Understanding and Application of Biological Information Processes

Our goal is to quantitatively and qualitatively understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of biological information processing down to the atomic level. The focus here is on information processing in and between nerve cells. To this end, we explore the function of individual molecules and investigate how they interact and determine cellular functions. Ultimately, we want to understand how the interactions of cells lead to the formation of networks that plastically change their properties and thus form the basis for learning and memory. Sustainable, energy- and resource-conserving adaptation and regeneration of cellular structures and processes during ongoing operation are unique to biological information processing.

By comparative analysis of healthy, pathological and age-related mechanisms, we accelerate the gain of knowledge, open knowledge-based access to new therapeutic and diagnostic applications for diseases and new concepts in information technology. To this end, we develop and use globally unique instruments and combine state-of-the-art experimental and theoretical methods from all areas of the natural sciences to understand the molecular mechanisms of biological structures and processes up to the network level, including their dynamics and plasticity.

Focus of our Research

Stained neuronal network

Cell communication

We investigate how cells and cell assemblies communicate with each other by exchanging chemical and electrical signals. One of our main focuses is on signal processing in the human brain.

Stained cytoskeleton

Cell biomechanics

We investigate the biomechanics of living cells using modern methods of biophysics and cell biology. We are interested in the mechanics of the cells themselves, how they move or adhere to their environment.

Graphic of synapses on cells


We investigate the connection between biological and electronic systems, among other things for the production of highly sensitive sensors. These can be used, for example, to detect pollutants or develop implants to replace destroyed sensory cells.

Video simulation of moving particles

Collective Phenomena in Biological Systems

We investigate phenomena resulting from simultaneous interactions between many particles, such as biomacromolecules and red blood cells. We aim to quantitavely understand the dynamics, kinetics and self-organization of these systems at the macromolecular level, both in equilibrium and imbalance, and under the influence of external stimuli.

Understanding Life in Motion

Life in Motion

Living matter is characterized by activity and energy consumption. What are the structures, dynamics, and collective behaviours, which develop under such non-equilibrium conditions? We employ theoretical methods and numerical simulations to address such questions in systems from macromolecules* to cells and tissues.

Synthesis and folding of proteins

Protein folding

How do the polypeptide chains which are synthesized at the ribosome find their specific spatial structure? We develop and make use of techniques in order to understand the link between synthesis and the folding of proteins.

Protein structure with active centre

Complex interactions

We study the atomic structure of macromolecules involved in crucial cellular processes and the interactions between them. In addition, we develop novel methods for the early detection and therapy of neurodegenerative diseases.

Graphic of polymer threads

Learning from neutrons

Neutron scattering shows us how the internal structure and local dynamics of macromolecular materials determine their properties and functions. This allows us to uncover key mechanisms in, for example, the processing of plastics or the folding of proteins.

News and Events

3D-Polarized Light Imaging Aufnahme eines Maus-Gehirns. Die strukturelle Information über die Ausrichtung der Nervenfasern aus dieser Aufnahme dienten als Vergleich für die neuen Neutronen-Messungen.

Alterations in the Brain Under the Neutron Magnifying Glass

The brain is the centre of our nervous system - structural changes are often involved in neurological diseases and mental disorders. A team from Forschungszentrum Jülich has now developed a neutron-based method at the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum (MLZ) to study brain slices and gain a better understanding of these types of diseases.

Soft Matter Matters Brochure

“Soft-Matter-Matters!” – Brochure

In the frame work of the EU funded research infrastructure project EUSMI, IBI-4 issued an experiment brochure together with the Forschungszentrum Students Lab, JuLab.

Selected projects



Within the JARA research alliance, the JARA-SOFT group undertakes multi-disciplinary soft matter research to address current open questions in material sciences and biophysics.


International Helmholtz Research School of Biophysics and Soft Matter

The International Helmholtz Research School of Biophysics and Soft Matter (IHRS BioSoft) provides excellent research opportunities for PhD projects at the interfaces between biology, chemistry, and physics.

Spring School 2020

The IFF Spring School

Close-up on research: every year, the two-week IFF Spring School for students and young scientists deals with a current topic in physics - and has done so since 1970.


BioSoft Colloquium

The BioSoft Colloquium covers activities and developments of interdisciplinary topics from biophysics, cell biology, and soft matter. Therefore, the colloquium addresses an audience from all these various disciplines.