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Faculty & research

Andre Berndt

Faculty Photo

Assistant Professor


My lab develops biosensors for optogenetics. We aim to detect impaired neuronal function which will provide key knowledge about the underlying causes of neurological disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and depression. 

We are a molecular design lab which develops fluorescent biosensors for detecting biochemical signals in neuronal networks in real time. Our goal is to monitor the activity of neurotransmitter, neuromodulators, hormones, ions and intracellular signaling molecules in live tissue and behaving animals at high spatial and temporal resolution.  These sensors provide accurate, multidimensional information about information processing in neurons and neuronal networks. We aim to use these tools to identify impaired network dynamics in animal models for neurological disorders which will close critical knowledge gaps in our understanding of diseases such as autism and epilepsy.  One big advantage is that these sensors are genetically encoded proteins which means they can be expressed in virtually any cell type by using virus or plasmid DNA. Thus, they are universally applicable and we seek to expand applications into other cell types such as cardiac, pancreatic and stem cells.


  • Ph.D. Experimental Biophysics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, 2011
  • M.S. Experimental & Theoretical Biophysics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, 2007
  • B.S. Biophysics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, 2003

Previous appointments

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Karl Deisseroth Lab, Bioengineering Department, Stanford University, 2011-2016

Select publications

  1. Berndt A*, Lee SY*, Wietek J*, Ramakrishnan C, Steinberg EE, Rashid AJ, Kim H, Park S, Santoro A, Frankland PW, Iyer S, Pak S, Delp SL, Malenka RC, Josselyn S, Carlen M, Hegemann P, and Deisseroth K: Determinants of channelrhodopsin ion selectivity: structural principles for optogenetics. PNAS (2016)
  2. Tee BC*, Chortos A*, Berndt A*, Nguyen AK, Tom A, McGuire A, Lin ZC, Tien K, Bae WG, Wang H, Mei P, Chou HH, Cui B, Deisseroth K, Ng TN, Bao Z: A skin-inspired organic digital mechanoreceptor. Science (2015)
  3. Berndt A*, Lee SY*, Ramakrishnan C and Deisseroth K: Structure-guided transformation of channelrhodopsin into a light-activated chloride channel. Science (2014)
  4. Zhang F, Vierock J, Yizhar O, Fenno LE, Tsunoda S, Kianianmomeni A, Prigge M, Berndt A, Cushman J, Polle J, Magnuson J, Hegemann P, Deisseroth K: The microbial opsin family of optogenetic tools. Cell (2011)
  5. Gradmann D, Berndt A, Schneider F and Hegemann P: Rectification of the channelrhodopsin early conductance. Biophysical Journal (2011)
  6. Berndt A*, Schoenenberger P*, Mattis J, Tye KM, Deisseroth K, Hegemann P and Oertner TG: High efficiency channelrhodopsins for fast neuronal stimulation at low light levels. PNAS (2011)
  7. Stehfest K, Ritter E, Berndt A, Bartl F and Hegemann P: The branched photocycle of the slow cycling channelrhodopsin-2 mutant C128T. Journal of Molecular Biology (2010)
  8. Berndt A*, Prigge M*, Gradmann D and Hegemann P: Two open states with progressive proton selectivities in the branched channelrhodopsin-2 photocycle. Biophysical Journal (2010)
  9. Gunaydin LA*, Yizhar O*, Berndt A*, Sohal VS, Deisseroth K and Hegemann P: Ultrafast optogenetic control. Nature Neuroscience (2010)
  10. Berndt A*, Yizhar O*, Gunaydin LA*, Hegemann P and Deisseroth K: Bi-stable neural state switches. Nature Neuroscience (2009)

Honors & awards

  • Honorable mention for the Sammy Kuo prize, Stanford University, 2014
  • Selected for Hot-Topics research of the Society for Neuroscience, 2014
  • Best Ph.D. thesis at the Humboldt University Berlin, 2011
  • Postdoctoral fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service, 2011
  • Student fellowship from the European Molecular Biology Organization, 2010
  • Student fellowship from the Leibniz Graduate School for Molecular Biophysics, 2007