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Survival and functionality of living cells are fundamentally dependent on the maintenance of ion gradients across the plasma membrane. This is particularly important for cells of the nervous system, as the charged nature of ions and their respective gradients are the basis for electrical excitability and signaling. Furthermore, ions can act as intracellular second messengers, regulating cellular processes through dynamic changes of their cytosolic concentrations.

The Institute of Neurobiology at the HHU is devoted to the elucidation and study of intracellular ion dynamics in the vertebrate brain under physiological as well as pathophysiological conditions. One main focus lies on sodium signalling and the functional role sodium dynamics play in neurons and astrocytes as well as in the interaction of both cell types.

We employ dynamic high-resolution imaging such as multi-photon laser scanning microscopy and various electrophysiological techniques, for the detection and analysis of cellular ion signals, mainly concentrating on glutamatergic synapses of the cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum of the mouse brain.

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Image 1: Astrocytes at a blood vessel. The functions of astrocytes are manifold. They play an important role at synapses and are part of the blood-brain barrier. With their so-called perivascular endfeet, they provide a complete coverage of blood vessels.

Image 2: Neurons and astrocytes in the mouse hippocampus. Understanding and revealing the interplay between astrocytes and neurons is a key aspect our work. The interaction between these two cell types is fundamental for brain function.


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