Short-Term Synaptic Plasticity at a Glutamatergic Synapse

Erwin Neher
Max Planck Institute
Nov. 30 13:50~14:40


Synaptic Plasticity is held to be at the basis of most signal processing capabilities of the central nervous system. Long-term plasticity receives most attention by neuroscientists, since it underlies learning and memory. Short-term plasticity (STP), on the other hand, is not less important, since it mediates basic signal processing tasks, such as filtering, gain control, adaptation, and many more. My laboratory has studied STP at the Calyx of Held, a glutamatergic nerve terminal in the auditory pathway, which is large enough to be voltage-clamped in the ‘whole-cell mode’, using patch pipettes. STP is highly modulated by second messengers, such as Ca++ and diacylglycerol. In particular, it was shown that such modulators accelerate a process called ‘superpriming’, a slow transition of release-ready vesicles from a ‘normally primed’ state to a faster, ‘superprimed’ one (Lee et al. 2013; PNAS 110, 15079). Recently, we could demonstrate that this same process also mediates Post-Tetanic Potentiation, a medium-term form of synaptic plasticity (Taschenberger et al., 2016; PNAS 113, E4548-57). These findings will be discussed in the framework of literature data on various forms of short-term plasticity.



  • 1967-1970, Dr. rer. nat. (Physics) Institute of Technology, Munich 1970
  • 1965-1967, M.Sc. (Physics) University of Wisconsin
  • 1965, Vordiplom (Physics) Institute of Technology, Munich
  • 1962-1965, Studies in Physics Technical University of Munich


Professional Career

  • 2011.04, Emeritus Director, Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie, Goettingen
  • 1983-2011, Director of the Membrane Biophysics Department at the Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie, Goettingen, W. Germany
  • 1989, Fairchild Scholar, California Institute of Technology; Pasadena, USA
  • 1975-1976, Research Associate as a guest in the laboratory of Dr. Ch.F. Stevens at Yale University, Dept. of Physiology, New Haven, Conn
  • 1972-1982, Research associate at the Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie, Goettingen
  • 1966-1967, Graduate student and research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. W.W. Beeman at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc


Awards and Honors

Numerous scientific prizes, including

  • 1991, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Bert Sakmann
  • 1986, Leibniz Award, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft