C. Peter Bengtson PhD
I am currently working in the group of Hilmar Bading and collaborating with Francesca Ciccolini in the Neurobiology division / Neurobiologie Abteilung of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences / Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Neurowissenschaften (IZN) Photo of Peter Bengtson


Undergraduate majors: Psychology, Physiology, Anatomy. UQ, Brisbane, 1984-1988
Graduate (Honours) Thesis: Microelectrode recordings from locust auditory receptors. UQ, Brisbane, 1989
PhD: Patch clamp analysis of 5-HT and dopamine responses in slices of basal forebrain. UQ, Brisbane, 1997-2001

Postdoctoral posts:

Patch clamp and calcium imaging of dopamine neurons in brain slices. Fondazione Santa Lucia, IRCCS, Rome, 2001-2003
Patch clamp and calcium imaging of hippocampal neurons in disociated culture and organotypic and acute brain slices. Bading group, Neurobiology division, IZN, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, GERMANY. September 2003-present.


Whole cell patch clamp and fluorecent calcium imaging from live cells in brain slices and dissociated culture preparations.

Current Projects

1. The transduction of calcium signals from synapses and the nucleus. Large nuclear calcium signals are evoked by intense synaptic input during burst activity. These nuclear calcium signals are required to trigger the transcription necessary to maintain late phase plasticity (>2 hours). What mediates this calcium signalling? Is it a calcium wave travelling up the dendrite or is it a function of voltage gated calcium entry at the soma due to the depolarisation accompanying burst activity? What contribution do IP3 receptors, ryanodine receptors, Store Operated Channels (SOCs) and Voltage Operated Channels (VOCs) give in generating the nuclear calcium signal?

2. The mechanism underlying increased synaptic efficacy in a model of plasticity. A 15 minute exposure to bicuculline triggers bursting activity (see below) which is sustained for days in a culture preparation of hippocampal neurons. This represents a change in efficacy of AMPA receptor-containing synapses. Are such changes mediated by postsynaptic or presynaptic mechanisms? Is it transcription or translation dependent?

3. The receptors, channels and genes which link spontaneous calcium transients to neuronal fate in neural precursor cells. The phenotypic fate of precursor cells correlates with the presence of intermittent transient increases in intracellular calcium concentration. What is the link between calcium influx and the differentiation of stem cells into neurons? What channels mediate the calcium influx? What receptors or mechanisms open these channels? What role do serotonin and growth factors such as BDNF play in these processes? Are the same links important for the differntiation of neural precursors from the adult brain?

4. The functional quantification of NMDA receptor-mediated responses arising from synaptic Vs extrasynaptic receptor populations. Synaptic NMDA receptor activation promotes cell survival whereas extrasynaptic NMDA receptor activation promotes necrosis. Extrasynaptic NMDA receptors are largely composed of NR2B subunit containing receptors in mature rats. What is the relative distribution of NMDA receptors (synaptic Vs extrasynaptic) and what proportion of each population is blocked by the NR2B subunit selective antagonists?

Postdoctoctoral position offered

- electrophysiology and confocal microscopy

- download details



Telephone: +49-(0)6221-546484 (lab)

Fax: +49-(0)6221-546700

Postal address: C. Peter Bengtson


IZN, Universität Heidelberg

Im Neuenheimer Feld 364

69120 Heidelberg, GERMANY

recording chamber culture low mag culture high mag
The recording chamber Hippocampal culture: x20 & x80 magnification (note patch electrode)


bicuc induced bursting Fig 1. Current clamp recordings of bicuculline induced bursting. A typical recording for 3 minutes (top trace) from a hippocampal neuron during exposure to bicuculline (50 µM) and an expanded traces below of an individual burst are shown. A strong depolarizing shift accompanys each burst of action potentials.

mEPSC raw sweeps
Fig 2. Consecutive sweeps of mEPSCs recorded from the same cell before (pre-bicuc) and after (post-bicuc) the bicuculline protocol (15 mins bic treatment + 30 mins washout).

Cumulative Probability histograms
Fig 3. Cumulative probability histograms generated from the cell shown in fig 2. indicate a reduced mEPSC inter event interval but no change in mEPSC amplitude.

AMPA response Fig 4. Shown are overlaid current responses from the same cell to bath applied AMPA (10 µM) in the presence of tetrodotoxin (1 µM) before and after the bicuculline protocol.

Summary histogram Fig 5. Histograms show the group mean ± SEM of normalized values (posttreatment/ pretreatment) for amplitude and inter event interval of AMPA mediated mEPSCs recorded before and after bicuculline (n=10) or vehicle (n=5) treatment protocols. Vehicle treatment caused a decrease in amplitude in all cells (n=5, p<0.01 individual, p<0.05 group mean comparison) however no consistent change in amplitude occurred following bicuculline treatment (increased amplitude in 4 cells, p<0.01; decreased amplitude in 2 cells, p<0.01; no change in 4 cells; p=0.84 group mean comparison). No change in mean mEPSC inter event interval was apparent with vehicle treatment (no change in 4 cells, p>0.05; decreased IEI in 1 cell, p<0.01; p=0.39 group mean comparison) while bicuculline treatment reduced the inter event interval (p<10-11 in 9 cells, no change in 1 cell; p<0.05 group mean comparison). Also shown are the group mean ± SEM of normalized peak responses to AMPA measured in cells before and after the bicuculline or the vehicle treatment protocols (n=4 in each group). The differences between bicuculline and vehicle treatment groups were significant for mEPSC amplitude, inter event interval and AMPA response (p<0.05).


FEDERICI, M., GERACITANO, R., TOZZI, A., LONGONE, P., DIANGELANTONIO, S., BENGTSON, C.P., BERNARDI, G. & MERCURI, N.B. (2005). Trace amines depress GABAB responses in dopaminergic neurons by inhibiting GIRK channels. Mol Pharmacol. epub: mol104.007427v1
pubmed link

ARNOLD, F. J., HOFMANN, F., BENGTSON, C. P., WITTMANN, M., VANHOUTTE, P. & BADING, H. (2005). Microelectrode array recordings of cultured hippocampal networks reveal a simple model for transcription and protein synthesis dependent plasticity. J Physiol. epub: jphysiol.2004.077446v1
pubmed link

*WITTMANN, M., *BENGTSON, C. P. & BADING, H. (2004). Extrasynaptic NMDA receptors: mediators of excitotoxic cell death. In The Pharmacology of Cerebral Ischemia. (Krieglstein J, Klumpp S eds.) Medpharm Scientific Publishers, Stuttgart, pp 253-266.
* equal contribution
pdf download (1.2 MB)

BENGTSON, C. P., LEE, D. J. & OSBORNE, P. B. (2004). Opposing electrophysiological actions of 5-HT on noncholinergic and cholinergic neurons in the rat ventral pallidum in vitro. J Neurophysiol 92, 433-443.
pubmed link

BENGTSON, C. P., TOZZI, A., BERNARDI, G. & MERCURI, N. B. (2004). Transient receptor potential-like channels mediate metabotropic glutamate receptor EPSCs in rat dopamine neurones. J Physiol 555, 323-330.
pubmed link

SANCESARIO, G., GIORGI, M., D'ANGELO, V., MODICA, A., MARTORANA, A., MORELLO, M., BENGTSON, C. P. & BERNARDI, G. (2004). Down-regulation of nitrergic transmission in the rat striatum after chronic nigrostriatal deafferentation. Eur J Neurosci 20, 989-1000.
pubmed link

*TOZZI, A., *BENGTSON, C. P., LONGONE, P., CARIGNANI, C., FUSCO, F. R., BERNARDI, G. & MERCURI, N. B. (2003). Involvement of transient receptor potential-like channels in responses to mGluR-I activation in midbrain dopamine neurons. Eur J Neurosci 18, 2133-2145.
* equal contribution
pubmed link

GUATTEO, E., BENGTSON, C. P., BERNARDI, G. & MERCURI, N. B. (2004). Voltage-gated calcium cannels mediate intracellular calcium increases in weaver dopaminergic neurons during stimulation of D2 and gabaB receptors. J Neurophysiol doi:10.1152/jn.00602.2004
pubmed link

CAPUTI, L., BENGTSON, C. P., GUATTEO, E., BERNARDI, G. & MERCURI, N. B. (2003). D-tubocurarine reduces GABA responses in rat substantia nigra dopamine neurons. Synapse 47, 236-239.
pubmed link

PIERI, M., ALBO, F., GAETTI, C., SPALLONI, A., BENGTSON, C. P., LONGONE, P., CAVALCANTI, S. & ZONA, C. (2003). Altered excitability of motor neurons in a transgenic mouse model of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Neurosci Lett 351, 153-156.
pubmed link

BENGTSON, C. P. & OSBORNE, P. B. (2000). Electrophysiological properties of cholinergic and noncholinergic neurons in the ventral pallidal region of the nucleus basalis in rat brain slices. J Neurophysiol 83, 2649-2660.
pubmed link

BENGTSON, C. P. & OSBORNE, P. B. (1999). Electrophysiological properties of anatomically identified ventral pallidal neurons in rat brain slices. Ann N Y Acad Sci 877, 691-694.
pubmed link