Volker's research explores how animals achieve autonomous, context-dependent control of behaviour through active interaction with their environment. He takes an inter-disciplinary approach, combining methods from behavioural physiology (e.g., motion capture and kinematics), neurophysiology (e.g., extra- and intracellular recording of nervous and muscular activity), biomechanics (e.g., morphological and physical constraints of limbs) and computational modelling (e.g., sensitivity analyses and artificial neural network modelling).
Volker studied Biology at the University of Tübingen, the University of Sussex (UK) and the Max-Planck-Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen. His PhD studies were on neurophysiological aspects of visual information processing in insects, which he conducted at the Australian National University in Canberra and at the Department of Neurobiology at Bielefeld University. After receiving his PhD, Volker became research fellow at Bielefeld University, where he obtained his habilitation in Zoology in 2005. During that time, he focussed on sensory-guided, context-dependent control of motor behaviour (mainly in insects) and neural network modelling of locomotor behaviour. In 2002 he was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin). From 2007 to 2009, he led his own research group at the University of Cologne, focusing on active tactile sensing in insects, its role in locomotor control and its implementation in bionics/biorobotics. In 2009 Volker was appointed head of the Department of Biological Cybernetics at Bielefeld University. From 2011 to 2014 he was coordinator of the EU project Embodied Motion Intelligence for Autonomous Cognitive roBots (EMICAB, FP7-ICT). At present he is a principal investigator at CITEC.
Martin’s research is driven by the question how brains manage to extract and combine behaviourally relevant information to guide an animal’s performance. This includes forming an internal representation of the external stimulus situation and the integration of positive or negative feedback about the success of own actions. It is therefore necessary for the animal to perceive and integrate multimodal information about the external (exteroceptive) as well as internal (proprioceptive) stimulus conditions. At which neural level and how the different representations interact with each other to result in a common percept, are the most puzzling questions driving his research.
Martin studied Biology at the Free University of Berlin. He started his career in an interdisciplinary project between the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience and the Department of Neurobiology at the Free University in Berlin under supervision of Randolf Menzel. There, he established multi-unit long-term recordings from honeybee brains and characterized the properties of mushroom body output neurons with respect to odor specificity, response reliability, and learning-related plasticity.He obtained his PhD in 2008. As a postdoc, Martin moved to the Arizona State University in Tempe, where he joined the group of Brian Smith. There, he further developed the extracellular recording technique to record neural activity simultaneously from neuropils representing different processing stages. The goal was to shed light on feed-forward and top-down regulation along the olfactory pathway. He gained experience with theDrosophila “toolbox” when he moved back to Germany in 2010, joining the “olfactory coding” group of Silke Sachse at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena. There he performed calcium imaging experiments. In 2013 he became research assistant at the Department of Behavioral Physiology & Sociobiology headed by Wolfgang Rössler at the Biocenter of the University of Würzburg. From 2017 onwards, he ran his own research group in Würzburg, focusing on olfactory-visual integration. In 2019 he became a permanent senior research fellow at the chair of Biological Cybernetics headed by Volker Dürr. Currently he is using extracellular multi-unit long-term recordings at different processing levels, mainly in honeybees and stick insects, to investigate cross-modal, multisensory integration of external (exteroceptive) as well as internal (proprioceptive) information. His overall goal is to understand the (multi-) sensory regulation of behaviour.