One of the most fundamental properties of the brain is its ability to adapt rapidly to environmental changes. This is mainly achieved by changes in the connectivity between individual nerve cells. Synapses, the connection elements between neurons, can be modulated in their strength by a variety of different mechanisms, a process called "synaptic plasticity".
We investigate the fundamental principles of synaptic plasticity at a number of different levels, ranging from molecular approaches to studies of the intact nervous system. Recent results from our lab have shown that synaptic plasticity is accompanied by structural changes of dendritic spines, they have demonstrated that these structural changes are the reason why re-learning of information acquired early in life is comparatively easy, and they have revealed in how far the detailed structure of functional maps in the visual cortex is due to experience in the outside world.