Research groupJunior group

Noa Lipstein

Synapse Biology

portrait Noa Lipstein

The Synapse Biology group studies the process of information transfer between neurons in the brain. We aim to identify cell biological processes that shape synaptic function, and explore the relationship between the properties of the synapse and its molecular composition. Our work provides insight into the function of the brain in physiology and in disease.

Synapse Biology

The Synapse Biology group focuses on elucidating the contribution of synaptic proteins to neuronal function and plasticity, and on deciphering synaptic disease mechanisms in brain disorders. We combine genetic manipulations in mouse models with electrophysiological and cell type-specific biochemical tools to study the molecular composition and organization of synapses, with the aim of understanding how these parameters define synaptic function and dysfunction.


Synapses mediate information transfer in the nervous system. They display remarkable functional diversity and are highly plastic throughout lifetime, during behaviour, and in disease. Both the diversity and the plasticity of synaptic function are critical for encoding complex information within neuronal networks, and are therefore essential for all brain functions. Failure of synaptic function, on the other hand, can lead to imbalance in the network and is identified as a major etiological cause in multiple forms of brain disorders, including in neurodevelopmental (e.g. autism spectrum disorders), neuropsychiatric (e.g. schizophrenia) and neurodegenerative conditions (e.g. Alzheimer‘s disease). In face of the continuously changing nature of synaptic function, a major challenge remains to understand how synaptic function is encoded by its molecular composition.

Research Areas: diversity, plasticity and dysfunction

Our group focuses on understanding the molecular and cell biological processes that shape synaptic function in health and disease. In particular, we are interested in understanding how functional synapse diversity is encoded by its molecular composition, and how this diversity shapes the expression of brain disorders. We use unique mouse genetics tools, electrophysiology, imaging, and -omics tools to draw a link between the functional state and the molecular state of the synapse. Our projects are centered around three key elements that define synapse function: Diversity, Plasticity, and Dysfunction.

Group Members


By PositionA-Z
  • Born in Israel, Noa completed her Bachelor studies at the Tel Aviv University. Her PhD project developed into a collaboration between the Dr. Uri Ashery lab and the laboratory of Prof. Nils Brose at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine in Göttingen, combining mouse genetics and electrophysiology to study synaptic signaling pathways that control short-term synaptic plasticity. As a postdoc she continued these studies and in addition characterized a new inborn brain disorder associated with variations in the UNC13A gene. Since 2020 she leads the Junior Research Group ‘Synapse Biology’ at the FMP.

  • Kerstin completed her studies as a chemical-technical assistant at the Lise-Meitner-School in Berlin in 1995, and is a part of the LeibnizFMP team since 1996.

  • Sofia grew up in Hanover, Germany, where she received her B.Sc. degree in biology. During her studies in Göttingen towards a Master’s degree, she became interested in the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release and joined the group of Dr. James Daniel at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, and completed her M.Sc. degree in neurobiology in 2016 and doctoral degree in 2021. During her doctoral studies, she established a strategy for imaging of dopamine secretion events from ventral midbrain cultures using small optical dopamine sensors that are built from carbon nanotubes. At the FMP she will continue to explore the molecular composition of synapses.

  • During her Bachelor studies at the ‘Molecular Life Science’ program at the University of Utrecht, and one semester at the Philipps University in Marburg, Mareike developed a strong interest in molecular neuroscience. After completing her Bachelor thesis in the group of Dr. Ginny G. Farias, she was accepted to the Max Planck International Research School ‘Molecular Biology’ in Göttingen, where she completed her Master’s degree at the Department of Molecular Neurobiology in the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Noa Lipstein and Dr. Nils Brose. She started her PhD project at the Synapse Biology group in 2021.

  • During his studies towards a degree in German Philology, Sun discovered an interest in life sciences. He enrolled in the Bachelor program for Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine in the University Medical School Göttingen, and joined the Synapse Biology group at FMP the Berlin as a PhD student in 2021, exploring the fascinating world of Neurobiology.

  • During her Abitur time, Arbesa took the English and Biology advanced course. She was particularly fascinated by the Biology advanced course, which is why she decided to start a training as a biology lab technician.

  • Kati grew up in Giessen, Germany, where she studied biotechnology. She has always been interested in science and has a vision to find new treatments for diseases for which there is an unmet medical need. She completed her bachelor's thesis in 2021 at TRON, Mainz, in the field of cancer research. Kati then continued her studies towards a master's degree in biotechnology at TU Berlin. She started as a student assistant in the Synapse Biology group in June 2022 and is now writing her master's thesis under the supervision of Dr. Noa Lipstein.

  • Jonas studies Biotechnology at the Berliner Hochschule für Technik and began his bachelor thesis at the AG Lipstein in 2022. He now continues his work on the mechanisms by which human variations in the essential synaptic protein UNC13A lead to neurodevelopmental disease.


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