CBBM Lecture "Optogenetic control of brain rhythms and innate behaviors"

by Dr. Alexey Ponomarenko,

Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (FMP),

NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence,


will take place on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 from 17:15 to 18:15 hours in Lecture Hall H1, Turmgebäude.

Host: Prof. Markus Schwaninger

Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology
University of Lübeck


Network oscillations in hippocampus and neocortex operate at time scales relevant for various brain functions. During locomotion, hippocampal theta oscillations (5-12 Hz) assist spatial navigation, yet longstanding questions about the role of hippocampus and theta oscillations in locomotion via rhythmic coordination of specific brain circuits remain open. Combining optogenetic control of hippocampal theta oscillations with electrophysiological recordings in freely behaving mice, we studied causal impact of hippocampal theta oscillations on locomotion. We found that the regularity of theta oscillations underlies more stable and slower running speeds during exploration (Bender et al., Nature Commun., 2015). More regular theta oscillations were accompanied by more regular theta-rhythmic output of pyramidal cells. Theta but not gamma oscillations (30-120 Hz) were coordinated between hippocampus and its main subcortical output, the lateral septum. Opto- (eNpHR3.0, ChETA) and pharmacogenetic (DREADDs) manipulations of hippocampus-lateral septum-lateral hypothalamus pathway revealed its necessity for the hippocampal control of running speed. These results suggest that changes of hippocampal theta synchronization are translated via the LS into rapid adjustment of locomotion. We presently study how coordinated operation of hypothalamic circuits regulate other innate behaviors, including sleep (Gutierrez Herrera et al., Nature Neurosci., 2015) and feeding.


Dr. Ponomarenko studied Biology at Moscow State University and received his PhD from University of Düsseldorf in 2003. He continued his postdoctoral research at University of Düsseldorf, Rutgers University in the USA and University of Heidelberg. Since 2009 he has been Junior Group Leader for Behavioural Neurodynamics at the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology in Berlin. His research interests mainly focus on understanding the adaptive control of innate behaviors by specialized neuronal groups in the hypothalamus as well as gaining new insights into cellular and synaptic determinants of population neuronal activity.