Research Group Leader - Thomas Frank

Circuits and Synapses of Memory and Adaptive Behavior


Thomas Frank
2019:  Group leader, MPI of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany
2011 - present:  Postdoctoral Fellow, Friedrich Lab, FMI, Basel, Switzerland
2007-2010:  PhD, IMPRS Neurosciences, Göttingen, Germany
2005-2007:  MSc, IMPRS Neurosciences, Göttingen, Germany

Research Projects:

Memories are indispensable to intelligently guide our behavior in every-day life. For example, re-encountering the smell of a food item that had previously caused sickness evokes a strong aversive memory that avoids repeated poisoning. In the brain, memory storage occurs in a distributed fashion, simultaneously modifying individual sensory, motivational, and motor microcircuits. Yet, how learning reorganizes the integration of this multimodal and high-dimensional information across large-scale, “brain-wide” circuits remains poorly understood. To investigate the formation and function of such brain-wide memory traces, we use a combination of computational methods, imaging, optogenetics, electrophysiology, genetics, and behavioral approaches in zebrafish. The small size of the zebrafish brain provides excellent opportunities to reconstruct and manipulate the flow of neuronal activity within complete sensorimotor and memory circuits in behaving animals. We aim to understand how experience-dependent plasticity of synaptic and dendritic computations shapes both local and long-range communication within these circuits. In this context, we are particularly interested in the olfactory system and the role of plasticity within inhibitory circuits, whose diverse roles in learning and memory remain largely unknown. Our goal is to generate novel mechanistic insights into the fundamental organization of memories, to better understand adaptive and maladaptive behavior in health and disease.

List of Publications:

Frank, T., Moenig, N.R., Satou, C., Higashijima, S., and Friedrich, R.W. Associative Remapping of odor representations by inhibitory network plasticity. Revised and Resubmitted (2019).  

Neef, J., Urban, N.T., Ohn, T.-L., Frank, T., Jean, P., Hell, S.W., Willig, K.I., and Moser, T. (2018). Quantitative optical nanophysiology of Ca2+ signaling at inner hair cell active zones. Nature Communications 9, 290.

Wong, A.B., Rutherford, M.A., Gabrielaitis, M., Pangršič, T., Göttfert, F., Frank, T., Michanski, S., Hell, S., Wolf, F., Wichmann, C., et al. (2014). Developmental refinement of hair cell synapses tightens the coupling of Ca2+ influx to exocytosis. The EMBO Journal e201387110.

Zhu, P., Frank, T., and Friedrich, R.W. (2013). Equalization of odor representations by a network of electrically coupled inhibitory interneurons. Nat Neurosci 16, 1678–1686.

Nouvian, R., Neef, J., Bulankina, A.V., Reisinger, E., Pangršič, T., Frank, T., Sikorra, S., Brose, N., Binz, T., and Moser, T. (2011). Exocytosis at the hair cell ribbon synapse apparently operates without neuronal SNARE proteins. Nat Neurosci 14, 411–413.

Frank, T., Rutherford, M.A., Strenzke, N., Neef, A., Pangrsic, T., Khimich, D., Fejtova, A., Gundelfinger, E.D., Liberman, M.C., Harke, B., et al. (2010). Bassoon and the Synaptic Ribbon Organize Ca2+ Channels and Vesicles to Add Release Sites and Promote Refilling. Neuron 68, 724–738.

Pangršič, T., Lasarow, L., Reuter, K., Takago, H., Schwander, M., Riedel, D., Frank, T., Tarantino, L.M., Bailey, J.S., Strenzke, N., et al. (2010). Hearing requires otoferlin-dependent efficient replenishment of synaptic vesicles in hair cells. Nat Neurosci 13, 869–876.

Meyer, A.C.*, Frank, T.*, Khimich, D.*, Hoch, G., Riedel, D., Chapochnikov, N.M., Yarin, Y.M., Harke, B., Hell, S.W., Egner, A., et al. (2009). Tuning of synapse number, structure and function in the cochlea. Nat Neurosci 12, 444–453. (* equal contribution)

Frank, T., Khimich, D., Neef, A., and Moser, T. (2009). Mechanisms contributing to synaptic Ca2+ signals and their heterogeneity in hair cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106, 4483–4488.