Marcel Oberlaender

Associate Professor
Team Leader

Short CV

Since July 2023, Dr. Marcel Oberlaender is an Associate Professor at the CNCR, VU Amsterdam.

Marcel was born in Germany in 1980. Between 2000 and 2006, he studied Physics at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Between 2003 and 2004, he studied for one year at the University of Melbourne in Australia. During this time, he became fascinated by the field of Neuroscience – an interest he was able to pursue further in 2005 during his diploma thesis in the department of Prof. Dr. Bert Sakmann at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Medical Research. He stayed with Bert Sakmann and moved with him to the MPI of Neurobiology to do his doctorate degree, which he received in 2009. Thereafter he became a postdoc with Bert Sakmann at the newly established Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in the US.

In 2012, Marcel established the ‘Computational Neuroanatomy’ Group at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, which he led for four years. During this time, he continued to work in Florida as guest group leader. After receiving a Starting Grant – EngineeringPercepts – from the European Research Council, he moved in 2016 to the MPI for Neurobiology of Behavior in Bonn, where he continues to lead the Max Planck Research Group ‘In Silico Brain Sciences’.


My research aims to unravel cellular and circuit mechanisms by which the cerebral cortex transforms sensory signals into perception, and ultimately into behavior. To achieve this ambitious goal, my lab develops anatomically and functionally realistic models of the thalamocortical, cortical and subcortical circuits in the rodent brain that process tactile information from the facial whiskers. Based on these models, we perform multi-scale simulations to mimic empirically observed signal flows during whisker-based behaviors. With these simulations, we disentangle in silico – and then test via manipulations in vivo – how the interplay between cellular and circuit mechanisms implements tactile sensation, perception, and behavior. For this purpose, my lab pursues projects in Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology and Systems Neuroscience. In each of these fields of research, we combine experiments in the living animal with computational modelling. By utilizing this multidisciplinary approach, my group currently focuses on the question of how cortical dendrites actively combine sensory with internally generated nonsensory information streams to facilitate robust perception.

Highlighted publications

Udvary D, Harth P, Macke K, Hege HC, de Kock CPJ, Sakmann B, Oberlaender M (2022). The Impact of Neuron Morphology on Cortical Network Architecture. Cell Reports 39(2):110677 (Link)

Egger R, Narayanan RT, Guest JM, Bast A, Udvary D, Messore LF, Das S, de Kock CPJ, Oberlaender M (2020). Cortical Output Is Gated by Horizontally Projecting Neurons in the Deep Layers. Neuron 105 (1):122-137 (Link)

Rojas-Piloni G, Guest JM, Egger R, Johnson AS, Sakmann B, Oberlaender M (2017). Relationships between structure, in vivo function and long-range axonal target of cortical pyramidal tract neurons. Nature Communications 8(1):870 (Link)

Landau ID, Egger R, Dercksen VJ, Oberlaender M, Sompolinsky H (2016). The Impact of Structural Heterogeneity on Excitation-Inhibition Balance in Cortical Networks. Neuron 92(5):1106-1121 (Link)

Egger R, Schmitt AC, Wallace DJ, Sakmann B, Oberlaender M, Kerr JN (2015). Robustness of sensory-evoked excitation is increased by inhibitory inputs to distal apical tuft dendrites. PNAS 112(45):14072-7 (Link)

Meyer HS, Egger R, Guest JM, Foerster R, Reissl S, Oberlaender M (2013). Cellular organization of cortical barrel columns is whisker-specific. PNAS 110(47):19113-8 (Link)

Oberlaender M, Ramirez A, Bruno RM (2012). Sensory experience restructures thalamocortical axons during adulthood. Neuron 74(4):648-55 (Link)

Oberlaender M, Boudewijns ZS, Kleele T, Mansvelder HD, Sakmann B, de Kock CPJ (2011). Three-dimensional axon morphologies of individual layer 5 neurons indicate cell type-specific intracortical pathways for whisker motion and touch. PNAS 108(10):4188-93 (Link)

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