Peter Jonas (*1961 Darmstadt) received the Max Planck Research Prize for his work in the area of Neurophysiology.
The main research topic of Jonas’ research group is the mechanisms of communication between nerve cells in the brain. They form a complex network whose electric activity is ultimately the basis of higher functions like memory and behavior. A single nerve cell has communication points with many thousand target cells. At these communication points, so-called synapses, a messenger is released that activates receptors in the targed cell, thus causing a change in voltage. Elementary changes in voltage caused by many synapses are added up and lead to an activation of the target cell. These processes occur at an extremely rapid pace; they last only several thousandths of a second. The goal of the research group is to characterize rapid signaling in individual nerve cells as well as collectively. A particularly important type of synapse the research group is studying uses glutamate as a chemical messenger. Glutamate synapses are of special interest for the neuroscientists because changes that occur in them are linked to learning processes. In this area, Jonas and his colleagues Jörg Geiger and Josef Bischofberger succeeded in explaining basic mechanisms of cell communication.
Further research awards: