My long-term goal is to understand two basic questions. First, how does the brain predict the future? I believe this is the key question to understand how the brain works, because our actions need to incorporate predictions. Things that do not have consequences, are irrelevant for the brain to represent. And learning can only take place when we compare predicted future with actual future. This is also a key question for intelligent systems in general, like autonomous vehicles.
Second, what is the neural code? How do neuronal networks efficiently encode information, given the great amount of redundancy across space and time? What are the codewords composing the neural dictionary? Neurons encode information with all-or-nothing electric pulses lasting about 1 ms. Does the number of pulses give information, or the timing of these pulses?

To answer these kind of questions, we use a variety of techniques and approaches. We employ machine learning techniques to model predictive relationships among sensory inputs - across space and time. We develop new algorithms for unsupervised clustering of high-dimensional neural datasets. We use information and neural network theory to understand neural coding. We use high-density, multi-areal electrophysiological recordings of neurons, from all cortical layers. This allows us to record >100 neurons at the same time. We use optogenetics to identify subtypes of neurons - like interneurons - and modify cortical activity. For example we are manipulating top-down pathways using new light-sensitive opsins and AAV viruses. We carefully monitor the state of the organism using e.g. pupil diameter. We develop new types of signal processing techniques to deal with these kind of data.

We are always - and right now! - looking for talented master students, PhD candidates and postdocs to join our team. We hire people with a variety of backgrounds such as biology, computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics.  Frankfurt is an extremely exciting neuroscience hub, with several Max Planck institutes for Neuroscience. And, some great university research centers nearby. Our institute is brand-new and close to the center and beautiful river area. Also check out the IMPRS program for neural circuits if you want to do a PhD. ESI has excellent working conditions and salaries for PhDs and postdocs. Please contact me at

September 2018: Looking for PhD and master students

We are looking for multiple PhD students to work on big data projects on developing new algorithms and software for high-dimensional neural datasets.
Come join vibrant lab with experimental and theoretical work in Germany's neuroscience hub!
Also looking for master students.

We thank the Struengmann brothers for their continuous and generous support for research.