Dr. Dorothe Poggel
Head of Program BRAIN & MIND

Optical Imaging in Neurosensory Science

Coordination: Dr. Dorothe Poggel, HWK



Petra Groß, Karin Dedek, Beate Grünberg, Christoph Lienau, Jens Christoffers, Arndt Meyer, Petra Bolte, Henrik Mouritsen, Ulrike Janssen-Bienhold, Karl-Wilhelm Koch, Christine Köppl, and Hans Gerd Nothwang - Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg
Herman Offerhaus - Optical Sciences Group, University of Twente, The Netherlands
Carsten Fallnich - Optische Technologien, Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster
Sonja Pyott - University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands
Kathrin Thedieck - European Medical School (EMS), Universities of Groningen and Oldenburg

Duration:  01. November 2016 bis 31. Oktober 2019/ 01. November 2016 – 31. October 2019


The working principle of the building blocks of life is one of the great questions that drive scientists of different disciplines alike. These fundamental questions are where biologists, chemists, and physicists meet and discuss. Examples of wide-ranging and interdisciplinary questions that we would like to develop into specific research question as a starting point for bi- and multilateral projects are:

  •  How can photoreceptors “see” single photons?
  •  How can the hair cells of the inner ear transmit sound with microsecond precision?
  •  How are the multi-molecular complexes of gap junctions regulated?
  •  How can the olfactory system distinguish between thousands of different smells?
  •  How can birds detect small changes in the earth magnetic field to orient themselves during their migratory flight?
  •  How does the molecular machinery of the inner ear enable our ability to hear?
  •  Which specific brain regions are involved in the hearing processes in the auditory brainstem?
  •  Which protein-protein interaction partners are the basis for the above mentioned and for other mechanisms?
  •  At the same time, there is a wide variety of analytic tools and, in particular, optical imaging methodology, available. Examples of the optical imaging techniques that are already available or that are currently under  investigation include:
  •  Conventional and in particular home-built laser scanning confocal microscopes
  •  Synthesis of novel and tailor-made fluorescent molecules
  •  Light sheet microscopy
  •  Coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) or stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy
  •  Stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy
  •  Scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM).
  •  Ultrafast spectroscopy

Bringing together the disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics holds a chance to discover truly new findings about the nature of life. Examples are the potential role of quantum effects and quantum coherences in the molecular biology of some sensory systems (e.g. magnetoreception in birds), and the molecular composition and regulation of electrical synapses.

Essentially the goal is to work out where we could apply which optical microscopy method. We aspire bridging the gap between our departments and to develop and apply new optical methods and techniques in order to answer prevailing biological questions. The goal of the Study Group is to establish bi- and multilateral co-operations, within which we apply new non-invasive, non-bleaching, and sub-diffraction-limit optical imaging techniques to highly sensitive neurobiological samples.

Planned Activities

  1. Kick-off meeting in combination with the DFG RTG (Graduiertenkolleg) “Molecular Basis of Sensory Biology”: November 2 – 4, 2016
  2. Half-year workshop: One day at the HWK, after month 6
  3. Interim workshops: one day each at the HWK, after month 12 and after month 18
  4. Final study group workshop/ International Symposium with integrated spring school for PhDs on (nano-)optical microscopy in sensory systems


  1.  Identification of research questions and approaching these questions in joint projects
  2.  Publications in peer-reviewed journals written jointly by two or more groups within the study group
  3.  Strengthening of the cooperation between neuroscientists within the European Medical School (EMS) and the regional universities
  4.  Institutionalization of a network of young female scientists in optical imaging and neuroscience
  5.  Internationalization of the DFG RTG “Molecular Basis of Sensory Biology” and the RTG of the state of Lower  Saxony “Nano-Energy Research” by establishing contacts, e. g., during joint workshops and symposia.