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Studienteilnehmer (Männer) für Neuro-Studie zur Bewertung von #Selfies auf Facebook gesucht. mehr


Teilnehmer gesucht

Kernspinstudie zu Allgemeinwissen, Intelligenz und Persönlichkeit. Interessenten (ab 35 Jahren) können sich telefonisch (0234/32 21775) oder per eMail ( für die Studie anmelden. mehr



Biopsychology Research Colloquium: 18.12.2017, 1 - 3 pm, GAFO 05/425
Caspar M. Schwiedrzik (European Neuroscience Institute Göttingen & German Primate Center): Neural circuits for learning and predicting visual events


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

Beyond the genome—Towards an epigenetic understanding of handedness ontogenesis

One of the essential organizational principles of invertebrate and vertebrate neurobiology is asymmetric organization of functional or structural properties within the central nervous system. For handedness, the most widely investigated form of hemispheric asymmetries in humans, single gene explanations have been the most popular ontogenetic model in the past. However, while classic family studies suggest heritability of up to 0.66 for handedness, molecular genetic studies revealed only few specific genes contributing to a small amount of phenotypic variance. The divergence between heritability estimates from family studies and results obtained from molecular studies has been referred to as the missing heritability problem, which could partly be accounted for by heritable epigenetic mechanisms. Here, we review recent findings describing non-genetic influences on handedness from conception to childhood. We aim to advance the idea that epigenetic regulation might be the mediating mechanism between environment and phenotype. Recent findings on molecular epigenetic mechanisms indicate that particular asymmetries in DNA methylation might affect asymmetric gene expression in the central nervous system that in turn mediates handedness. We propose that an integration of genes and environment is essential to fully comprehend the ontogenesis of handedness and other hemispheric asymmetries.


Schmitz J, Metz GAM, Güntürkün O, Ocklenburg S. Beyond the genome—Towards an epigenetic understanding of handedness ontogenesis. Progress in Neurobiology. 2017 159: 69-89.


News & Views

A matter of balancing left and right: how right-hemispheric dominances develop in pigeons

It is still an unanswered question how genetic and environmental factors interact to establish a lateralized brain. In pigeons, the left-hemispheric dominance for visuomotor control depends on asymmetrical light stimulation during embryonic development. In the current study, we explored in how far dominances of the right brain side are determined in parallel. A typical right-hemispheric specialization is visuospatial attention as indicated by enhanced attention to the left visual field. This attentional bias can be demonstrated in a food cancellation task where pigeons have to peck grains regularly scattered on an area in front of them. Comparing the pecking pattern of pigeons with and without embryonic light experience shows that light-exposed pigeons displayed a preference to peck into the left hemifield, supporting a right hemispheric dominance for visuospatial attention. Light-deprived birds on the other hand, displayed an attentional bias to the right halfspace. Thus, light incubation does not simply induce an asymmetry of visuospatial asymmetry; an already present right hemifield bias is rather shifted towards the contralateral left hemifield by asymmetrical light incubation. Moreover, light-exposed pigeons displayed enlarged attentional visual fields extending into the contralateral visual halfspace with each eye compared. These data indicate that asymmetrical embryonic light experience modifies processes regulating biased visuospatial attention and hence, support the impact of light onto the emergence of functional dominances in both brain sides.


S. Letzner, O. Güntürkün, S. Lor, R Pawlik, M. Manns (2017) Visuospatial attention in the lateralized brain of pigeons – a matter of ontogenetic light experiences. Scientific Reports 7(1):15547. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-15796-6.


News & Views

DNA methylation in Genes involved in body asymmetries affect Cognitive Aspects of Language Lateralization

The dichotic listening task is the most widely used paradigm measuring language lateralization. The original non-forced condition consists of different consonant-vowel syllables, i.e. /ba/ and /ga/ presented to the left and right ear, respectively. Most subjects tend to report the syllable presented to the right ear: This so-called right ear advantage reflects left-hemispheric dominance for language. In the forced-attention conditions, subjects are instructed to only attend to input from one ear. Previous studies from the Biopsychology and other labs indicate that heritability is low, which is in line with an epigenetic contribution to language lateralization. The Brandler-Paracchini model of hemispheric asymmetries proposes that genes establishing ciliogenesis and bodily asymmetries affect the development of brain midline structures and language lateralization. KIAA0319 is a promising candidate gene, as it is involved in asymmetrical language processing and ciliogenesis. Here, a group of researchers from the Biopsychology and the Genetic Psychology Department analyzed DNA methylation in the KIAA0319 promoter region to investigate whether epigenetic markers of language lateralization can be identified in non-neuronal tissue. DNA methylation in the KIAA0319 promoter region was predictive for performance in the forced-left and forced-right conditions, but not for performance in the non-forced condition. This is consistent with an effect of DNA methylation on cognitive aspects of language lateralization within the context of the Brandler-Paracchini model of hemispheric asymmetries.


Schmitz J, Kumsta R, Moser D, Güntürkün O, Ocklenburg S. KIAA0319 promoter DNA methylation predicts dichotic listening performance in forced-attention conditions. Behavioural Brain Research. 2018 337: 1-7.


News & Views

First German - New Zealand Symposium

On Friday, 20.10.2017, the first New Zealand - German symposium on emotion and consciousness entitled "Who am I and how do I feel about it?" took place at Ruhr-University Bochum.
Part of an exchange between Victoria University of Wellington and Ruhr-University Bochum funded the initiative for technology and science exchange between New Zealand and Germany, the symposium was a great success.
Hosted by Sebastian Ocklenburg from the biopsychology lab, the symposium had a diverse line-up of speakers from both countries, including Gina Grimshaw from Victoria University of Wellington and Catrona Anderson from the University of Otago, as well as David Carmel from the University of Edinburgh, Jutta Peterburs from Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf and Julian Packheiser from the biopsychology lab. The room was packed with attendants who enjoyey vivid discussion on the nature on emotion and consciousness in both humans and non-human animals.

We are already looking forward to the second symposium!


News & Views


Unpredictable rewards increase the vigor of responses in autoshaping (a Pavlovian conditioning procedure) and are preferred to predictable rewards in free-choice tasks involving fixed- versus variable-delay schedules. The significance those behavioral properties may have in field conditions is currently unknown. However, it is noticeable that when exposed to unpredictable food, small passerines – such as robins, titmice, and starlings – get fatter than when food is abundant. In functional terms, fattening is viewed as an evolutionary strategy acting against the risk of starvation when food is in short supply. But this functional view does not explain the causal mechanisms by which small passerines come to be fatter under food uncertainty. Here, it is suggested that one of these causal mechanisms is that involved in behavioral invigoration and preference for food uncertainty in the laboratory. Based on a psychological theory of motivational changes under food uncertainty, we developed an integrative computational model to test this idea. We show that, for functional (adaptive) reasons, the excitatory property of reward unpredictability can underlie the propensity of wild birds to forage longer and/or more intensively in an unpredictable environment, with the consequence that they can put on more fat reserves.


Anselme, P., Otto, T. & Güntürkün, O. (2017). How unpredictable access to food increases the body fat of small passerines: a mechanistic approach. Behavioural Processes, 144, 33-45.

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