Understanding the brain from molecules to networks and computation

Research Focus

Understanding the human brain remains one of the greatest scientific challenges nowadays. To understand it from the level of molecules to complex networks and computation, GRADE Brain (visit us also on Facebook) focuses on neuroscientific research in the following main areas:

  • One remarkable feature of the nervous system is neural homeostasis, the ability to maintain a balanced and stable state when exposed to a changing environment. Fundamental molecular and cellular processes leading to this feature are explored within this research focus.
  • A neuron never functions in isolation. They are typically organized into neural circuits that process specific types of information. Neural circuits are fundamental units of brain function. Although their arrangement varies greatly according to particular functions, some characteristic features are maintained among them. This area of research focuses on the study of these networks from simple to complex ones.
  • The function of our brain markedly exceeds the sum of its parts. Neuronal coordination, i.e. the spatio-temporal interaction of the activity of local, interareal, and inter-hemispheric distributed neuronal ensembles, is thought to constitute a pivotal mechanism of all higher brain functions. On the other hand, disordered neuronal coordination is associated with frequent neurological and psychiatric disorders.

These main research areas are complemented by several working groups at all involved institutions subsumed within the Interdisciplinary Center for Neuroscience Frankfurt (ICNF) including a broad range of topics, e.g. the molecular bases of higher brain functions, neuropharmacology, and neurocognition.


The most important aim of GRADE Brain is to pool the interdisciplinary expertise in neurosciences of six faculties of Goethe University Frankfurt as well as of several institutions such as the Max Planck Institutes for Brain Research, of Empirical Aesthetics and of Biophysics, the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies and the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience. The integration into interdisciplinary networks will allow PhD students and postdocs to complement disciplinary perspectives by dealing with topics covering the different levels of neuroscience from single genes or molecules via cells to cellular networks and behaviour. These topics require different techniques of molecular biology, systems neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience and clinical research as well as computational neuroscience and neurotechnology. As it is not possible to become an expert in all these areas, it is essential to provide basic knowledge in many of these areas and to teach how to communicate effectively between the different fields. As a part of GRADE, the Center focuses on the support of doctoral candidates and junior scientists by offering research seminars and lectures as well as events such as an annual meeting in cooperation with the ICNF.