Dr. Ralf Heinrich

Dept. of Cellular Neurobiology

Schwann-Schleiden Research Center

Julia-Lermontowa-Weg 3

37077 Göttingen

Phone: +49(0)551 / 39177958
Fax: +49(0)551 / 39177952
E-mail: rheinri1@gwdg.de

Major research interests

Behavior is the product of complex interactions between various types of neurons that integrate external sensory information with internal physiological states. Internal states may function as motivational systems that bias an organism to perform most useful actions to secure survival and reproduction by influencing the initiation, intensity, direction and persistence of behaviors. Our lab is especially interested in central nervous and humoral mechanisms underlying the selection and adaptation of actions that are most appropriate for the particular situation an animal encounters. We study the neurochemical regulation of behavior with a combination of neuroethological, pharmacological, electrophysiological, histochemical and immunocytochemical methods and apply these to intact animals, reduced preparations and cultured cells of various invertebrate species.

Another series of projects explores the neuroprotective and neuroregenerative mechanisms of erythropoietin (Epo) in insects. Similar to earlier studies on mammalin nervous systems, it has been demonstrated that human recombinant Epo increases insect neuronal survival in vitro by interfering with apoptotic pathways and improves insect neuronal regeneration in vitro and in vivo by yet unidentified mechanisms. These results suggest that mammals and insects may share an Epo-like ligand/receptor system with both structural and functional similarities in neuroprotection and neuroregeneration.

Invertebrates offer unique advantages over more complex nervous systems of vertebrates and especially mammals, such as a smaller number of neurons in the central nervous system, individually identifiable neurons and rather limited repertoires of behaviors, many of which are composed of genetically determined and stereotype movements. For studying a particular nervous mechanism one can select the most suitable and experimentally accessible preparation from a huge variety of different species with specific anatomical characteristics and more or less complex behaviors.

Current projects

designed by A. Wirmer