Circuits, Drugs and Schizophrenia

My research group focuses on the understanding of the neural mechanisms that lead to schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disease affecting close to 1 % of the population and accounting for 25 % of psychiatric hospital beds. It is characterized by "positive" symptoms such as halluzinations and delusions, but also by "cognitive" and "negative" symptoms like deficits in working memory, attention, cognitive flexibility, social interaction and motivation. It is such cognitive and negative symptoms that hardly respond to currently available drug therapy and therefore represent the focus of our translational research efforts.

Our goals are to support the development of novel therapeutical approches by:

... understanding where symptoms of schizophrenia originate from at the neural circuit level

... develop better preclinical models of schizophrenia and better biomarkers for prediction of clinical efficacy

... understand how existing drugs and novel drug candidates actually work at the circuit level

... identify cellular and circuit targets for therapy

Our approach is to combine state-of-the-art techniques of neural circuit analysis, including:

... optogenetic and chemogenetic circuit manipulation (i.e. the remote control of genetically specified cell types)

... in vivo electrophysiological techniques

... behavioural analysis and behavioural pharmacology

... transgenic models of schizophrenia


We build on our expertise of optogenetic circuit analysis and chemogenetic rescue of brain diseases:


Kätzel D, Kullmann D: Optogenetic and chemogenetic tools for drug discovery in schizophrenia, in Lipina T, Roder J (eds.): Drug discovery for schizophrenia, RSC Publishing, 2015.
Kätzel D, Nicholson E, Schorge S, Walker M, Kullmann D: Chemical-genetic silencing of focal neocortical seizures, Nature Communications, 2014.
Kätzel D & Miesenböck G: Experience-dependent rewiring of specific inhibitory connections in adult neocortex, PLoS Biology, 2014.
Kätzel D, Zemelman BV, Buetfering C, Wölfel M, Miesenböck G: The columnar and laminar organization of inhibitory connections to neocortical excitatory cells, Nature Neuroscience, 2011.