After receiving a solid background in Mathematics and Informatics, Ileana Hanganu-Opatz studied Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bucharest, Romania (1994-1998). Supported by an EU TEMPUS fellowship, she performed the experimental work for her diploma thesis on cellular physiology in the lab of Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schwarz at the University of Hamburg, Germany (1997). The acquired comprehensive knowledge on electrophysiology was very useful for Ileana’s future career. She achieved a PhD in the group of Prof. Dr. Heiko Luhmann (University of Düsseldorf, Germany) on the mechanisms of brain wiring and cortical development (1999-2002). During her postdoctoral stay in the group of Dr. Rustem Khazipov and Prof. Dr. Yehezkel Ben-Ari (INMED Marseille, France), which was funded by the German Research Foundation (2005-2006), Ileana continued to investigate this topic. For the high quality and innovative character of this research she received the highest German award for Physiology, the Dubois-Reymond prize in 2008. Furthermore, she was awarded additional grants (2.5 Mil. €) from the Emmy Noether-Program of the DFG and the German Ministry of Education of Research (BMBF). In 2009 Ileana was appointed as Professor of Physiology and she started her own lab at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. Since 2013 she coordinates the DFG Priority Program 1665 focusing on neuronal networks. In 2015 Ileana received a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council. Ileana has just been elected during the FENS Forum 2016 as member of the FENS Committee of Higher Education and Training Committee (CHET).
Our group aims at elucidating the mechanisms underlying the maturation of neuronal networks under physiological and pathophysiological conditions. In particular, we assess the role of early network oscillations for the development of local and long-range communication in the brain in relationship with the emergence of cognitive behavior, sensory and multisensory perception. For this, we combine state-of-the-art electrophysiological methods and optogenetics with imaging, morphological investigation and behavioral assessment.
The following main topics are currently being investigated:
1. Development and function of neuronal networks: We elucidated the cellular interactions and the directed functional communication underlying the development of prefrontal-hippocampal networks and maturation of mnemonic abilities.
2. Uni- and multisensory processing and ontogeny: We identified the cross-modal modulation of neuronal oscillations within cortico-cortical networks as necessary for multisensory processing and development.
3. Pathophysiology of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders: We identified the de-coupling of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus during a critical period of maturation (neonatal age) as a fundamental mechanism underlying the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and perinatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.