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Section A

Synaptic Dynamics and Information Processing

One topical focus of research of the center is the modeling and analysis of the impact of short term synaptic plasticity on sensory coding and network dynamics. Several projects investigate the adaptivity of signal processing in the auditory system. In this system, various independent lines of evidence suggest that the biophysical mechanisms of synaptic dynamics are of crucial importance for the adaptive aspects of auditory perceptual performance. For instance, experimental and theoretical work indicates that synaptic depression in the auditory pathway is essential for the distinct neuronal processing of interaural time-delay and sound-intensity information in the auditory midbrain. In addition, a recent analysis of the relation between thresholds for the perception of sound onsets and the coding of sound onsets at the level of the auditory cortex suggests that key aspects of central auditory population codes are set by the biophysics of transmitter release at the first synapse in the auditory pathway, the ribbon synapse of cochlear inner hair cells. Two projects integrating computational and experimental approaches develop specific models for these important synaptic signal processing stages of the auditory system and use them to elucidate the contribution of synaptic dynamics to the adaptivity and robustness of auditory signal processing. These studies are complemented by projects that investigate the influence of short term synaptic plasticity on the dynamics of biological neural networks on a more abstract theoretical level using biologically plausible yet mathematically tractable models for the cooperative dynamics of spiking neural networks developed in Göttingen. Biophysically, a common theme of all these studies and further projects is the experimental assessment and computational modeling of intracellular calcium signals that are not only crucial for the control of synaptic release but also for many other physiological and pathophysiological aspects of intracellular neural signaling. These common themes and questions demonstrate that there is a large potential for productive and efficient interactions among the center's various projects.