building a state-of-the-art research facility, slated to open mid-2012. Research at MPFI began at the end of 2009. To read abstracts of all MPFI presentations at the Society for Neuroscience conference, go to:

About the Max Planck Florida Institute
The first institute established by Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Society outside of Europe, the Max Planck Florida Institute is also the first research institute of its kind in North America. MPFI seeks to provide new insight into understanding the functional organization of the nervous system, its capacity to produce perception, thought, language, memory, emotion, and action. Neural circuits, the complex synaptic networks of the brain, hold the key to understanding who we are, why we behave the way we do, and how the debilitating effects of neurological and psychiatric disorders can be ameliorated. MPFI meets this challenge by forging links between different levels of analysis—genetic, molecular, cellular, circuit, and behavioral—and developing new technologies that make cutting edge scientific discoveries possible. For more information, visit

Tartaglia Communications is a full-service public relations firm that specializes in developing strategic communications solutions for health, science and nonprofit organizations of all types and sizes. The firm provides personalized service, high-level strategic insight, and the results-oriented approach that clients in these sectors need to achieve their communications objectives in a cost-effective manner.

Dennis Tartaglia, President
Sheila Tartaglia, Principal & Creative Director
Tartaglia Communications
P.O. Box 5148
Somerset, NJ 08875-5148

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