Henning Sprekeler’s main interest is the biological basis of learning. At the level of nerve cells, we know that the storage of new knowledge and the ability to remember it requires perpetual modifications of connections between neurons—so called synapses. “In detail, however, it is unfortunately a long way from microscopic changes in individual synapses to learning processes at the cognitive level,” Sprekeler explains. The scientists uses mathematical modelling and computer simulation to contribute to bridging the gap.
One of the questions he investigates is how neuronal networks remain stable despite their perpetually changing connections. “From the perspective of the saying ‘never touch a running system’, there is a risk of malfunctions if you rewire a well-functioning network. What ensures that the activity of nerve cells and networks remains balanced despite ongoing changes?,” Sprekeler asks. He also wonders how memory contents can be maintained over time, given the large amounts of new information that is stored day by day.
Another research interest of the physicist is the influence that our behavior exerts on synaptic changes. For example, the representations of our sensory stimuli in the brain ultimately serve to allow us a successful behavior in our environment. The representations must therefore continually adapt to our needs—which is accomplished most likely through restructuring nerve cell contacts. “It is not yet fully understood how information about our behavior and its success can control these changes,” says Sprekeler.
For the professorship, Sprekeler is moving to Technische Universität Berlin, where he will be working at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. At the same time, Sprekeler is a member of the Bernstein Center Berlin. “I am very happy about this opportunity. Berlin offers me the perfect research environment—there are many outstanding scientists who work in my area and with whom I can collaborate,” the neuroscientist says.
Henning Sprekeler studied physics in Freiburg and Berlin. From 2004 to 2008 he completed his PhD in Laurenz Wiskott’s lab at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. This was followed by research stays in the labs of Wulfram Gerstner at the Brain Mind Institute of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, and of Richard Kempter at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. In 2011, Sprekeler received the Bernstein Award, which enabled him to establish his own research group at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Since 2013, Sprekeler has further been a lecturer at the University of Cambridge, UK. In October 2014, Sprekeler has taken up the professorship at Technische Universität Berlin.
The Bernstein Center Berlin is part of the National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience. With this funding initiative, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has supported the new discipline of Computational Neuroscience since 2004 with over 180 million Euros. The network is named after the German physiologist Julius Bernstein (1835-1917).
Prof. Dr. Henning Sprekeler
Technische Universität Berlin
Sekretariat MAR 5-3
Tel.: +49 (0)30 314 73557 (sekretary)