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Department of Biology at Illinois State University
Department of Biology

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Dr. Wolfgang Stein

Associate Professor for Neurophysiology
Associate Professor
  • 2015: Associate Professor for Neurophysiology || 2012: Assistant Professor for Neurophysiology || 2006 - 2011: Junior Faculty at Ulm University || 2000 - 2006: Research Associate at Ulm University || 1999 - 2000: Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania || 1998 - 1999 Postdoctoral researcher at University of Bielefeld || 1998 PhD. in Biology. University of Kaiserslautern || 1995 Diploma in Biology (M.Sc). University of Kaiserslautern
  • I am interested in the sensory processing and plasticity in motor networks and the influence of this plasticity on behavior. For this, I use the arthropod motor circuit as a model system for the integration of sensory information and pattern selecting processes inside the nervous system. The main focus of my work is to determine how networks with small numbers of neurons cope with complex and multimodal sensory input and how higher order circuits select the required patterns from multifunctional motor circuits to perform the adequate behavior.

    The ability to handle an overwhelming amount of sensory input and the ability to adequately respond to the situation at hand is the most fascinating property of the nervous system. While this phenomenon plays a key role in everyday life, because it serves to adapt the animal to the changing requirements of the body and the environment, it is also one of the least understood. Intriguingly, even small brains with a limited number of neurons are capable of performing this task. For making the decision what motor program to use, nervous systems, and particularly small ones, require mechanisms to reduce the complexity of the sensory input space and to select the task-relevant sensory information.

    In my research, I have so far focused on rhythmic motor patterns, generated by neuronal circuits called central pattern generators in the stomatogastric nervous system of crustaceans. Central pattern generators govern large parts of our behavior such as walking, breathing or chewing. They are multifunctional, i.e. they generate a variety of different patterns to respond adequately to the situation at hand. In an interdisciplinary approach, I aim at relating the neural actions of the brain to the behavior of the animal. My approach combines behavioral observations, neurophysiology on the cellular and circuit levels, optical imaging with fluorescent dyes, and computer-based real-time modeling in closed-loop systems to elucidate general principles of motor pattern selection from multifunctional, adaptive networks. Recently, I have started to use multi-unit optical recording techniques for these purposes and I aim at implementing these tools in my research.

    Since many of the same organizing principles pertain to network activity in all animals, my work aims to better elucidate how the nervous system generates a functionally adequate behavior also in "higher" animals, including humans. The principles derived from these experiments and models will then guide us to a more thorough understanding of how animals interact and communicate adequately with their environment. This will then also lead to the implementation of more sophisticated sensory algorithms in mechanical agents, such as robots and artificial limbs.

  • Other Postdoctoral Lecturer Qualification in Neurobiology and Zoology - 2006
  • Ulm University
  • Ulm, Germany
  • Other Research Associate - 2006
  • Ulm University
  • Ulm, Germany
  • Post-Doc Cellular Neuroscience - 2000
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Post-Doc Biological Cybernetics - 1999
  • University of Biefeld
  • Germany
  • Ph D Neurobiology / Animal Physiology - 1998
  • University of Kaiserslautern
  • Kaiserslautern, Germany
  • Dissertation/Thesis topic: Gain changes in the femur-tibia control circuit of the stick insect
  • MS Biology / Chemistry, Physics - 1995
  • University of Kaiserslautern
  • Kaiserslautern, Germany
  • Dissertation/Thesis topic: Pharmacological influences on the femur-tibia reflex loop in stick insects
  • For a full list of publications visit my website at www.neurobiologie.de
  • Yarger AM & Stein W. (2015) Sources and range of long-term variability of rhythmicmotor patterns in vivo. J Exp Biol. 218, 3950-3961 doi:10.1242/jeb.126581
  • Follmann, R., Rosa, E. & Stein, W. (2015). Dynamics of signal propagation and collision in axons. Phys. Rev. E 92, 032707. http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.92.032707
  • PLoS Biology. 13(9):e1002265
  • Control of sensory ectopic spike initiation by descending modulatory projection neurons. bioRxiv doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/025114
  • Rosa, E. Jr., Skilling, Q.M. & Stein, W.* (2014) Effects of Reciprocal Inhibitory Coupling in Model Neurons. Biosystems. 127:73-83.
  • Goldsmith, C.J., Städele C. & Stein , W.* (2014) Optical imaging of neuronal activity and visualization of fine neural structures in non-desheathed nervous systems. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 25;9(7):e103459. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103459. eCollection 2014
  • Stein, W.*, Städele, C. & Smarandache-Wellmann, C.R. (2014) Evolutionary aspects of motor control and coordination: the central pattern generators in the crustacean stomatogastric and swimmeret systems. In: Structure and Evolution of Invertebrate Nervous Systems (Oxford University Press), eds: Schmidt-Rhaesa, A., Harzsch, S. & Purschke, G. In press.
  • Stein, W.* & Diehl, F. (2014) An in vivo Assay for Simultaneous Monitoring of Neuronal Activity and Behavioral Output in the Stomatogastric Nervous System of Decapod Crustaceans. Faculty Publications – Biological Sciences at ISU RED. 05/2014; Paper 28.
  • Soofi, W., Göritz, M., Kispersky, T.J., Prinz, A.A., Marder, E. & Stein, W.* (2014) Phase maintenance in a rhythmic motor pattern during temperature changes in vivo. J. Neurophys., 111(12):2603-2613
  • Stein, W.* (2013) Sensory Input to Central Pattern Generators. In: Springer Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience. Jaeger, D., Jung, R. (Eds). http://www.springerreference.com/docs/html/chapterdbid/348530.html
  • Preuss S. & Stein W.* (2013) Comparison of Two Voltage-Sensitive Dyes and Their Suitability for Long-Term Imaging of Neuronal Activity. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 4;8(10):e75678. PMCID: PMC3790875
  • Diehl, F., Stein, W., White, R.S., Stein,W. & Nusbaum, M.P.* (2013) Motor Circuit-Specific Burst Patterns Drive Different Muscle and Behavior Patterns. J. Neurosci., 33(29): 12013-12029. PMCID: PMC3713734
  • Städele, C., Andras, P. & Stein, W.* (2012) Simultaneous measurement of membrane potential changes in multiple pattern generating neurons using voltage sensitive dye imaging. J. Neurosci. Methods, 203(1): 78-88.
  • Daur, N., Diehl, F., Mader, W. & Stein, W.* (2012) The stomatogastric nervous system as a model for studying sensorimotor interactions in real-time closed-loop conditions. Front. Comput. Neurosci., 6:13. Epub 2012 Mar 14.
  • Gahrs, C., Benson A., Hernandez J., Städele C., Stein W., and Vidal-Gadea A. (2016), Marbled crayfish as a new genetic model organism for the study of causal relationships between genes, neuronal physiology, and behavior. School of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Symposium, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA.
  • Gahrs C., Stadele C., Vidal-Gadea AG., Stein W., 2016. The parthenogenetic marbled crayfish: a new model system for studying molecular underpinnings of neuromodulation. Presented at the International Congress of Neuroethology, Montevideo, Uruguay.
  • 08/2014 NSF Grant "Identification of mechanisms for motor pattern selection during multimodal sensory integration". PI: Dr. Wolfgang Stein. National Science Foundation, Division of Integrative Organismal Systems.
  • 01/2015 Research Initiative Award of Illinois State University. This is one of five awards given out annually by Illinois State University.
  • 06/2011 Grants STE 937/8-1 and 9-1 (Heisenberg Fellowship) of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
  • 06/2013 Cross-Disciplinary Grant Illinois State University ("Mathematical Modeling and Experimental Work on the Stomatogastric Nervous System of the Crab Cancer Borealis to study sensory-motor interactions."). PIs: Dr. Wolfgang Stein (Biology) & Dr. Epaminondas Rosa, Jr. (Physics).
  • 07/2009 Grant STE937/7-1 of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
  • 01/2007 Grant STE937/5-1 of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
  • 06/2003 Grants STE937/2-1 and 2 of the of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
  • Research Initiative Award 2015
  • Illinois State University
  • 2015
  • Teaching Award 2008 of Ulm University
  • Ulm University
  • 2008
  • Albert & Ellen Grass Faculty Award
  • Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA
  • 2006