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13 June 2000

University of Heidelberg Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Centre (IZN) officially opened

Opening ceremony on 16 June—Research topics range from questions of molecular organisation and the development of the nervous system to the synchronisation of nerve networks and the question of how complex brain functions come about and what can disrupt them

On Friday, 16 June 2000, in the presence of the Rector of the University of Heidelberg, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke, delegates from Baden-Württemberg's Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Art and members of the Heidelberg University Faculties of Medicine and Biology, the University's new Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Centre (IZN) will be celebrating its official opening. At the heart of the proceedings will be a lecture by Professor Yves-Alain Barde of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, one of the world's foremost researchers on developmental neurobiology. The title of his lecture is "Molecular control of cell fate and cell shape in the vertebrate nervous system".

The so-called "core" of the new Centre is made up of the Institutes of Neurobiology (Prof. W.B. Huttner), Clinical Neurobiology (Prof. H. Monyer) and Neuroanatomy (Prof. K. Unsicker) with a total of 14 independent research groups and well over 100 participating staff. Almost half of the 14 research groups are financed entirely by external funding. The research topics range from questions of molecular organisation and the development of the nervous system to the synchronisation of nerve networks and the question of how complex brain functions come about and what may disrupt them. The aims of the centre are transfer of knowledge from lab to hospital and vice versa, extension and improved exploitation of the equipment infrastructure, cooperation across faculty boundaries, better curricula, in short, synergistic effects in the broadest sense of the term, plus optimisation of research and teaching to benefit patients.

Opening coincides with the start of the German "Decade of the Brain"

The establishment of the Centre coincides with the start of the German "Decade of the Brain" (unlike its American counterpart it extends from 2000-2010), an initiative co-instigated by Heidelberg Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Bert Sakmann and aimed at drumming up more funds for research into the human brain. New neuroscience centres have also been established at other locations, including Göttingen, where the first European neuro-institute has just been founded. This means that Heidelberg has to make very substantial efforts if it is to maintain its leading position in molecular and cellular neurobiology, and this at a time when several outstanding neuroscientists have left Heidelberg and the attempt to appoint others of similar renown have either failed or seem liable to fail.

The initiatives already undertaken by the Centre—improvement of technical equipment, establishment of service centres, jointly organised non-public conferences and weekly seminars—are generously funded by the German Research Council, which this year alone has pumped almost 10 million marks into the new collaborative research project No. 488 "Molecular and Cellular Foundations of Neural Development Processes", a research group investigating "Central Aminergic Systems and Mechanisms", the postgraduate research project "Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology" and various individual projects. The Ministry of Higher Education in Stuttgart and the University have contributed financial resources for the organisation of the Centre, while the Schilling Foundation and the Faculty of Medicine have invested considerable sums towards creating a new chair of clinical neurobiology. The initiators of the Centre are fully aware that this is only the beginning. Once an international Advisory Board has been constituted there are plans to expand the Centre by incorporating further neuroscientific research groups. But one prime aim remains: ensuring that at least the research groups of the "core" institutes are accommodated together in a sufficiently large building on the Neuenheimer Feld campus.

The Centre will honour its commitments to the public

Last but not least, the new Centre has a commitment to the public which it intends to honour by such things as lectures for schools, further education offerings for interested laypersons, biologists and medical people, and regular Open Days.

Contact address:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Unsicker
Institute of Neuroanatomy
Im Neuenheimer Feld 307
D-69120 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/548228, fax: 545604

Journalists' inquiries can also be addressed to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 18.06.2000




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