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Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Zoltán Molnár has been conducting collaborative research as an Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin working with Professor Britta Eickholt's neuromedical research group at the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence since 2020. The Einstein Foundation has now renewed his fellowship for a further two years. 

Britta Eickholt's and Zoltán Molnár’s groups together with collaborators from the Larkum, Rosemund, Mann, Vyazovskiy and Lak groups combine the strengths of various research areas in order to better understand early cortical developmental processes. The collaborative work serves to better understand the abnormalities of early cortical circuit formation by the earliest generated and largely transient neurons of layer 6b in schizophrenia, autism and epileptic conditions and disorders. 

Their recent collaborative research tests an important hypothesis about the involvement of subplate/layer 6b in autism and epilepsy. There is a very strong case for the idea that these disorders may result from over growth of the subplate/layer 6b induced by overactivity of the mTOR pathway in subplate neurons during development. The collaborative work directly examines whether the miswiring of the subplate induced by dysregulation of subplate apoptosis and synaptic re-wiring by over activated mTOR and whether mTOR over activation will lead to a hypersensitive, overactive, and hyperexcitatory layer 6b in the mature brain. The consortium shall also test whether the miswiring of the subplate induced by dysregulation of subplate apoptosis and synaptic re-wiring can be prevented by over activated mTOR by administering the mTOR antagonist, rapamycin, during the first two weeks of development, a period during which the subplate neurons undergo apoptosis and connectivity changes. The proposed work is in basic circuit analysis, but it has very general biological and clinical implications in the understanding and possible treatment of autism and epilepsy.

The Einstein Fellowship has helped to create the basis for a joint research focus in this area between Berlin and Oxford. The continuation of the Einstein Fellowship to Professor Molnár from University of Oxford will further catalyse long-term relationship between Berlin and Oxford; The Oxford-Berlin research partnership, while pursuing first class research on a highly timely and exciting project.