Tobias Bonhoeffer

Tobias Bonhoeffer (born January 9, 1960 in Berkeley, California) is a German neurobiologist. He is director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and head of the department Synapses - Circuits - Plasticity.


Bonhoeffer studied physics at the University of Tübingen and conducted the research for his PhD thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen.


Bonhoeffer worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Rockefeller University and at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt. He led an independent research group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich and was appointed Director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in 1998. Between 2008 and 2011 Bonhoeffer was head of the Biomedical Section of the Max Planck Society.

Scientific focus

Bonhoeffer's scientific research is focused on the cellular foundations of learning and memory, as well as on the early postnatal development of the brain.

Bonhoeffer's work led to a number of important scientific discoveries. Among these are:

  1. the optical verification of the existence of "pinwheels" in the mammalian visual system via high-resolution microscopic techniques. (Bonhoeffer & Grinvald, Nature 1991)
  2. the proof that neurotrophins, and in particular the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), play a central role in synaptic plasticity. (Korte et al., PNAS 1995 & 1996)
  3. the observation that the functional strengthening of synapses goes along with morphological changes of the nerve cell, more specifically with the formation of dendritic spines. (Engert & Bonhoeffer, Nature 1999)

Other activities


Bonhoeffer received, among others, the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine in 2004. He is member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) since 2009 and member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina since 2010.

External links

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