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Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Fakultät für Psychologie
AE Biopsychologie
IB 6-121 - Postfach 18
D-44780 Bochum

Phone: +49 234 - 32 28213
Fax: +49 234 - 32 14388

Email: biopsychologie@rub.de
Homepage: http://www.bio.psy.rub.de

 

News

We would like to invite you to our famous Biopsychology Research Colloquium:

Monday, 30.01.2023: 1 pm – 3 pm

Dr. Julian Packheiser

Investigating the mechanistic role of auto-conditioning in emotional contagion

Please find more information here.

 

 

 

 

 

News & Views

Polygenic scores and handedness

Handedness is the most widely investigated and easily visible motor asymmetry in humans, but the links between genetic variation, brain structure, and right-left preference are not understood. Based on a recent genome-wide association study, biopsychologists and geneticists from Bochum, imaging experts from the Leibniz Research Centre in Dortmund and geneticists from Mannheim estimated polygenic scores (PGS) of handedness. PGS reflect the sum effect of trait-associated alleles across many genetic loci. The results show that these PGS are indeed significantly associated with individual handedness lateralization quotients without showing a significant neuroanatomical marker. Thus, while the genetic background of handedness becomes increasingly better characterized, its neuronal fundaments are still elusive.


Ocklenburg, S., Metzen, D., Schlüter, C., Fraenz, C., Arning, L., Nguyen, H. P., Streit, F., Güntürkün, O., Kumsta, R., Genç, E., Polygenic scores for handedness and their association with asymmetries in brain structure, Brain Structure Function, 2022, 227: 515–527.

 

News & Views

Prefrontal neuronal foundations of visual asymmetries in pigeons

Brain asymmetries are widespread but the cellular foundations of such left-right differences are not well understood. To further our understanding on this matter, Qian Xiao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Onur Güntürkün from the Biopsychology Department in Bochum recorded from neurons in the avian prefrontal area NCL while pigeons were working on a color discrimination task. They discovered that the left NCL dominated the animals’ behavior not by a higher efficacy of encoding, but by being faster in monopolizing the operant response. As a consequence, if both hemispheres would rush to ignite motor areas in order to activate the behavioral response, the left NCL would mostly be the faster one and would thus determine the action of the animal. A small bias at the cellular level would then translate into unihemispheric control of behavior.



Xiao, Q., Güntürkün, O., ‘Prefrontal’ neuronal foundations of visual asymmetries in pigeons, Frontiers Physiol., 2022, 13: 882597.

 

News & Views

From Dendrites to Depression

When faced with a frown, do you feel self-doubt and gloomy, or do you experience anxiety and depression? Then, one of the five main personality qualities, neuroticism, may be a strong suit for you. Now biopsychologists from Bochum, the Leibniz IfADo research institute and the Jülich Research Center joined forces to study the neuronal foundations of neuroticism. Using NODDI as a novel imaging procedure, they discovered that depression, one of the facets of neuroticism, was associated with lower neurite density in the lateral amygdala nucleus (La). This subnucleus of the amygdala is the sensory entrance port of the amygdala that filters incoming information based on previous experiences. A reduced dendritic structure of La-neurons could impair its filtering function, thereby causing harmless sensory information to be misevaluated as threatening. It is conceivable that this is one of the neuronal fundaments that leads to neuroticism-related depression.

 


Schlüter, C., Fraenz, C., Friedrich, P., Güntürkün, O. and Genç, E., Neurite density imaging in amygdala nuclei reveals interindividual differences in neuroticism. Human Brain Mapping, 2022, 43: 2051-2063.

 

News & Views

What Makes Corvids Smart?

Corvids have cognitive skills that match those of nonhuman primates. But corvids have so much smaller bodies and brains that primates. So, what makes corvids so smart? Scientists from the universities of Bochum, Düsseldorf, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and Vanderbilt (USA) joined forces to find an answer. In six species of birds, they counted neuron numbers in forebrain associative areas and compared them with those in sensory and motor forebrain areas. Three species belonged to the corvid order (hooded crow, carrion crow, and rook), while the three other species were known to be not that smart (chicken, pigeon, ostrich). The hypothesis was, that corvids allocate much more neurons to their associative areas where the majority of cognitive processes take place. This exactly was the case. Corvids had even more associative neurons than ostriches, although ostrich brains are twice as large as those of corvids. Astoundingly, corvids with their 500g body weight had even as many associative neurons as a 50.000g chimpanzee in its prefrontal cortex. So, when it comes to intelligence, it is not size that matters but the quantity of associative neurons. Good to know.

 

Ströckens, F., Neves, K., Kirchem, S., Schwab, C., Herculano-Houzel, S., Güntürkün, O., High associative neuron numbers could drive cognitive performance in corvid species, J. Comp. Neurol., 2022, 530: 1588-1605.

 

News & Views

A brain for migration

Blackcaps migrate over Thousands of kilometers between their breeding and wintering grounds. During such a long journey, many survival-relevant decisions have to be quickly taken. One brain area, which has been associated with such executive functions is the nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL), which is considered analogous to the mammalian prefrontal cortex. Now scientists from Oldenburg and Bochum analyzed the dopaminergic innervation of the blackcap NCL as its source of learning-related feedback. They identified four regions in the NCL of which one might have especially evolved to cope with the special demands of navigation.

 

Kobylkov, D., Musielak, I., Haase, K., Rook, N., von Eugen, K., Dedek, K., Güntürkün, O., Mouritsen, H., Heyers, D., Morphology of the “prefrontal” nidopallium caudolaterale in the long distance night-migratory Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Neurosci. Lett., 2022, 789: 136869.

 

News & Views

Bird Brains Run on Cheap Fuel

In comparison to mammals, birds with their small brains have much more neurons than expected. This is due to the extremely high neuron densities in the avian brain. But this opens up the question of how birds can metabolically support such large neuron numbers. Now, scientists from Bochum, Düsseldorf, and Köln show that the neuronal energy budget of pigeons is about 3 times lower compared to mammals, possibly indicating a more efficient neuronal processing in the avian clade. This innovation was possibly key in the evolution of avian cognition.

 


Von Eugen, K., Endepols, H., Drzezga, A., Neumaier, B., Güntürkün, O., Backes, H., Ströckens, F., Avian neurons consume three times less glucose compared to mammals, Current Biol., 2022, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.07.070.

 

News & Views

German-Turkish Summerschool on Comparative Neuroscience of Brain & Evolution 2022

It started in 2012 when the whole lab longed to see Nina Patzke again. Nina has been a PhD-student in the Biopsychology and then moved to Johannesburg as a postdoc. To visit Nina, Sebastian Ocklenburg and Felix Ströckens invented the idea of a summerschool for comparative neuroscience for Africa. It was indeed funded by the DAAD and so many of us went for a fantastic and successful time to a camp close to the Krüger national park. In the upcoming years Nina moved to Rio de Janeiro. Since everybody wanted to see her again, Sebastian and Felix successfully applied for a summerschool in Brazil (2015). Then Nina moved to Japan. So, we had our next summerschool in Sapporo in 2018. And then Nina came back to Germany to become a professor for neuroanatomy in Potsdam. So, what should we do now? Sebastian and Felix decided for Türkiye. So, this time the school took place at the Koç University in Istanbul with Nina being just a scientific participant. As always, the school was a big science party and everybody came back with great new ideas, new friends and heaps of sweet memories.

 

News & Views

Food unpredictability induces more effective foraging patterns

The opportunity and the information available to secure food resources drives foraging behaviour. We tested how inconsistent hole-food pairings and coverings could alter foraging performance, even when food availability is held constant. In our first experiment, we exposed pigeons (Columba livia) to a board in which each of the 60 covered holes contained one food item and to another board in which only one third of the 180 covered holes randomly contained one food item. In a second experiment, only the 60-hole board was used and the holes were not covered. The pigeons increased their body weight, gave fewer pecks per hole, revisited holes less often, and inspected fewer adjacent holes with 180 rather than 60 covered holes while eating similar amounts. However, their pecks were disproportionately higher near the edges of the board with 60 covered holes. This behaviour was not evident in the second experiment, when the food items were visible and individuals could know where food was available. Thus, the information about food location may drive foraging behaviour more directly than the information about food availability.

 

Wittek, N., Oeksuez, F., Güntürkün, O., & Anselme, P. (2022). More opportunities to peck for identical food availability increases foraging efficiency in pigeons. Behaviour, 159, 1201-1224. doi: 10.1163/1568539X-bja10173


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