Synaptic Communication in Hippocampal Microcircuits

Peter Jonas

Peter Jonas works on the understanding of the function of neuronal microcircuits. This is one of the major challenges of life science in the 21st century. The human brain is comprised of approximately 10 billions of neurons, which communicate with each other at a huge number (~1015) of specialized sites. These sites of contact and communication between neurons are termed synapses.

Very broadly, synapses in the brain fall into two categories: excitatory synapses releasing the transmitter glutamate and inhibitory synapses releasing the transmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The Jonas Group wants to quantitatively address the mechanisms of synaptic signaling at these highly specialized synaptic sites in the brain. To achieve this, they will use multiple-cell recording, subcellular patch-clamp techniques, Ca2+ imaging, and modeling.


Peter Jonas
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg

Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-3701


Publication list

Jonas Group website


Eva Kramberger
Tel: +43 (0)2243 9000-3700


  • Claudia Espinoza, PhD Student
  • Jian Gan, Postdoc
  • José Guzmán, Postdoc
  • Hua Hu, Postdoc
  • Florian Marr, Technician
  • Rajiv Mishra, PhD Student
  • Alejandro Pernía-Andrade, Postdoc
  • Sarah Rosenthaler, Technician
  • Giovanni Russo, Postdoc
  • Alois Schlögl, Software Engineer
  • David Vandael, Postdoc
  • Shih-Ming Weng, Postdoc
  • Xiaomin Zhang, Postdoc

Open Position

Professor Peter Jonas is currently recruiting postdocs for an ERC Advanced Grant project “Nanophysiology of fast-spiking, parvalbumin-expressing GABAergic interneurons”. His research group performs cutting edge research in the field of Cellular Neuroscience using nanophysiology. One major focus of the lab is on the functional analysis of GABAergic interneurons. For detailed information see the postdoc ad.

Current Projects

  • Nanophysiology of fast-spiking, GABAergic interneurons
    The goal is to completely map the distribution of ion channels at soma, dendrites, and presynaptic terminals of this key type of GABAergic interneuron, and to directly analyze the resulting functional properties. To achieve this goal, we will use cutting edge subcellular patch-clamp recording techniques pioneered in my lab. As fast-spiking, GABAergic interneurons play a key role in the control of the stability of the network and the generation of rhythmic activity in the brain, the results will provide insight into the mechanisms underlying dynamic activity of neuronal networks in health and disease.
  • Functional analysis of glutamatergic synaptic connections between hippocampal pyramidal neurons
    In this project, we will record from ensembles of hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neurons and examine the properties of glutamatergic synaptic connections. In particular, we want to determine the induction rules of synaptic plasticity, including long-term potentiation and depression. As the synapses between CA3 pyramidal neurons play a key role in learning and memory, the results will be important to understand the mechanisms underlying the processing and storage of information in the hippocampus.
  • Development of realistic network models of hippocampal microcircuits
    Our ultimate goal is to understand how synaptic properties shape complex network functions. To reach this goal, we will develop computational models of neuronal networks based on our experimental findings. Beyond reproducing experimental observations, we anticipate that modeling will make specific predictions, which can be tested experimentally. The interdisciplinary research platform of IST Austria, in particular the presence of several computer science groups, will greatly facilitate our modeling efforts.

Selected Publications

  • Hu, H, Jonas P. (2014) A supercritical density of Na+ channels ensures fast signaling in GABAergic interneuron axons. Nature Neuroscience 17 (5): 686–693.
  • Pernía-Andrade, A, Jonas, P (2014) Theta-gamma-modulated synaptic currents in hippocampal granule cells in vivo define a mechanism for network oscillations. Neuron 81(1): 140-152.
  • Vyleta, N, Jonas, P (2014) Loose coupling between Ca2+ channels and release sensors at a plastic hippocampal synapse. Science 343 (6171): 665-670.


2010             Professor, IST Austria
2007             Member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of the Journal "Science"
1995–2010   Professor and Department Head, University of Freiburg, Germany
1994–1995    Associate Professor, Technical University of Munich, Germany
1990–1994    Research Assistant, Max-Planck Institute, Heidelberg, Germany
1988–1989    Postdoc, University of Giessen, Germany
1987             PhD, University of Giessen, Germany

Selected Distinctions

2010             ERC Advanced Investigator Grant
2009             Adolf-Fick-Award, Physicomedical Society, Würzburg, Germany
2008             Member, Academy of Sciences, Heidelberg, Germany
2007             Tsungming Tu Award, National Science Council Taiwan
2006             Szentagothai memorial lecture, University of California, Irvine, USA
2006             Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Award, German Research Foundation
2002             Member, German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
1998–2001   Human Frontiers Science Program Organization Grant
1998             Max-Planck Research Award
1997             Medinfar European Prize in Physiology, Portugal
1994             Maier-Leibnitz Award, German Ministry for Education and Science
1992             Heisenberg Fellowship, German Research Foundation

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