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Anmeldeverfahren für das Seminar "Das menschliche Gehirn – ein Mal- und Bastelkurs" ab sofort geöffnet

Das Anmeldeverfahren für das Seminar "Das menschliche Gehirn – ein Mal- und Bastelkurs " ist für alle 1-Fach Bachelor Psychologiestudenten im ersten Semester ab sofort bis zum 26.01.2020, 23:58 Uhr im eCampus freigeschaltet.
Bitte melden Sie sich zeitnah an (LV-Nr.: 112241). Eine Anmeldung ist nur in Kurs (1) möglich, die Gruppeneinteilung erfolgt durch die Kursleitung.
Eine Anmeldung im eCampus und die Teilnahme an der Vorbesprechung  am 29.01.2020 um 14 Uhr c.t. in HIA ist Voraussetzung für die Teilnahme am Seminar im SS 2020.

Bei Fragen können Sie sich an Felix Ströckens ( oder Gesa Berretz ( wenden.



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 14377


News & Views

PhD Thesis Caroline SchlÜter

...On Thursday, December 12, 2019, Caro successfully defended her doctoral thesis on “Personality Neuroscience: Biological Basis of Neuroticism and Volition”.
If one types “Personality Psychology” into a search engine and just opens the first Wikipedia link, the astonishing finding is that this branch of psychology is so remote from neuroscience as hardly any other field of psychological inquiry. As beautifully laid out in Caro’s introduction to her thesis, this is a bit related to the failure of the first grand neuropsychological theory of Eysenck. But it is also a result of serious methodological and conceptual problems. Caro bravely steps into this missing link by focusing on neuroticism and volition. This last point implies also a reach-out into motivation research. In a series of breath-taking studies, Caro then demonstrates links between the dendritic organization of parts of the amygdala and neuroticism, the impact of efficient dopaminergic transmission and the tendency to procrastinate, and correlations between types of action orientation and gender as well as intelligence. Most importantly, she also demonstrates that not only amygdala volume but also the functional connectivity between amygdala and the anterior cingulum is correlated with the tendency of individuals to either start acting or to go on waiting. This last study was published in Psychological Science and became a media bestseller. Each and every of these studies is written by Caro with a profound knowledge of psychology and neuroscience and with the desire to achieve mechanistic explanations. Thus, Caro demonstrates her ability to be a perfect biosychologist.
The committee consisting of Onur Güntürkün, Nikolai Axmacher, Boris Suchan, and Robert Kumsta was deeply impressed and awarded this great thesis with a magna cum laude. Soon after this success, Caro fulfilled her plan to leave science, but with the promise to hopefully come back.

Congratulations Caro for being such an outstanding biopsychologist! We terribly will miss you.


News & Views

PhD Thesis Stephanie Lor

...On Wednesday, the 4th of December 2019, Steffi successfully defended her doctoral thesis on the “Mechanisms of light-induced neuronal asymmetry during embryonic development” at the IGSN. Most vertebrate brains display neuro-functional asymmetries and we know very little about their ontogeny. Steffi used in her PhD the visual asymmetry of pigeons to study the impact of microRNAs on asymmetry development. MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that regulate many downstream biological processes. Although very promising, close to nothing is known about that in pigeons. Despite this challenge, Steffi managed to discover the critical main events in a tour de force of newly established techniques. First, she established from scratch microRNA analysis in our lab and demonstrated that there is no asymmetry in the retina but in the tectum for embryonic expression of the microRNA-183 cluster. To move deeper, she established qPCR and showed that all constituent parts of the microRNA-183 cluster in the right tectum were low when dark, but very high when light incubated. The left tectum evinced only intermediate expression levels after light incubation. Thus, light seems to be needed to induce expression but then primarily activates the not-light exposed right tectum! Puzzling. To solve this, Steffi reconstructed the hottest candidates for the targets of microRNA-183 and found pathways for growth and signal transduction. Then she started to identify with in situ hybridization and laser microdissection the anatomical localization of neurons that are modified by miR-183. Here, she discovered upper and lower tectal cells differ between left and right with respect to the different sub groups of microRNA-183 stained cells. Like Sherlock Holmes, she then puts the puzzle together and puts forward a likely scenario of molecular and cellular events that define the first steps of an asymmetrical brain. The committee consisting of Onur Güntürkün, Carsten Theiß, Giorgio Vallortigara, Thorsten Müller, and Laurenz Wiskott was deeply impressed and awarded this grand work with a summa cum laude.

Congratulations Steffi! We are extremely proud of you.


News & Views

PhD Thesis Meng Gao

...On Friday, October 25, 2019, Meng successfully defended her doctoral thesis on the “Neural circuits of appetitive extinction in the pigeon brain”. Extinction learning is a key learning procedure that proceeds with predictable sequences of behavioral changes in all studied vertebrates and invertebrates. But do these similarities of behavior also point to equivalencies of neural mechanisms? This is the core question of Meng’s thesis. She approaches it by behavioral pharmacology and fMRI. In her behavioral studies she probes the contribution of a visual associative structures and can show that it contributes to the processing of the context in learning extinction. This is highly interesting since context memory is in mammals the contribution of the hippocampus. Previous studies could not convincingly show that the pigeon’s hippocampus has a truly visible contribution to memorize the extinction context. Then Meng moves on to study the medial striatum and demonstrates that its contribution is mostly in the realm of the acquisition of extinction, possibly due to insufficient prediction error coding. Finally, she moves on to study for the first time extinction learning in a scanner and yields a huge amount of novel insights on the extinction network. Among these novel information is the finding that the first extinction session is characterized by a broad activation of a large number of forebrain areas. With every further extinction session, however, these activations get smaller and smaller and astonishingly encompass primary visual areas. Based on all these new data, Meng sketches the outline as well as the details of the avian extinction network. She shows that its main outline is similar but not identical to that of mammals. The committee consisting of Onur Güntürkün, Nikolai Axmacher, Martina Manns, and Maik Stüttgen was deeply impressed and awarded this great series of studies with a magna cum laude.

Congratulations Meng! You are fantastic.


News & Views

PhD Thesis Christoph Fraenz

...On Thursday, the 24th of October 2019, Christoph successfully defended his doctoral thesis on the “Neural Correlates of Intelligence and General Knowledge Derived by Magnetic Resonance Imaging”. Christoph’s thesis is in many ways unique. While there are several studies on the neural foundations of fluid intelligence, there is practically no such study on the brain fundaments of crystallized intelligence. Christoph’s thesis introduces the reader with a fantastic clarity through the history and present status of the psychology and the neuroscience of intelligence research, to then develop his own way of studying this field. In 324 (yes: 324!) subjects he collects state-of-the-art functional and imaging data and scrutinizes the knowledge base and fluid intelligence of his subjects. He can show that fluid intelligence is equal in both sexes, but that men churn out their fluid intelligence by grey matter volume, while women do it with a highly efficient functional connectivity. For crystallized intelligence, however, women score lower than men, due to differences in structural connectivity. In the next study he uses NODDI to reconstruct the cellular geometry of grey matter and can show that dendritic morphology that derives from efficient synaptic pruning correlates with IQ. This study, that was published in Nature Communications, was among the 0.02% most publicly discussed scientific papers of the last years. Finally, Christoph reconstructs the connectional fundaments of fluid intelligence by the using the functional connectome of the human brain. The committee consisting of Onur Güntürkün, Nikolai Axmacher, Oliver Wolf, and Boris Suchan was deeply impressed and awarded this grand work with a magna cum laude.

Congratulations Christoph! We are very proud of you.


News & Views

It still hurts – The long shadow of childhood maltreatment

...Those who were humiliated, beaten or sexually abused in childhood have to deal with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety attacks more often in adulthood than people who were spared this experience at a young age. But what are the reasons for this greater vulnerability? Do experiences of violence as a child possibly lead to a permanently changed perception of social stimuli? Psychiatrists from Bonn and biopsychologists from Bochum now indeed were able to shed light on basic factors relevant to social dysfunction, interpersonal distance, and responsiveness to touch in adults with a history of childhood abuse. In addition to behavioral testing, structural and functional MRI was performed to assess the neural correlates of social touch in relation to varying degrees of maltreatment. Overall, the findings suggest alterations in neural responsivity to sensory stimulation with both fast and slow touch. Of particular interest was the finding that severe maltreatment was associated with decreased hippocampal responsivity to slow touch, which tends to be associated with the emotion-relevant, comforting aspects of touch. In addition, the scientists also examined social distance by asking participants to approach an unknown person and to stop when the distance was just felt to be pleasant. Indeed, traumatized subjects kept a larger distance by twelve centimeters. These findings upon up new possibilities for body-based therapies of traumatized subjects.

Maier, A., Gieling, C., Heinen-Ludwig, L., Stefan, V., Schulz, J., Güntürkün, O., Birgit Stoffel-Wagner, B., Becker, B., Hurlemann, R. and Scheele, D., It still hurts – Childhood maltreatment hampers interpersonal distance and social touch in adulthood, Am. J. Psychiat., 2020, 77: 37–46.

News & Views

The surprising power of the avian mind


Corvids, parrots and other bird groups demonstrate complex cognition, including causal reasoning, mental flexibility, planning, social cognition and imagination. These cognitive abilities were a surprise to many scientists. They were not expected to be found in birds because of their small brains and the absence of a cerebral cortex. Onur Güntürkün now explains in Scientific American that it is possibly less of interest that both birds and mammals succeeded in growing smart. Rather this accomplishment came about through development of mostly identical neural mechanisms despite differently organized forebrains. Birds and mammals cognitively thrived by increasing neuron numbers. Mammals did so by expanding brain size and birds by amplifying neuron density. They both developed substantially similar networks of “cortical” connections and evolved “prefrontal” areas with identical physiological, neurochemical and functional features. The same can be said for cognition itself. The way birds and mammals learn, remember, forget, err, generalize and make decisions follows identical principles. This astonishing degree of similarity is only possible when nature offers severely limited degrees of freedom in generating neural structures for complex cognition. Birds and mammals evolved similar neural mechanisms and ways of thinking— taking different paths that ended in the same place.

Güntürkün, O., The surprising power of the avian mind, Scientific American, 2020, January, 48-55.

News & Views

Atypical lateralization in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders: What is the role of stress?

...In healthy humans, the brain shows typical differences between the left and the right hemisphere in structure and function – so-called hemispheric asymmetries. In different psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders like schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder however, many asymmetries are reduced. Most of these disorders show a small genetic overlap with each other but none with asymmetry-related genes. A common non-genetic factor among these disorders are changes in the stress system as well as intra- and early life stress. A team from the Biopsychology and the Cognitive Psychology lab from the Ruhr University Bochum now propose a model in which early life stress as well as chronic stress not only increases the risk for psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders but also changes structural and functional hemispheric asymmetries. This influence might arise from prenatal effects of maternal stress and early life stress on the stress system and disease development: maternal adversity influences the environment in the womb which in turn programs neural systems underlying cognitive-emotional function. This could also be the case for the development of hemispheric asymmetries. Moreover, pathological changes in the stress system as well as hemispheric asymmetries may lead to further dysregulation in the brain. However, the effect of stress on hemispheric asymmetries could depend on the timing and type of the stressor.

Berretz, G., Wolf, O. T., Güntürkün, O., & Ocklenburg, S. (2020). Atypical lateralization in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders: What is the role of stress?. Cortex.

News & Views

How competitive is cue competition?

...Since the days of Pavlov, associative learning has become a powerful tool to explain behavior of a large variety of organisms. One of the most prominent models of associative learning is the Rescorla-Wagner model. It assumes that different cues massively compete for associative strength. However, some studies have shown that predictions of the Rescorla-Wagner model fail under certain circumstances.  Recently, it has been argued that failures of the model result from the systematic overestimation of the extent of cue competition. In our study, we aimed to test different levels of cue competition using an overexpectation design in which cues are being extinguished despite continuous presentations of reward. In a first experiment, we found no evidence for cue competition. For this reason, an additivity training was introduced into the second experiment to strengthen the level of cue competition. In the second experiment, we were able to demonstrate cue competition, however only to a moderate rather than a massive extent as is predicted by the Rescorla-Wagner model. Overall, these results show that cue competition can be modulated and that its extent indeed seems to be slightly overestimated by the Rescorla-Wagner model.

Packheiser, J., Pusch, R., Stein, C. C., Güntürkün, O., Lachnit, H. & Uengoer, M. (2020). How competitive is cue competition? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1(11).


News & Views

The real-life neural correlates of handedness and footedness


The neural basis of motor asymmetries such as handedness and footedness has been studied widely using both EEG and fMRI studies in humans. However, these studies almost exclusively used both unnatural tasks such as finger tapping and unnatural environments such as an fMRI scanner to identify the underlying biological correlates of motor functions. To overcome these shortcomings, our study investigated handedness and footedness in ecologically valid settings by using a mobile EEG in which participants could freely move around. We then let them perform tasks as described by the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory (EHI) and the Waterloo Footedness Questionnaire (WFQ), two of the most widespread questionnaires to assess motor asymmetries. Thus, our participants were shooting and throwing balls, balancing on rails and even jumped around while being recorded by an EEG. We found that both alpha and beta oscillations on fronto-central electrodes differed significantly between left- and right-handers as well as left- and right-footers. Furthermore, we could predict the extent of handedness and footedness using the EEG recordings during tasks performed with the left limb. All of these results were unaffected by movement indicating that mobile EEGs provide a powerful tool to study motor asymmetries in the field and can thus give meaningful insights into the neural correlates of real-life behavior.

Packheiser, J., Schmitz, J., Pan Y., El Basbasse, Y., Friedrich, P., Güntürkün, O. and Ocklenburg, S. (2020). Using Mobile EEG to Investigate Alpha and Beta Asymmetries During Hand and Foot Use. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14 (109).

News & Views

Comparing NCL across bird species

...Approximately 40 years ago, Divac and colleagues first described the analogue to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in birds known as the nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL). The NCL is comparable to the PFC as that both are seen as the seat of complex behaviors such as working memory and decision making. The past decades of research also demonstrated striking parallels in the underlying connectivity and physiology. Up until now, the location of the NCL had been described in pigeon only, and we knew close to nothing about the borders of the NCL in other bird species. This is problematic because there is considerable variation in both brain structure and behavioral capacities between different bird species. By visualizing the dopaminergic innervation of the forebrain, which is a hall-mark method to identify both the NCL and the PFC, a team of the Biopsychology lab set out to delineate the NCL in chicken, zebra finch and the carrion crow. They found that whereas the trajectory of the NCL in chicken is very similar to pigeon, the zebra finch and crow show a strikingly different pattern. In these two songbirds, the NCL now spans across the entire back of the forebrain and seems split up in to more distinct sub-units. These findings commensurate to what has been observed in mammals; the PFC in chimpanzees is both larger and more parcellated compared to rats. Thus, this study discloses yet another instance of the remarkable parallel evolution of the executive brain structure in birds and mammals.

von Eugen, K., Tabrik, S., Güntürkün, O. and Ströckens, F. (2020). A comparative analysis of the dopaminergic innervation of the executive caudal nidopallium in pigeon, chicken, zebra finch, and carrion crow. Journal of Comparative Neurology.


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