Prof. Dr. Melanie Mark, AG Behavioral Neurobiology, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology

Melanie Mark

Research Programme:

The main focus of my group is to understand the role of the cerebellum in diseased disorders, such as ataxia, stress induced dystonia and absence epilepsy. I created transgenic mouse models representing the human diseases Episodic Ataxia type 2 and Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 6 to aid in understanding the contribution of the cerebellum to these diseased states. Unfortunately, individuals suffering from ataxia have no means of therapeutic relief. Using our mouse models we hope to identify second messenger pathways and specific neurons in the cerebellum involved in these diseased states, in order to identify more effective therapeutic tools either pharmacological, optogenetic or genetic to help affected individuals.

Another interest is the serotonergic system and how it regulates aggression. We asked ourselves: Why are some individuals more aggressive than others?. Is it due to their environment or are they just born this way? To address these questions we created 2 mouse models, one overexpressing RGS2 (regulators of G protein signaling) specifically in serotonergic neurons and another mouse line where we knocked out the P/Q type calcium channel specifically in serotonergic neurons. Interestingly, both lines display aggressive behavior without altering anxiety levels. The main objective of this project is to identify molecules and their pathways, which modulate aggression via the serotonergic system.

Lastly we are interested in how the cerebellum contributes to cognitive functions such as fear and anxiety. Traditionally the cerebellum was thought to be involved in only motor function and learning, however there is growing evidence supporting its role in emotional behaviors such as fear. We will use a combination of transgenic mouse models and pharmacological and optogenetic tools to identify specific cerebellar regions/neurons and the second messengers which are important for fear conditioning.

For further details, please consult my website.