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Dr. Wolfgang Stein

Professor of Neurophysiology
School of Biological Sciences
Science Laboratory Building - SLB 241
Office Hours
by appointment
  • About
  • Education
  • Awards & Honors
  • Research


2019: Professor of Neurophysiology ||

2015: Associate Professor of Neurophysiology ||

2012: Assistant Professor of Neurophysiology ||

2006 - 2011: Junior Faculty at Ulm University ||

2000 - 2006: Research Associate at Ulm University ||

1999 - 2000: Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania ||

1998 - 1999 Postdoctoral researcher at University of Bielefeld ||

1998 PhD. in Biology. University of Kaiserslautern ||

1995 Diploma in Biology (M.Sc). University of Kaiserslautern

Current Courses

204.002Biological Investigations

299.029Independent Honor Study

499.007Independent Research For The Master's Thesis

499.101Independent Research For The Master's Thesis Last Term

435.001Mammalian Physiology

290.042Research In Biological Sciences

599.004Research In The Biological Sciences

499.007Independent Research For The Master's Thesis

Teaching Interests & Areas


Research Interests & Areas

I am interested in the sensory processing and plasticity in motor networks and the influence of this plasticity on behavior. For this, I use the arthropod motor circuit as a model system for the integration of sensory information and pattern selecting processes inside the nervous system. The main focus of my work is to determine how networks with small numbers of neurons cope with complex and multimodal sensory input and how higher order circuits select the required patterns from multifunctional motor circuits to perform the adequate behavior.

The ability to handle an overwhelming amount of sensory input and the ability to adequately respond to the situation at hand is the most fascinating property of the nervous system. While this phenomenon plays a key role in everyday life, because it serves to adapt the animal to the changing requirements of the body and the environment, it is also one of the least understood. Intriguingly, even small brains with a limited number of neurons are capable of performing this task. For making the decision what motor program to use, nervous systems, and particularly small ones, require mechanisms to reduce the complexity of the sensory input space and to select the task-relevant sensory information.

In my research, I have so far focused on rhythmic motor patterns, generated by neuronal circuits called central pattern generators in the stomatogastric nervous system of crustaceans. Central pattern generators govern large parts of our behavior such as walking, breathing or chewing. They are multifunctional, i.e. they generate a variety of different patterns to respond adequately to the situation at hand. In an interdisciplinary approach, I aim at relating the neural actions of the brain to the behavior of the animal. My approach combines behavioral observations, neurophysiology on the cellular and circuit levels, optical imaging with fluorescent dyes, and computer-based real-time modeling in closed-loop systems to elucidate general principles of motor pattern selection from multifunctional, adaptive networks. Recently, I have started to use multi-unit optical recording techniques for these purposes and I aim at implementing these tools in my research.

Since many of the same organizing principles pertain to network activity in all animals, my work aims to better elucidate how the nervous system generates a functionally adequate behavior also in "higher" animals, including humans. The principles derived from these experiments and models will then guide us to a more thorough understanding of how animals interact and communicate adequately with their environment. This will then also lead to the implementation of more sophisticated sensory algorithms in mechanical agents, such as robots and artificial limbs.

Other Postdoctoral Lecturer Qualification in Neurobiology and Zoology

Ulm University
Ulm, Germany

Research Associate

Ulm University
Ulm, Germany

Post-Doc Cellular Neuroscience

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Philadelphia, PA

Post-Doc Biological Cybernetics

University of Biefeld

Ph D Neurobiology

University of Kaiserslautern
Kaiserslautern, Germany

MS Biology

University of Kaiserslautern
Kaiserslautern, Germany

Research Initiative Award 2015

Illinois State University

Teaching Award 2008 of Ulm University

Ulm University

Albert & Ellen Grass Faculty Award

Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA

Book, Chapter

Stein, W. Stomatogastric Nervous System. Paul Katz (EDs), Oxford Research Encyclopedia. Oxford Research Encyclopedia (2017)
Stein, W., Staedele, C., & Smarandache-Wellmann, C. Evolutionary aspects of motor control and coordination: the central pattern generators in the crustacean stomatogastric and swimmeret systems.. Schmidt-Rhaesa, A., Harzsch, S. & Purschke, G. (EDs), Structure and Evolution of Invertebrate Nervous Systems. Oxford University Press (2016)

Creative Works/Broadcast Media

Stein, W. 3D rendering of three stomatogastric neurons using confocal imaging. Youtube (2018)
Stein, W. Confocal imaging of crustacean stomatogastric axons. Youtube (2018)
Stein, W. Confocal imaging of crustacean stomatogastric neurons. Youtube (2018)
Stein, W. ISU at the March for Science in Normal, IL. Youtube (2017)
Stein, W. MotoVlogging - Flat Earthers and Science Conspiracies. Youtube (2017)


Stein, W.* (2013) Sensory Input to Central Pattern Generators. In: Springer Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience. Jaeger, D., Jung, R. (Eds).

Journal Article

Gonzalez, J., Follmann, R., Rosa, E. and Stein, W., 2023. Computational and experimental modulation of a noisy chaotic neuronal system. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 33(3).
Hughes K, Shah A, Bai X, Adams J, Bauer R, Jackson J, Bainbridge C, Harris E, Ficca A, Freebairn P, Mohammed S, Fernandes EM, Brocco M, Stein W, Golden A, Vidal-Gadea AG. Distinct mechanoreceptor pezo-1 isoforms modulate food intake in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
Follmann , R., Goldsmith, C., & Stein, W. Multimodal sensory information is represented by a combinatorial code in a sensorimotor system. PLOS BIOLOGY 16.10 (2018)
Stadele, C., DeMaegd, M., & Stein, W. State-Dependent Modification of Sensory Sensitivity via Modulation of Backpropagating Action Potentials. ENeuro 5.4 (2018)
DeMaegd, M. L., Städele, C. and Stein, W. (2017). Axonal Conduction Velocity Measurement. Bio-protocol 7(5): e2152. DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.2152.


Mechanisms of Initiation and Termination of Cortical Spreading Depression in Migraine Disorders. CAURS. (2023)
Mechanisms of Initiation of Cortical Spreading Depression in Migraine Disorders. ISU Research Symposium. (2023)
Roy R, Vidal-Gadea AG, Stein W. 2023. Identification of gap junction genes involved in the tail-flip escape circuit of marbled crayfish. Phi Sigma Symposium. Illinois State University, Normal, IL.
Temperature responses of stomatogastric neurons in the brush-clawed shore crab, Hemigrapsus takanoi.. Meeting of the International Society for Neuroethology. International Society for Neuroethology. (2022)
Developing the marbled crayfish as a novel genetic model system for the study of neural network dynamics. New Genetic Tools for Non-Model Organisms. Janelia Farms. (2019)
Gahrs C., Stadele C., Vidal-Gadea AG., Stein W., 2016. The parthenogenetic marbled crayfish: a new model system for studying molecular underpinnings of neuromodulation. Presented at the International Congress of Neuroethology, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Gahrs, C., Benson A., Hernandez J., Städele C., Stein W., and Vidal-Gadea A. (2016), Marbled crayfish as a new genetic model organism for the study of causal relationships between genes, neuronal physiology, and behavior. School of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Symposium, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA.

Grants & Contracts

MRI: Acquisition of a laser scanning confocal microscope within a core facility for research and training at Illinois State University. National Science Foundation. Federal. (2018)
Identification of mechanisms for motor pattern selection during multimodal sensory integration. National Science Foundation. Federal. (2014)
Mathematical Modeling and Experimental Work on the Stomatogastric Nervous System of the Crab Cancer Borealis to study sensory-motor interactions.. Cross-Disciplinary Grant Development Program. Illinois State University. (2013)
Undergraduate Research Fellowship “Homeostatic control of motor pattern stability”. Illinois State University. (2013)
Grants STE 937/8-1 and 9-1 (Heisenberg Fellowship). German Research Foundation (DFG). Other. (2011)