The €60,000 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers is awarded this year to Dr. James Poulet, a brain researcher working in Berlin. The young British scientist has received the award because, as the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation states, "his research furthers our understanding of the neuronal basis of behavior." The award ceremony will take place today, the 159th birthday of Paul Ehrlich, in the Paulskirche, Frankfurt.
Sensory perceptions result in very precise behavior. We see something and we reach for it. We smell something and we turn up our nose. James Poulet is studying what happens in the cerebral cortex of the mouse when sensory stimuli and motor behavior are interlinked, how the processes influence each other, and which neurons, synapses, and neuronal networks are involved in these responses. To do so, he is using new optical, behavioural and electrophysiological methods, for which the Scientific Council reserves its special praise. "Poulet's work is also of crucial significance for the development of artificial limbs and prostheses," the Council wrote in explaining its decision.
Poulet, who is currently Group Head at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin-Buch and also works within the NeuroCure Excellence Cluster, has gained attention for his many articles published in prominent scientific journals. He showed why male crickets do not become deaf when they invite females of the species to mate by rhythmically rubbing their forewings together. The chirping we know from warm summer nights is, for the crickets, as loud as a chain saw. The male crickets very specifically "turn down", or inhibit, the neurons responsible for hearing as soon as they begin to chirp and then remove the inhibition as soon as they stop chirping. By switching back and forth between "on" and "off", the crickets protect themselves against deafness but yet are still able to hear the approach of a predator or a rival. Poulet has also identified the neurons that are responsible for this internal feedback process. The process exemplifies how living beings discriminate between self-generated sensory stimuli and external stimuli. A similar feedback loop is activated to ensure that we don't damage our own hearing when we shout and that we are unable to tickle ourselves. James Poulet is furthermore interested in what is generally known as brain states. An example is the transition from dozing to being wide awake. These states are part of the brain's normal functioning. Poulet is investigating how they come about and what their role is in the interlinking of sensory perception and motor behavior.
Background on the award of the 2013 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers to Dr. James F.A. PouletBrain research
This activity is managed at the level of the nerve cells, synapses and neuronal networks in the cortex of the brain, and it leads to some interesting questions that are almost philosophical. How does the brain distinguish between external sensory perceptions and stimulations that arise internally? Did I just call out or did someone else?
These are the questions that Dr. James Poulet from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch and the cluster of excellence NeuroCure have been studying for more than ten years. Poulet is the winner of this year's Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for Young Researchers. The young British scientist has received the award because, as stated by the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation, "His research furthers our understanding of the neuronal basis of behavior."
The young neurobiologist focuses on voluntary behavior that requires some sort of decision-making process rather than stereotypical reflexes. Taking your hand off a hot surface is a reflex, while responding to a touch is a voluntary reaction. "We want to know how neuronal activities alter behavior," Poulet explains. "We are interested in the causal connection between sensory perception, the activity of neurons and the motor response that results from them." After starting with crickets, Poulet has now turned to mice. He is primarily interested in brain regions called the primary somatosensory and motor cortex. Here sensory perceptions are translated into behavioral responses.
Poulet has now trained the mice to stretch out a forepaw to probe the nearby environment. New optical and electrophysiological techniques are giving Dr. Poulet a look directly into the brains of alert, active mice, allowing him to record and manipulate the activity of specific neurons. "These processes underlie healthy behavior and are disrupted during certain diseases," Poulet says. "If we can determine which neuronal signals underlie sensory perception and how these signals are linked to an appropriate behavioral response, it may give us a key to understanding both healthy and defective activity. Before we can know what is pathological, we should know what is normal."Why can't we tickle ourselves?
On warm summer nights, male crickets attract females by rhythmically rubbing its forewings together at a level that exceeds 100 decibels. That level of noise can be compared to the sound of a chainsaw, the thundering of disco music or the din of a pneumatic drill. "We wondered why male crickets don't go deaf from the noise," explains Poulet. "How do they shut it out?" The young prizewinner demonstrated that as male crickets begin to chirp, they "turn down" or inhibit very specific neurons responsible for hearing; when they stop they remove the inhibition. This "on" and "off" switch protects crickets against deafness – but they can still hear the approach of an enemy. That's crucial because their loud mating call not only attracts interested females but broadcasts a cricket's location to predators and rivals. Poulet and his co-workers identified a precise neuron that tunes down the hearing system – the so-called “corollary discharge neuron.” Other organisms have these neurons as well, but virtually nothing is known about them.
Poulet and his co-workers also investigated how females react to the chirping. Here the question was whether they approach males as a reflex or whether it is a reaction to complex acoustic recognition in the females' brain? Poulet showed that the females display an approach movement in response to individual sounds that resembles a reflex rather than a complex behavioral response. More support for this comes from the fact that once the approach process has been triggered by the right song, females react to any acoustic stimulus. At that point only the sound is important; it doesn't even have to be the right one.What's the difference between dozing and being wide awake?
Dr. Anne Hardy | idw
Otto Hahn Medal for Jaime Agudo-Canalejo
21.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung
Call for nominations of outstanding catalysis researchers for the Otto Roelen Medal 2018
20.06.2017 | DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e.V.
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology