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Image: Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, Oxford

Professor Dr

Gero Miesenböck

Year of election: 2016
Section: Neurosciences
City: Oxford
Country: Great Britain
CV Gero Miesenböck - English (PDF)
CV Gero Miesenböck - German (PDF)


Research Priorities: Optogenetics, light stimulation of nerve cells, circuits in the brain, neuronal bases of behaviour

Gero Miesenböck is an Austrian neuroscientist. He is considered one of the founders of optogenetics, which combines optical technology and genetics to switch individual cell types in the brain on and off. This allows the arrangement and function of neural circuits to be explored.

Gero Miesenböck has engineered light-controlled molecular switches into brain cells which allow their electrical activity to be controlled remotely. To achieve this, he genetically modified nerve cells so that they produce proteins that react to light. He thereby succeeded in controlling the behaviour of animals for the first time. The great advantage of the method is that only certain types of cells produce the light-sensitive proteins. This allows the roles of different cell types in sensory perception, movement, cognition, or emotion to be disentangled.

Research groups around the world are working with this method and analysing mechanisms in the brain. They research how decisions are made, how sleep and appetite are regulated, why people fall ill with psychoses and which factors influence behaviour and memory. The method could be used in future to improve the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy or anxiety disorders.


  • 2011 Founding Director, Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • 2007 Waynflete Professor of Physiology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • 2004 Associate Professor of Cell Biology, Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, USA
  • 1999 Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Cornell University, New York City, USA
  • 1992-1998 Postdoctorate Fellow, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, USA
  • 1991 MD in Medicine, Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Honours and Memberships

  • 2023 Japan Prize, The Japan Prize Foundation, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2022 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, Columbia University, New York, USA
  • 2020 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, Shaw Prize Foundation, Hong Kong
  • 2019 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, Warren Alpert Foundation, Providence, USA
  • 2019 Clarivate Citation Laureates, Clarivate, London, UK
  • 2018 Rumford Prize, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, USA
  • 2016 Wilhelm Exner Medal, Wilhelm Exner Foundation, Vienna, Austria
  • 2016 Massry Prize, Meira and Shaul Massry Foundation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
  • since 2016 Member, German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany
  • 2015 Heinrich Wieland Prize, Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation, Mainz, Germany
  • since 2015 Fellow, Royal Society, UK
  • 2015 Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine, BBVA Foundation, Madrid, Spain
  • since 2014 Corresponding Member, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria
  • 2013 Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine, Jacob and Louise Gabbay Foundation, Brandeis University, Waltham, USA
  • 2013 Brain Prize, Lundbeck Foundation, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2012 InBev-Baillet Latour Health Prize, InBev Baillet-Latour Foundation, Leuven, Belgium
  • 2009 Bayliss-Starling Prize Lecture, The Physiology Society, London, UK
  • since 2008 Member, European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)




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06108 Halle (Saale)

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 122
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 139
E-Mail archiv (at)leopoldina.org

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