Principal Investigator

Project assistant

kathrin.harringa [at]

I am a lawyer by training, having also the degree of a Master of Business Administration in higher education and research management.
After having worked as a project manager for a FP7 funded European Research Project in Brussels, I started in Autumn 2013 to support the DFG funded Priority program 1665 “Resolving and manipulating neuronal networks in the mammalian brain – from correlative to causal analysis” at the UKE. This program is an interdisciplinary and seminal collaborative endeavor that aims at capitalizing on this recent technological and analytical progress for elucidating the relationship between neurons, networks and behavior. It runs for an initial period of 6 years and will end in Fall 2019. During this time I am coordinating and accompanying over 90 PIs and co-workers from all over Germany in administrative and financial matters.
SPP 1665

Post-Doc Researchers

xiaxia.xu [at]
I have a dual education with a bachelor degree in Mathematics and a master and PhD in Neuroscience at Nankai University (China). 2016, I joined the lab for a postdoctoral stage aiming to identify the role of early prefrontal dysfunction for the cognitive performance at adulthood. For this, I combine in vivo electrophysiology, in utero electroporation, optogenetics, digital signal processing and analysis, behavioral testing, etc. Outside the lab, I love physical activities. Walking, running, bouldering and yoga are my favorites.

Ph.D. Students

johanna.kostka [at]
I studied Biophysics at the Humboldt University in Berlin and finished the research master Brain and Cognitive Science at the University of Amsterdam. In 2015 I started my PhD project in this group, which focuses on the question whether early sensory experience shapes neuronal network maturation and promotes later cognitive abilities. In contrast to other sensory modalities the sense of smell is already fully functional at birth and olfactory information reaches higher brain regions without by passing the thalamus. More specifically, I am investigating the influence of mitral cell activity in the olfactory bulb (OB) on the activity patterns of the LEC during early development. For this, I combine in vivo whole-cell patch clamp recordings with extracellular field potential recordings of neonatal mice.
[Personal Profile]
mattia.chini [at]
I studied medicine and surgery at the University of Padova, but never had too much passion for clinics. For this reason, just after my studies, I spent a year in Tononi’s lab investigating sleep function and regulation. Convinced of doing science, in summer 2016 I then joined the Opatz lab for my PhD. My interest is the development of cortical microcircuits in health and disease, with a particular focus on the interneuron side of things. I also have a (nerdy) fascination for the neuro-immune cross talk, and microglial cells in particular, which I give vent to when nobody is looking at me.
[Personal Profile]


E-mail: [at]
The fundamental question I am working in is the neuronal oscillation of prefrontal-hippocampal network in neonatal mice of mental illness. I joined the Optaz Lab in July 2017, after a several years study on neuronal migration and adult neruogenesis. My initial work as a PhD fellow contribute to the understanding of the cellular mechanisms involved in coupling deficits in prefrontal-hippocampal networks in Disc1mutant mice. I use BDA injection, together with immunochemistry staining and electromicroscopy to uncover the how synaptic, cellular and network physiologically interact. My skillset will also combine in utero electroporation, multi-electrode recordings and optogenetic manipulations of prefrontal-hippocampal networks in the mice.
[Personal Profile]
steven.schepanski [at]
While I studied psychology I became more and more interested into stress biology and the link to mental illnesses. In the Schedlowski lab at the University Hospital Essen, I became familiar with the reciprocal connection of nervous, endocrine, and immune system. Totally fascinated by stress perception, I applied for my Master thesis at the laboratory of Professor Dr. Arck at the UKE. Here, I spent my time investigating the role of maternal stress for the reproductive outcome. After my graduation I wanted to switch back on how stress programs mental health adversities in the progeny and started my PhD project as cooperation between the Opatz and Arck lab.
Today, I aim to elucidate the mechanisms by which certain maternal immune cells and stress hormones shapes the development of neural networks involved in cognitive processing in mice. Further, I am investigating how human stress perception during pregnancy influences the children’s neurocognitive development at early ages.
jastyn.poepplau [at]
In 2012 I finished my education as technical assistant and started to study Molecular Life Science at the University of Hamburg. As student assistant I learned a lot about the projects of the group and got more and more interested in the processes of brain development. During my master thesis I performed a morphological characterization of distinct neuronal and glial cell populations after network manipulation at neonatal age. Since end of 2017 I started my PhD to identify the contribution of early electrical activity for the cognitive performance at adulthood. In my free time I like to go running with friends and to bake creative cakes.
laura.carol [at]
I studied Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University Autònoma of Barcelona; and then I did a master program in Neuroscience at the University of Geneva. During my masters I carried out morphological studies focused on the development of callosal projections. The beauty of this work is that it relates an isolated early alteration in the somatosensory cortex with long-term behavioral abnormalities ranging from sensory dysfunction to social deficits and compulsive behavior. However, how neuronal activity regulates the functional maturation of neocortical networks remains to be elucidated. I feel very intrigued by this field of study, which is why in winter 2018 I joined the Opatz lab to perform my PhD studies. Now my research aims to elucidate the contribution of early neuronal activity and experience on the development of cognitive abilities, with particular focus on neocortical networks that have been proven impaired in several neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia.
marilena.hnida [at]
After I finished studying biology and neuroscience at the University of Bremen, I joined the lab in June 2018 to work on my PhD. My research focuses on the contribution of the lateral entorhinal cortex to the disturbed development of the prefrontal-hippocampal network in a mouse model of mental illness. In order to investigate the interactions between the three brain areas during development, I am combining multi-site electrophysiological recordings in awake juvenile mice with behavioral testing and optogenetic modulation.

Medical Students

veronika.sternemann [at]
Since 2013 I am studying medicine at Hamburg University. Currently I am participating in a one year program of structured research called “iPRIME” with the goal to obtain my medical degree.
In a collaboration between the KFO 296 “feto-maternal immune cross talk” and the AG Opatz, I will investigate the effects of maternal immune cells on the offspring’s cognitive outcome.


Technical Assistants

annette.marquardt [at]
I work since 2012 as technician in the lab of Prof. Ileana Hanganu-Opatz where I am involved in several projects. My field of work includes the preparation of brain slices mainly from the olfactory bulb, prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, followed by immunhistochemistry and microscopy. Moreover, I am involved in tracing of axonal connections using Fluorogold, Biotinylated dextran amine and Cholera toxin B in young rats and mice. In addition, I am assisting with in utero electroporations, behavioral testing and PCRs. In my spare time I do a lot of sports as a coach in Aerobic and dance or as a member in a tennis team.
peggy.putthoff [at]
I’m working in the lab of Prof. Ileana Hanganu Opatz as a technician since January 2017.
I am involved in the tracing of BDA into the hippocampus in postnatal mice. We want to study the axonal connections from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex, which I analyze using electron microscopy.
In addition, I am responsible for breeding of various mouse-lines in our group and help with several molecular-biological methods, like plasmid DNA preparations and PCR.
In my free time I like to travel and to go jogging.
Achim Dahlmann


Dr. Joachim Ahlbeck
Dr. Malte Bieler
Dr. Sebastian Bitzenhofer
Dr. Marco D. Brockmann
Dr. Nicole Cichon
Nina Domnick
Nadine Faesel
Dr. Henrike Hartung
Hanna-Sophie Krüger
Dr. Christoph Lindemann
Victoria Oberländer
Dr. Beatrice Pöschel

Samuel Reincke
Stephanie Riemann
Sandra Schildt
Dr. Kay Sieben
Kai Siebert
Dr. Amy Wolff