Research Mission

How does animal behavior arise?
How does the collective activity of the vast numbers of interconnected neurons in the brain give rise to the plethora of animal behaviors? Our research is interdisciplinary and spans from imaging neural circuits at the nanoscale to analyzing neural activity during naturalistic behavior in a freely moving animal.

Our Research Groups

All brains are made of the same building block: the neurons. And yet the behavior of different animal species is perfectly adapted to their ecological niche. How is it possible that animals perform successfully in different environments? What goes on in the brain while an animal interacts with its environment and makes decisions? Neuroethologists aim to understand how animals perceive their world, how their central nervous system integrates information, and how behavior ultimately emerges. To answer these questions, they use techniques known from other biological disciplines like ethology, neurobiology and neuroanatomy, genetics or biological cybernetics. Our team of researchers here at the MPINB is interdisciplinary and brings together a unique expertise: biologists, physicists, computer scientists, veterinarians and psychologists work together to unravel the causal link between the brain's action and an animal's behavior as it makes decisions. Our approaches range from nano-scale imaging of the brain’s synaptic connectivity, to large scale functional imaging, at cellular resolution, in behaving animals, to the detailed quantification of animal behavior. We study single cell organisms, worms, flies, fish, frogs, birds and mammals.

Our focus: Free behavior in animals

How do brains make decisions? How does neuronal activity enable complex social interactions? Understanding how animals perceive and interact with their world is a major technical challenge because you need to study animals and their brains “in action”. Our research groups advance technologies and develop experimental approaches to link neuronal activity to naturalistic behavior in freely moving animals.

Our basic research - a unique combination of expertise and approaches

Our research groups and departments bring together a unique combination of expertise and experimental and computational approaches to bear on the question of how the brain controls behavior. A key part of our research is the continued development of novel technologies. We have unique tools for high-resolution quantification of natural behavior, we develop imaging tools for measuring neuronal activity during goal-directed behavior, and we reconstruct synaptic connectivity using 3D electron microscopy.

Watch our mission video and find out more about our research