The Max Planck Florida Institute has announced appointments to three scientific positions at the research facility. Dr. Michael D. Ehlers of Duke University Medical Center will be named Scientific Director and CEO; Dr. Samuel M. Young, Jr. will lead a research group focused on molecular neurobiology; and Dr. Jason Christie will lead a research group studying synapse physiology.

Dr. Ehlers is currently the George Barth Geller Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Duke and an Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. During his 12 years at Duke he has led research dedicated to understanding the structure and circuitry of neurons in the brain and the roles they play in learning and memory. He plans to continue his work at the Max Planck Florida Institute and will begin the process of establishing his laboratories and assembling his research team during the next several months.

As the leader of the Research Group Molecular Neurobiology at the Max Planck Florida Institute, Dr. Samuel M. Young, Jr. will study synapses – the highly specialized contact points in the brain where neurons pass electrical and chemical signals to one another. He plans on focusing on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of synaptic function. His long-term goal is to use the knowledge gained in the mechanisms of synaptic function to help uncover the causes of neurological disorders and ultimately understand how the brain operates. He begins work at the Jupiter, Fla. facility on April 1, with the rest of his research group joining in mid-May.

Dr. Jason Christie will head the Research Group Synapse Physiology and will focus his team on studying how cells in the brain communicate with one another. Dr. Christie will use both electrical recording and imaging methods to determine how the transfer of information between two cells or, within larger groups of cells, is altered by previous activity. This plasticity, or malleability, between brain cells affects behavior and allows the brain to respond, adapt and learn from an experience.

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