The decision whether two neurons in the brain are connected or not is made locally, at the synapse. Electrical signals are converted into biochemical signals, allowing the molecular machinery inside the synapse to track its importance for information processing and to decide whether a particular connection should be maintained or removed. Due to methodological difficulties, the mechanisms and rules of this constant rewiring process are poorly understood. We are developing optogenetic methods to investigate the function, plasticity, and life cycle of individual synapses.
Rose T, Schoenenberger P, Jezek K, Oertner TG (2013). Developmental refinement of vesicle cycling at Schaffer collateral synapses. Neuron 77(6): 1109-21.
Berndt A, Schoenenberger P, Mattis J, Tye KM, Deisseroth K, Hegemann P, Oertner TG (2011). High-efficiency Channelrhodopsins for fast neuronal stimulation at low light levels. PNAS 108 (18): 7595-600.
Holbro N, Grunditz A, Oertner TG (2009). Differential distribution of endoplasmic reticulum controls metabotropic signaling and plasticity at hippocampal synapses. PNAS 106: 15055-60.
Grunditz A, Holbro N, Tian L, Zuo Y, Oertner TG (2008). Spine neck plasticity controls postsynaptic calcium signals through electrical compartmentalization. J Neurosci 28(50): 13457-66.
Zhang Y-P, Oertner TG (2007). Optical induction of synaptic plasticity using a light-sensitive channel. Nat Methods 4(2): 139-141.