DFG approves new Collaborative Research Centre ’Inhibitory neurons: shaping the cortical code (INCODE)’

Marlene Bartos from the Institute of Physiology at the University of Freiburg is
Marlene Bartos from the Institute of Physiology at the University of Freiburg is the spokesperson for the new Collaborative Research Centre Image: University of Freiburg

A group combining the University of Freiburg and Berlin’s Charité Hospital, Free University and Humboldt University is researching into complex brain function issues

From 1 April 2024 the German Research Foundation (DFG) will be providing a group consisting of the University of Freiburg, Berlin’s Charité Hospital, Free University and Humboldt University with roughly 10 million euros in funding for an initial three years and nine months. The aim of the new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC)/Transregio programme "Inhibitory neurons: shaping the cortical code (INCODE)" is to develop a better understanding of complex brain functions.

Brain malfunctions are commonly associated with cognitive deficits, for example with disorders in perception or communication. The cognitive deficits originate partly in the cerebral cortex, where stimulating and inhibitory nerve cells interact. These cells play a key part in encoding information. The CRC/Transregio programme "Inhibitory neurons: shaping the cortical code (INCODE)" addresses the interneurons involved. What do the properties of interneurons contribute to the encoding of information? How do they influence cortical codes in relation to experience? Headed by speaker Professor Marlene Bartos from the Institute of Physiology at the University of Freiburg, the group wants to answer these and other questions.

"We are very pleased that our Collaborative Research Centre has been accepted for funding. Establishing a new CRC/Transregio programme is a great honour for the scientists involved and offers them the opportunity to develop a new and highly promising field of research. The initiative will cast new light on the role of inhibitory cells in the brain when controlling behaviour and cognitive functions. Like traffic lights, inhibitory cells control the flow of information in the brain and improve behavioural performance. So any change in inhibition results in malfunctions and cognitive impairments. With this initiative we are building a bridge between basic and applied neuroscience and are therefore contributing to the development of new therapeutic strategies for restoring healthy cognitive function in various psychiatric disorders," says Bartos.

Strengthening cutting-edge research

In total, the German Research Foundation is establishing 17 new Collaborative Research Centre in order to further strengthen cutting-edge research at universities. In addition to these 17 organisations, the grants committee voted to renew 16 Collaborative Research Centre for another funding period, including five CRC/Transregio programmes. Collaborative Research Centre, which are funded for a maximum of twelve years, enable work on innovative, ambitious and long-term research projects in groups and therefore contribute to the creation of key areas and structures at the relevant universities. From April 2024 the DFG will be funding a total of 278 groups.