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Biopsychology Research Colloquium

Biopsychology Research Colloquium: 16.04.2018, 1 - 3 pm, GAFO 05/425
Mechiel Korte (Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University): How anxious are you? - about how we get useful answers from animals


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

DNA methylation in candidate genes for handedness predicts handedness direction

For some decades, single gene explanations have been the most popular models for the ontogenesis of handedness. However, molecular genetic studies revealed only few specific genes exerting small influences on the phenotype. Moreover, non-genetic factors like birth complications and maternal health problems during pregnancy have often been associated with an increased probability of left-handed offspring. Recent research indicates that asymmetric DNA methylation and gene expression in the human fetal CNS contribute to the development of hemispheric asymmetries. Here, a group of researchers from the Biopsychology and the Genetic Psychology Department analyzed DNA methylation in promoter regions of candidate genes for handedness in adult left- and right-handers to investigate whether epigenetic biomarkers of handedness can be identified in non-neuronal tissue. We found that DNA methylation patterns in genes asymmetrically expressed in the fetal CNS predicted handedness direction. Moreover, birth stress was correlated with DNA methylation in NEUROD6, a gene that is asymmetrically expressed in fetal brains. We propose that an integration of genes and environment is essential to fully comprehend the ontogenesis of handedness.


Schmitz J, Kumsta R, Moser D, Güntürkün O, Ocklenburg S. DNA methylation in candidate genes for handedness predicts handedness direction. Laterality. 2018 23: 441-461.


News & Views

A handedness gene affects cognitive control

Cognitive control processes play an essential role not only in controlling actions but also in guiding attentional selection processes. In this study, a team of reseachers from Bochum, Bergen and Dresden investigated whether neurobiological mechanisms that affect functional cerebral asymmetries will also modulate cognitive control. Using the Dichotic smartphone app, the research team investigated the association of genetic variation in the handedness-associated gene LRRTM1 and cognitive control in the dichotic listening task. The results show that functional cerebral asymmetries in the language domain are associated with the rs6733871 LRRTM1 polymorphism when cognitive control and top-down attentional mechanisms modulate processes in bottom-up attentional selection processes that are dependent on functional cerebral asymmetries. The results suggest that cognitive control processes are an important factor to consider when being interested in the genetics of hemispheric asymmetries.


Beste, C., Arning, L., Gerding, W. M., Epplen, J. T., Mertins, A., Röder, M. C., Bless, J. J., Hugdahl, K., Westerhausen, R., Güntürkün, O., & Ocklenburg, S. (2018). Cognitive control processes and functional cerebral asymmetries: association with variation in the handedness-associated gene LRRTM1. Molecular neurobiology, 55(3), 2268-2274.


News & Views

A novel brain region in female zebra finches for the evaluation of courtship song

Humans select their partners based on a wide variety of factors; their looks, how much money they have on the bank, or a funny personality. For songbirds, it is all about song. Despite its crucial role in mate choice, little is known about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the accurate interpretation of courtship song in females. Using a combination of functional resonance imaging (fMRI), immediate early gene expression, and behavioral tests, a group of scientists from Antwerp, Montreal, and Bochum aimed to identify the circuitry  involved in the evaluation of mating songs in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Females were exposed to either the longer, faster, and more stereotyped courtship song or a neutral song, and this revealed two brain regions, the Mesopallium caudomediale (CMM) and the Nidopallium caudocentrale (NCC), that specifically become active when listening to the mating song. The CMM is a well-known auditory area sensitive to differences in tempo. Since a fast pace is a hallmark of the male courtship song, this was not a very surprising result. More surprising was the activation of the NCC, a ‘hub’ area in the limbic forebrain. This area integrates complex auditory information with sexual imprinting memory of what is desirable of a song. Moreover, the NCC projects to the arcopallium, which is important for coordinating movement. Thus, the NCC is well suited to evaluate the attractiveness of a song and in response coordinate courtship behavior; like calling back to a desirable mate. This study is the first to show the important role of limbic pathways in the evaluation of courtship song and ultimately mate choice of female zebra finches.


van Ruijsvelt, L., Chen, Y., von Eugen, K., Hamaide, J., De Groof, G., Verhoye, M., Güntürkün, O., Wooley, S.C. & van der Linden, A. (2018). fMRI reveals a novel region for evaluating acoustic information for mate choice in a female songbird. Current Biology, 28(5), 711-721.e6. DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.048


News & Views

PhD Thesis Patrick Friedrich

On Wednesday, the 14th of February 2018, Patrick succesfully defended his PhD thesis entitled "The Inter- and Intrahemispheric Neural Foundation of Functional Hemispheric Asymmetries". Since the day of his defense fell on Valentine's Day 2018, Patrick showed his love for science by giving the captivated audience a very well received presentation on the triadic model and all the experiments he performed to prove it. After starting in 2014, Patrick has used an impressive methodological array from EEG to fMRI and NODDI imaging to investigate hemispheric asymmetries and interhemispheric interaction and yielded some fascinating insights that he presented in the 25 minute talk. During the subsequent discussion, Patrick was able to answer even the most difficult questions on NODDI imaging and its validation. Obviously, the committee unanimously decided that he had passed. It was decided to award him the prestigous grade of a Dr. rer. nat. with magna cum laude.
Relived, Patrick was presented his PhD hat, inspired by his love for chess and coffee (he has drunken approximately 3500 cups during his PhD).

Congratulations Patrick! Your supervisors and the rest of the lab are proud of you!


News & Views

PhD Thesis Charlotte Koenen

On Friday, the 8th of December 2017, Carlotte had her IGSN graduation day. She had already gloriously defended her PhD thesis entitled „Categories in the pigeon brain: From brain function to behavior“ many months before. Even her old Master thesis advisor Miko Colombo had taken all the way from New Zealand for that occasion.  But Charlotte is worth it. For sure. In her experimental work she had managed to give the meanwhile long established categorization research in pigeons a completely new direction. Charlotte could demonstrate that we should not look for exemplar or prototype cells in vain but should look for the wisdom of the population code. This provides a completely new way of looking at categorization processes. And she had introduced a novel tool, digital embryos, that is now the trademark of the whole SFB 874. What a success story! The IGSN ceremony was beautiful. Only Onur had his usual bad hair day. But nobody saw that since all eyes were spot on Charlotte.

Congratulations Charlotte! We are proud of you!


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