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BioPsy-Colloquium, 1 - 3 pm ct, GAFO 05/425
Katja Doerschner (Brain and Perception, Bilkent University, Ankara):The role of image motion in the perception of object qualities.


Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Fakultät für Psychologie
AE Biopsychologie
GAFO 05/618
D-44780 Bochum

Phone: +49 234 - 32 28213
Fax: +49 234 - 32 14377


News & Views

More than Words and Faces

How do we understand the emotional undertone (prosody) of a conversation? It is known that humans typically combine linguistic and nonlinguistic information to comprehend emotions. But how important is the contribution of prosody in the identification of emotions? To find an answer to this question, scientists from Belgium, Germany, and Austria joined forces and investigated how different communication channels interact in the identification of emotions. In the first experiment they presented their subjects synonyms of “happy” and “sad” that were spoken with either happy and sad voice. Participants had more difficulty ignoring prosody than ignoring verbal content. Thus, prosody ran strong. In the second experiment, synonyms of “happy” and “sad” were spoken with happy and sad prosody, while happy or sad faces were displayed. As expected, accuracy was low in the incongruent condition. The power of prosody became evident when participants were required to focus on verbal content only with the facial information congruent with the verbal content. Even under this condition, a discrepancy with prosodic information strongly biased the identification of emotion. Thus, the impact of prosody is unexpectedly strong in the communication of emotion. Feelings during conversation are much more than words and faces.


Filippi, P., Ocklenburg, S., Bowling, D., Heege, L., Güntürkün, O., Newen, A., de Boer, B., More than words (and faces): Evidence for a Stroop effect of prosody in emotion word processing, Cognition and Emotion, 2016, May 3:1-13. [Epub ahead of print].


News & Views

Categories in the Human Brain

Imagine that you undergo training as a neurologist and have to group MR-images into those with and those without a tumor. Once you spot a tumor, you could simple memorize this image, and could decide on future images based on the similarity to the first tumor you saw. This way to categorize tumors is called “exemplar”-based categorization. But you could also derive an abstraction from your first tumor (its general properties) and use this summary representation for your future diagnosis. This strategy would be a “prototype”-based categorization. Subjects tested in such tasks often show different learning curves for prototype and exception stimuli. They first learn based on prototypes and then learn odd stimuli based on exemplar strategies. Neuro- and biopsychologists from Bochum now examined the contributions of different brain structures to prototype and exemplar-based category learning using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Indeed, their subjects showed an initially superior performance for prototypes and then switched to an exemplar-based categorization for exceptions in the later learning phases. Analysis of the functional imaging data revealed that the left fusiform gyrus was involved in processing of prototypes while an activation of the right hippocampus correlated with processing of exceptions. Thus, successful prototype- and exemplar-based category learning is associated with activations of complementary neural substrates that constitute object-based processes of the ventral visual stream and their interaction with unique-cue representations, possibly based on sparse coding within the hippocampus.


Lech, R.K., Güntürkün, O. and Güntürkün, O., An interplay of fusiform gyrus and hippocampus enables prototype- and exemplar-based category learning, Behav. Brain Res., 2016, 311: 239-246.


News & Views

Imagine a Mouse and an Elephant: Hemispheric Asymmetries of Imagination

Do you remember how Mowgli was dancing with Baloo on the floor of the Indian rain forest? Can you imagine one of the immortal cartoons when Asterix and Obelix where returning to their village from one of their victorious battles against the Roman army? All of these scenes have one aspect in common: The smaller person is drawn on the left, creating an ascending object sequence from left to right. After encountering much similar visualizations, psychologists from the Izmir University of Economics and from the Ruhr University Bochum pondered about the possibility that this phenomenon could be explained by the mental number line. In the mental number line numbers are represented along a left-to right-oriented continuum. Consequently, smaller object are placed on the left, creating an ascending size order from left to right. To test this idea, sixty-four participants were instructed to imagine stimulus-pairs that were staggered from those showing very prominent intra-pair size differences (e.g., elephant vs. mouse) to very low size differences (e.g., orange vs. apple). Indeed, pairs of objects were imagined with the smaller one being placed on the left. In addition, the tendency to imagine the bigger object on the right side increased directly proportional to the size difference of the two stimuli. Such a bias was also present with numbers such that the participants imagined smaller and larger numbers on the left and the right sides, respectively. Together, these findings could imply that the left-to-right orientation observed in imagined objects may share the same cognitive mechanism as the mental number line. Thus, the fact that Baloo is dancing on right side of the jungle and that Obelix walks on the right side of Asterix could reflect a common cognitive mechanism that biased the imagination of the various artists who sketched these immortal scenes with a specific orientation.


Dural, S., Çetinkaya, H. and Güntürkün, O., Imagine a mouse and an elephant: Hemispheric asymmetries of imagination, Laterality, 2016, DOI: 10.1080/1357650X.2016.1200594.


News & Views

A three-dimensional digital atlas of the starling brain

Because of their sophisticated vocal behaviour, their social nature, their high plasticity and their robustness, starlings have become an important model species that is widely used in studies of neuroethology of song production and perception. Since magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) represents an increasingly relevant tool for
comparative neuroscience, a 3D MRI-based atlas of the starling brain becomes essential. Using multiple imaging protocols, scientists from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, Université Rennes in France, and from the Biopsychology Department of the RUB delineated several sensory systems as well as the song control system. This starling brain atlas can easily be used to determine the stereotactic location of identified neural structures at any angle of the head. Additionally, the atlas is useful to find the optimal angle of sectioning for slice experiments, stereotactic injections and electrophysiological recordings. The starling brain atlas is freely available for the scientific community.


De Groof, G., George, I., Touj, S., Stacho, M., Jonckers, E., Cousillas, H., Hausberger, M., Güntürkün, O., Van der Linden, Annemie, A three-dimensional digital atlas of the starling brain, 2016, Brain Structure and Function, 221, 1899-1909.


News & Views

Farewell to Sarah Starosta

Unbelievable but true: Sarah Starosta has left the lab for a postdoc stay in New York. Sarah was an indispensable part of the Biopsychology since time being. It is very, very sad to part, but the lab of Adam Kepecs in New York is a great place to be and Sarah will certainly make the next big academic leap there. Leaving Bochum to whatever place is always sort of descend. But leaving for New York is certainly among the more acceptable options.
Hey Sarah: We will miss you a lot!!!!


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