Lena Kaufmann

Lena Kaufmann

During my time at Brecht lab until now I have worked with in many ways very different animals, rats and elephants, applying methods ranging from electrophysiology, viral tracing or histology to behavioral analyses based on video and audio recordings.

In a project on ticklishness and play behavior in rats I investigated how an observer rat responds to the witnessed tickling of another rat. We found that there is contagion of witnessed ticklishness/playfulness not only on a behavioral but also on a neuronal level in trunk somatosensory cortex.

Currently my work is revolving around another type of trunk, the elephant’s remarkable nose-upper lip-fusion. Elephant’s trunks contain more muscles than the entire human body, they use them to lift heavy weights but also to perform fine motor actions. I am interested in how this specialization impacts the brain. As part of a cooperation with the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research we have looked into elephant facial motor control by analyzing elephant facial motor nuclei and facial nerves. We found that there are differences between African and Asian elephant facial nuclei, which correlate with differences in ear size and in trunk tip anatomy and different motor strategies in trunk use.

I am also cooperating with the Berlin zoo and conducting various experiments on elephant behaviour and cognition there.


lena [dot] kaufmann [at] bccn-berlin [dot] de

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