Dr. Sakmann, with physicist Erwin Neher, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1991 for their discoveries on single ion channels in cells, enabled by their invention of the patch-clamp technique. This ground-breaking technical achievement made it possible to examine, in real time, the operation of individual ion channel proteins. Ion channels are found in the membranes of virtually all cells and create selective pores across membranes that are vital for electrical signaling. Sakmann and Neher examined a broad range of cellular functions, eventually discovering the role that ion channels play in diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, several cardiovascular diseases and certain neuromuscular disorders. This technique forged new paths in the study of membrane physiology and the creation of novel therapeutics targeting ion channels. In fact, the Nobel Prize committee credited the two scientists with revolutionizing modern biology.
More recently Dr. Sakmann’s research has focused on the functional anatomy of circuits in the brain – specifically the cerebral cortex – that form the basis of simple behaviors (e.g. decision making). His research involves the use of large scale, high resolution light- and electron-microscopic techniques to reconstruct the wiring of different cell types in the layers of the brain. The results are used to realistically simulate signal flow in the reconstructed network. Eventually, this may reveal the parts of the network that trigger sensory initiated behavior and lead to new discoveries about the brain’s process of learning.
Dr. Sakmann’s research group is conducting a program dedicated to creating a three-dimensional map of the normal brain. They are labeling the different cell types with specific fluorescent markers and then imaging and quantifying the neuron distributions. This work will lay the foundation for future studies on brain degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. The research will not only help further our basic understanding of the degenerative disease process, but could also serve as a platform to measure the beneficial changes caused by novel therapeutic approaches such as new drugs and stem cell therapy.
Egger, R., Schmitt, A.C., Wallace, D.J., Sakmann, B., Oberlaender, M. & Kerr, J.N. (2015). Robustness of sensory-evoked excitation is increased by inhibitory inputs to distal apical tuft dendrites. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
Narayanan RT, Egger R, Johnson AS, Mansvelder HD, Sakmann B, de Kock CP, Oberlaender M5. Beyond Columnar Organization: Cell Type- and Target Layer-Specific Principles of Horizontal Axon Projection Patterns in Rat Vibrissal Cortex. Cereb Cortex. 2015 Apr 1. pii: bhv053.
Hanno S. Meyer, Robert Egger, Jason M. Guest, Rita Foerster, Stefan Reissl, and Marcel Oberlaender (2013) Cellular organization of cortical barrel columns is whisker-speciﬁc. PNAS. October 7, 2013. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1312691110.
Egger, R., Narayanan, R.T., Helmstaedter, M., de Kock, C.P., Oberlaender, M. (2012)3D Reconstruction and Standardization of the Rat Vibrissal Cortex for Precise Registration of Single Neuron Morphology. PLoS Comput Biol.
Oberlaender, M., de Kock, C.P.J., Bruno, R.M., Ramirez, A., Meyer, H.S., Dercksen,V.J., Helmstaedter, M., Sakmann, B. (2012) Cell type-specific three-dimensional structure of thalamocortical circuits in a column of rat vibrissal cortex.Cerebral Cortex, doi: 10.1093/ cercor/bhr317.
Oberlaender, M., Ramirez, A., Bruno, R.M. (2012) Sensory experience restructures thalamocortical axons during adulthood. Neuron. 74:648-655.
Dercksen, V.J., Egger, R., Hege, H.C., Oberlaender, M. (2012) Synaptic connectivity in anatomically realistic neural networks: modeling and visual analysis., Proc. of Eurographics Workshop on Visual Computing for Biology and Medicine (VCBM); 2012; Norrköping, Sweden: Eurographics. 17-24.
Kleinfeld, D., Bharioke, A., Blinder, P., Bock, D.D., Briggman, K.L., Chklovskii, D.B., Denk, W., Helmstaedter, M., Kaufhold, J.P., Lee, W-C.A., Meyer, H.S., Micheva, C.D., Oberlaender, M., Prohaska, S, Reid, R.C., Smith, S.J., Takemura, S., Tsai, P.S. andSakmann, B. (2011) Large-scale automated histology in the pursuit of connectomes.J. Neuroscience, 31(45): 16125-16138.
Varga, Z., Hongbo, J., Sakmann, B., Konnerth, A. (2011) Dendritic coding of multiple sensory inputs in single cortical neurons in vivo. PNAS Early Edition. August 29, 2011. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1112355108.
Meyer, H.S., Schwarz, D., Wimmer, V.C., Schmitt, A.C., Kerr, J.N.D., Sakmann, B., Helmstaedter, M. (2011) Inhibitory interneurons in a cortical column form hot zones of inhibition in layers 2 and 5A. PNAS Early Edition. September 26, 2011. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1113648108.
Lang, S., Dercksen V. J., Sakmann B., Oberlaender M. (2011) Simulation of signal flow in 3D reconstructions of an anatomically realistic neural network in rat vibrissal cortex. Neural Networks, doi: 10.1015/j.neunet.2011.06.013
Chen, Z., Resnik, E., McFarland, J.M., Sakmann, B., Mehta, M.R. (2011) Speed Controls the Amplitude and Timing of the Hippocampal Gamma Rhythm. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21408. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021408.
Lang, S., Drouvelis, P., Enkelejda, T, Bastian, P. and Sakmann, B. (2011): Fast extraction of neuron morphologies from large-scale SBFSEM image stacks. J. Comput. Neurosci., Published Online 22 March 2011.
Oberlaender, M., Boudewijns, Z. S. R. M., Kleele, T. Mansvelder, H.D., Sakmann, B., and deKock, C.P. J., (2011): Three-dimensional axon morphologies of individual layer 5 neurons indicate cell type-speciﬁc intracortical pathways for whisker motion and touch. PNAS 108 (10) 4188-4193.
Meyer, H.S., Wimmer, V.C., Oberlaender, M., de Kock, C.P.J., Frick, A., Sakmann, B., Helmstaedter, M. (2010): Number and Laminar Distribution of Neurons in a Thalamocortical Projection of Rat Vibrissal Cortex. Cereb Cortex 20 (10), 2277-2286.
Meyer, H.S., Wimmer, V.C., Hemberger, M., Bruno, R.M., de Kock, C.P.J., Frick, A.,Sakmann, B., Helmstaedter, M. (2010). Cell Type-Specific Thalamic Innervation in a Column of Rat Vibrissal Cortex. Cereb Cortex 20 (10), 2287-2303.
Wimmer, V.C., Bruno, R., de Kock, C.P.J., Kuner, T., Sakmann, B. (2010).Dimensions of a Projection Column and Architecture of VPM and POm Axons in Rat Vibrissal Cortex. Cereb Cortex 20 (10), 2265-2276.
- Related commentary: Jones, E.G., and Rakic, P. (2010). Radial Columns in Cortical Architecture: It Is the Composition That Counts. Cereb Cortex 20 (10), 2261-2264.
Groh, A., Meyer, H.S., Schmidt, E.F., Heintz, N., Sakmann, B., Krieger, P. (2010).Cell-Type Specific Properties of Pyramidal Neurons in Neocortex Underlying a Layout that Is Modifiable Depending on the Cortical Area. Cereb Cortex 20 (4) 826-836.
de Kock, C.P.J., Sakmann, B. (2009). Spiking in primary somatosensory cortex during natural whisking behavior in the awake rat. PNAS 106, 16446-16450.
Bruno, R., Hahn, T., Wallace, D.J., de Kock, C.P.J., Sakmann, B. (2009). Sensory Experience Alters Specific Branches of Individual Corticocortical Axons during Development. J. Neurosci. 29 (10): 3172-3181.
Groh, A., de Kock, C.P.J.; Wimmer, VC., Sakmann, B., Kuner, T. (2008). Driver or coincidence detector: Modal switch of a corticothalamic giant synapse controlled by spontaneous activity and short-term depression. J. Neurosci. 28 (39): 9652-9663.
de Kock, C.P.J., Sakmann, B. (2008). High frequency action potential bursts (>= 100 Hz) in L2/3 and L5B thick tufted neurons in anaesthetized and awake rat primary somatosensory cortex. J. Physiol. 586 (14): 3353-3364.
Krieger, P., Kuner, T. and Sakmann, B. (2007). Synaptic connections between layer 5B pyramidal neurons in mouse somatosensory cortex are independent of apical dendrite bundling. J. Neurosci. 27, 11473-11482.
Wallace, D.J., Sakmann, B. (2008). Plasticity of representational maps in somatosensory observed by in vivo voltage-sensitive dye imaging. Cereb Cortex 18(6), 1361-1373.
Helmstaedter, M., de Kock, C. P. J., Feldmeyer, D., Bruno, R. M. and Sakmann, B.(2007). Reconstruction of an average cortical column in silico. Brain Res. Rev. 55, 193-203.
de Kock, C.P.J., Bruno, R.M., Spors, H., Sakmann, B. (2007). Layer- and cell-type-specific suprathreshold stimulus representation in rat primary somatosensory cortex. J. Physiol. 581, 139-154.
Celikel, T. and Sakmann, B. (2007). Sensory integration across space and in time for decision making in the somatosensory system of rodents. PNAS 104, 1395-1400.
Sakmann, B. (2006). Patch pipettes are more useful than initially thought: simultaneous pre- and postsynaptic recording from mammalian CNS synapses in vitro and in vivo. Pfluegers Arch. 453 (3), 249-259.
Bruno, R. and Sakmann, B. (2006): Cortex is driven by weak but synchronously active thalamocortical synapses. Science 312, 1622-1627.