Johannes Felsenberg


Johannes Felsenberg will be joining the FMI and start the laboratory on June 1st, 2019. He is currently setting up his group and welcomes applications for PhD and postdoc positions.
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Neural circuit mechanisms of memory re-evaluation

We investigate how neural processes allow memories to be changed. When actual experience does not accurately match a learned expectation, the underlying memory can become destabilized and therefore is rewritable through a process called memory reconsolidation. The Felsenberg group studies the tractable brain of the fruit fly Drosophila to understand fundamental neural operations of memory re-evaluation and reconsolidation.

Flies can learn to seek or avoid odors, previously associated with reward or punishment. Genetic tools in the fly allow us to investigate the neural circuitry involved in olfactory learning and information storage down to single neuron resolution. We combine behavioral assays, thermo- and optogenetic manipulations with in vivo imaging, to gain a mechanistic understanding of memory update systems. We are investigating how new information is integrated into existing memories and how this update changes the neural representation of the memory.
Under certain circumstances, memories seem to be protected from the temporary fragility of reconsolidation. Such limitations, or boundary conditions, of memory re-evaluation allow us to explore the neural underpinnings with greater depth. With our research, we aim to explain how different types of memories can be permanently changed or - under certain circumstances – even erased.


2013 PhD, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
2008 Diploma, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Positions held
2019- Junior Group Leader, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
2013-present Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford, UK

2015-2018 DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) Research Fellowship


Felsenberg J, Jacob PF, Walker T, Barnstedt O, Edmondson-Stait AJ, Pleijzier M W, Otto N, Schlegel P, Sharifi N, Perisse E, Smith CS, Lauritzen JS, Costa M, Jefferis, GSXE, Bock DD, Waddell S (2018) Integration of Parallel Opposing Memories Underlies Memory Extinction. Cell [Epub ahead of print; 2018 Oct]

Cognigni P, Felsenberg J, Waddell S, (2018) Do the right thing: neural network mechanisms of memory formation, expression and update in Drosophila. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 49, 51-58.

Felsenberg J, Barnstedt O, Cognigni P, Lin S, Waddell S (2017) Re-evaluation of learned information in Drosophila. Nature 544, 240-240

Barnstedt O, Owald D, Felsenberg J, Brain R, Moszynski JP, Talbot CB, Perrat PN, Waddell S (2016) Memory-relevant mushroom body output synapses are cholinergic. Neuron 89, 1237-1247

Owald D, Felsenberg J, Talbot CB, Das G, Perisse E, Huetteroth W, Waddell S (2015) Activity of defined mushroom body output neurons underlies learned olfactory behavior in Drosophila. Neuron 86, 417-427

Felsenberg J, Dyck Y, Feige J, Ludwig J, Plath JA, Froese A, Karrenbrock M, Nölle A, Heufelder K, Eisenhardt D (2015) Differences in long-term memory stability and AmCREB level between forward and backward conditioned honeybees (Apis mellifera). Front Behav Neurosci 9, 91

Felsenberg J, Dyck Y, Kloß A, Dahlmann B, Kloetzel PM, Eisenhardt D (2014) Two inhibitors of the ubiquitin proteasome system enhance long-term memory formation upon olfactory conditioning in the honeybee (Apis mellifera). J Exp Biol 217, 3441-3446

Felsenberg J, Plath JA, Lorang S, Morgenstern L, Eisenhardt D. (2013) Short- and long-term memories formed upon backward conditioning in honeybees (Apis mellifera). Learning & Memory 21, 37-45

Plath JA*, Felsenberg J*, Eisenhardt D (2012) Reinstatement in honeybees is context-dependent. Learning & Memory 19, 543-549
*equally contributed

Felsenberg J, Dombrowski V, Eisenhardt D (2012) A role of protein degradation in memory consolidation after initial learning and extinction learning in the honeybee (Apis mellifera). Learning & Memory 19, 470-477

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