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Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie

Research group Normann

Mechanisms of Depression
Research group leader:Prof. Dr. Claus Normann
Phone: +49 (0)761 270 - 65010
Email: claus.normann@uniklinik-freiburg.de

Research focus

Synaptic plasticity is the molecular mechanism of learning and memory. It allows the brain to adapt to the environment. A dysregulation of synaptic plasticity might be involved in the pathophysiology of depression. We examine basic properties and mechanisms of synaptic plasticity with a focus on associative long-term depression in the hippocampus and on the role of astrocytes in the induction of long-term potentiation.  We use several approaches to examine the role of synaptic plasticity in affective disorders. We have shown that antidepressants and neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin, adenosine) modulate synaptic plasticity. In animal models of depression and stress, long-term depression is facilitated. Moreover, we are trying to assess correlates of synaptic plasticity in humans by using visually evoked potentials, transcranial magnetic stimulation and imaging methods.
In clinical projects, we aim to increase the efficacy of psychotherapy in depression by pharmacological augmentation of learning.

1. Synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus
Mechanism of associative LTD, role of astrocytes in LTP, calcium influx pathways, mechanism and extend of the modulation of different forms of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus by psychopharmacological drugs and neurotransmitters (in cooperation with Josef Bischofberger (Basel), Knut Biber (Freiburg))

2. Synaptic plasticity in animal models of depression
Modulation of synaptic plasticity in animal models of depression and early stress (in cooperation with Carola Haas (Freiburg), Roche (Basel))

3. Correlates of synaptic plasticity in humans
Assessment of brain plasticity in healthy controls and depressed patients by visually evoked potentials (in cooperation with Michael Bach (Freiburg)), transcranial magnetic stimulation (in cooperation with Volker Mall (München), Christoph Nissen (Freiburg)), imaging methods (in cooperation with Stefan Klöppel (Freiburg), behavioral methods (in cooperation with Christoph Nissen (Freiburg))

4. Role of Reelin in brain disease
Exome sequencing of patients with different psychiatric disorders to assess the role of Reelin in brain disorders (as part of the BMBF consortium e:bio ReelinSys).

5. Augmentation of psychotherapy
Cycloserine in depression, social cognition and its potential augmentation by oxytocine in chronic depression (in cooperation with Markus Heinrichs (Freiburg))

Selected peer-reviewed publications

  • Herpfer I, Hezel H, Reichardt W, Clark K, Geiger J, Gross CM, Heyer A, Neagu V, Bhatia H, Atas HC, Fiebich BL, Bischofberger J, Haas K, Lieb K, Normann C: Early life stress differentially modulates distinct forms of brain plasticity in young and adult mice. PloS One, 7: e46004 (2012)
  • Nissen C, Holz J, Blechert J, Feige B, Normann C: Learning as a model of neural plasticity in depression. Biol Psychiatry 68:544-52 (2010)
  • Niehusmann P, Seifert G, Clark K, Atas H, Herpfer I, Fiebich B, Bischofberger J, Normann C: Coincidence detection and stress modulation of spike time-dependent LTD in the hippocampus. J Neurosci 30:6225-35 (2010)
  • Holderbach R, Clark K, Moreau JL, Bischofberger J, Normann C: Enhanced long-term synaptic depression in an animal model of depression. Biol Psychiatry 62: 92-100 (2007)
  • Normann C, Schmitz D, Fürmaier A, Döing C, Bach M: Long-term plasticity of visually evoked potentials in humans is altered in major depression. Biol Psychiatry 62: 373-80 (2007)

» Publications in PubMed

Medical dissertations and master projects

Many medical disertations and master projects have been successfully finished in our lab or clinical projects. We are constantly recruiting new students. The projects are intensively supervised. Please refer to

Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie

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79104 Freiburg

Information: 0761 270-65010

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