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Dirk Bucher

Bucher, Dirk M.
Associate Professor, Graduate Program Director, Biological Sciences
420G CKB
About Me

Dirk Bucher, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at NJIT. As a neurobiologist, the main focus of his research is to understand how dynamics at different time scales, arising from ion channel and synaptic gating properties, neuromodulation, and long-term regulatory mechanisms give rise to stability and flexibility of neural activity patterns underlying behavior. Dirk Bucher was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cologne, Germany, and at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. He was an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida before joining NJIT.

  • Free University of Berlin, Germany, Biology Diploma, 1996
  • Free University of Berlin, PhD, 2001
Awards and Grants

National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Institute for Neural Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). R01 NS083319 “The role of axons in neural coding”. 2013-2018, Role: PI (MPI).

National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Institute for Neural Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). R01 NS058825 “Stability of motor output with variable network architectures”. 2007-2013, Role: PI.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). R21 RR025699 (MPI) “Genomic Dissection of Circuit Dynamics”. 2009-2011, Role: PI (MPI).

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Federal German Grant Agency), Individual research stipend “Growth and changes of biophysical and synaptic neuronal properties during postembryonic development”, 2002-2003.

  • Federated Department of Biological Sciences, NJIT/Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
  • Course Faculty, Neural Systems and Behavior Course, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA.
Research Interests

Our laboratory studies neuronal excitability and network dynamics in a small central pattern generating circuit, the crustacean stomatogastric ganglion (STG). The objective is to uncover fundamental principles that govern neural processing across animal and human nervous systems. The choice of model system comes with distinct experimental advantages, as the circuits studied contain only a small number of individually identified neurons with known synaptic connectivity. Furthermore, the STG produces very regular rhythmic activity in vitro, patterns that are straightforward to quantify and assess under different experimental conditions and in response to manipulations.

For a more detailed research description, go to

Neurons and the circuits they form produce electrical activity in a fairly complex way that cannot be understood simply on the basis of the synaptic wiring diagram. Neuronal signaling is shaped by a multitude of nonlinear dynamic properties that operate on multiple time scales. The gating properties of ion channels, short-term synaptic plasticity, neuromodulation, as well as long-term regulatory mechanisms, all contribute to activity- and time-dependent changes in excitability. We are using various electrophysiological techniques, molecular biology, confocal microscopy, and computational modeling to characterize these phenomena.
Selected Publications
  • Nadim F, Bucher D (2014) Neuromodulation of neurons and synapses. Curr Opin Neurobiol 29C:48-56.
  • Bucher D, Marder E (2013) SnapShot: Neuromodulation. Cell 155:482-482 e481.
  • Ballo AW, Nadim F, Bucher D (2012) Dopamine Modulation of Ih Improves Temporal Fidelity of Spike Propagation in a Motor Axon. J Neurosci 32: 5106-5119.
  • Daur N, Bryan AS, Garcia VJ, Bucher D (2012) Short-term synaptic plasticity compensates for variability in number of motor neurons at a neuromuscular junction. J Neurosci 32:16007-16017.
  • Bucher D, Goaillard JM (2011) Beyond faithful conduction: Short-term dynamics, neuromodulation, and long-term regulation of spike propagation in the axon. Prog Neurobiol 94:307-346.
  • Ballo AW, Keene JC, Troy P, Goeritz ML, Nadim, F, Bucher D (2010) Dopamine modulates Ih in a motor axon. J Neurosci 30: 8425-8434.
  • Ballo AW, Bucher D (2009). Complex intrinsic membrane properties and dopamine shape spiking activity in a motor axon. J Neurosci 29:5062-5074.
  • Marder E, Bucher D. (2007) Understanding circuit dynamics using the stomatogastric nervous system of lobsters and crabs. Ann Rev Physiol 69:291-316.
  • Bucher D, Johnson CD, Marder E. (2007) Neuronal morphology and neuropil structure in the stomatogastric ganglion of the lobster, Homarus americanus. J Comp Neurol 501(2):185-205.
  • Bucher D, Taylor AL, Marder E (2006) Central pattern generating neurons simultaneously express fast and slow rhythmic activities in the stomatogastric ganglion. J Neurophysiol 95:3617-3632.
  • Bucher D, Prinz AA, Marder E. (2005) Animal-to-animal variability in motor pattern production in adults and during growth. J Neurosci 25:1611-1619.
  • Prinz AA, Bucher D, Marder E. (2004) Similar network activity from disparate circuit parameters. Nature Neurosci 7:1345-1352.