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Norbert Elsner

Professor of Zoology

Dr. rer. nat. University of Cologne 1967
PostDoc: Makerere University College, Kampala (Uganda) 1968
Department of Zoology, University of Copenhagen (Denmark) 1971
Department of Biology, University of Oregon (USA) 1972
Habilitation (Zoology) University of Cologne 1974
Professor of Zoology, University of Göttingen 1978
Head of the Department of Neurobiology

Major Research Interests:

Norbert Elsner

The common research topic of the department is Neuroethology of acoustic communication in singing insects. This involves as main fields of interest neuronal basis of song production and song recognition, neuropharmacology of motor actions, interdependence of singing and hearing, evolution of acoustic communication, bioacoustic and sensory ecology in the lab and in the field, and development and regeneration of components of the auditory system.
The songs of insects are produced as fixed action patterns. Single cell recordings, behaviour following lesions and electric or pharmacologic stimulation of the brain help to identify single elements and networks in the CNS producing the innate song patterns. Application of neuroactive substances to the brain aim to identify mechanisms like second messenger cascades involved in production of these motor programs(Heinrich).
A song only makes sense when it is heard by a potential partner. Song parameters and song recognition behaviour are studied with a focus on bushcrickets (Stumpner). The function of sensory cells and auditory interneurones in various insects is investigated by means of extra- and intracellular recordings, neuroanatomy and immunohistochemistry. The relevant questions are: to what degree are hearing systems specialized to species-specific needs, how is song recognition realized on the level of single interneurones, or: what are the potential predecessor structures or systems in the evolution of audition? For the latter, various sensory organs are in the focus of research - neuroanatomically, functionally and their ontogenesis (Lakes-Harlan, Stumpner).
Singing and hearing, of course, are highly interdependent, on the one hand by interference of movements with the ability to hear (studied e.g. by laser-vibrometry), on the other hand by biophysical constraints limitating the detection of parameters in the field (studied e.g. by sound analysis and behavioural tests) (Elsner).
Very helpful and sometimes surprising data are gained from developmental studies. This involves regeneration of behaviour and neuronal structures, molecular mechanisms in early development and regeneration as well as cell cultures with neurones identified as parts of the auditory system (Lakes-Harlan).

Institut für Zoology
und Anthropologie
Abteilung Neurobiologie
Berliner Straße 28

37073 Göttingen

phone:+49-551-39 5401
fax:+49-551-39 2262

Selected Recent Publications:

Heinrich R, Elsner N (1997) Central nervous control of hindleg coordination in stridulating grasshoppers. J Comp Physiol A 180: 257-269

Heinrich R, Jacobs K, Lakes-Harlan R (1998) Tracing of a neuronal network in the locust by pressure injection of markers into a synaptic neuropile. J Neurosci Meth 80: 81-89

Heinrich R, Rozwod K, Elsner N (1998) Neuropharmacological evidence for inhibitory cephalic control mechanisms of stridulatory behaviour in grasshoppers. J Comp Pysiol A 183: 389-399

Lakes-Harlan R & Pfahlert C (1995) Regeneration of axotomized tympanal nerve fibres in the adult grasshopper Chorthippus biguttulus (L.)(Orthoptera: Acrididae) correlates with regaining the localization ability. J Comp Physiol A 176: 797-807

Jacobs K & Lakes-Harlan R (1997) Lectin histochemistry of the metathoracic ganglion of the locust, Schistocerca gregaria, before and after deafferentation. J Comp Neurol 387: 255-265

Lakes-Harlan R, Stölting H & Stumpner A (1999) Convergent evolution of an insect ear from a preadaptive structure. Proc R Soc Lond B 266: 1161-1167

Stölting H, Stumpner A (1998) Tonotopic organization of auditory receptorcells in the bushcricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera (Tettigoniidae, Decticini). Cell Tissue Res 294: 377-386

Stumpner A (1998) Picrotoxin eliminates frequency selectivity of an auditory interneuron in a bushcricket. J Neurophysiol 79: 2408-2415

Stumpner A (1999) An interneurone of unusual morphology is tuned to the female song in the bushcricket Ancistrura nigrovittata (Orthoptera: Phaneropteridae). J Exp Biol 202: 2071-2081