Disciplines/fields: Neurobiology/ Experimental Psychology

Duration: 4 sessions

Course Content

The course will discuss what brains are not, and that memory is for the future, not about the past. The first lecture will go through an assortment of learning phenomena according to such view. The second lecture will focus on fruit flies, introducing cutting edge genetic methods and resultant findings concerning memory. The third lecture will discuss how memories contribute to active search behaviour on the role of outcome expectation in this process. The last lecture will be devoted to issues arising.


What is memory for? Can memory traces be localized? What and how do fruit flies learn? What can modern genetics do for neuroscience? Principles of optophysiology. How can one compute ‘motivation’? What is the psychological ‘content’ of memory in fruit flies – and fruit fly larvae? How do fruit flies search for things they are in need for? What, if anything, can be learned from this for technical search devices?


Gerber B, Tanimoto H & Heisenberg M 2004 An engram found? Evaluating the evidence from fruit flies. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 14, 737-744.
Schleyer M, Miura D, Tanimura T, Gerber B 2015 Learning the specific quality of taste reinforcement in larval Drosophila. eLife, 4, e04711.
Greenspan R 2007 An introduction to nervous systems. CSHL Press.


My name is Bertram Gerber, I am a behavioural neuroscientist interested in how learning comes about, and how memory serves in adaptive behaviour. A current emphasis of our group is on the neuronal mechanisms of learned search/escape behaviour and the role of outcome expectations in these processes.

In a broader sense, the endeavor is to extend the scope of the brain sciences towards the psychological domain, for example regarding ‘outcome expectation’. Such extension to the assignment of the brain sciences towards subjective life - which includes identifying the very limits of this assignment - is one of the central scientific problems of our time.

I studied biology at the Free University Berlin and earned a PhD on olfactory learning in bees. While being a post-doc at the Universities of Fribourg, Switzerland, and Würzburg, Germany, our group introduced larval Drosophila as robust study case for learning research. Upon my appointment as Professor at the University of Leipzig 2010 our group moved there, and then on to Leibniz Institute of Neurobilogy, Magdeburg, in 2012.