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Can computers be used to understand brain function?

The newly established Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Heidelberg-Mannheim, which has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research since summer 2010, brings together brain researchers, psychiatrists, psychologists, mathematicians and biologists from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and the University of Heidelberg. The researchers are investigating the neural basis of higher cognitive functions and their disorders in people suffering from psychiatric diseases.

Although huge progress has been made in the analysis of normal and defective brain functions, many basic aspects are still unknown: How do genetic determinants affect neuronal information processing? What turns a gene into a disease risk factor? The teams of researchers at the Bernstein Center Heidelberg-Mannheim (BCCN) will particularly focus on how genetic modifications affect the properties of nerve cells and the connections between them. In addition, they will also focus on their effect on neural network dynamics and the implications for normal and aberrant cognitive processing. The scientists hope to use their research to make an important contribution to understanding the defects associated with schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders that are still insufficiently understood.

The work of the researchers is based on precise measurements and on computer-based model calculations that will soon be used to test hypotheses on the complex interplay of billions of nerve cells. Computer simulations can only be as good as the data on which they are based. This is why the computational neuroscience experts are dependent on the exchange of information, data and experience with experimental groups of researchers. The new research consortium brings together scientists from the Central Institute of Mental Health (ZI) in Mannheim, the medical faculties of Heidelberg and Mannheim, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Neurosciences and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Computing at the University of Heidelberg. The Bernstein Center Heidelberg-Mannheim (BCCN) is coordinated by Dr. Daniel Durstewitz, a scientist at the ZI in Mannheim.

The project leaders and BCCN teams of researchers met on 12th and 13th October 2010 in Heidelberg. This conference where different research approaches and concepts were discussed, was aimed at bringing the BCCN researchers together with colleagues from all over Germany, as well as France, Spain and Norway.

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Andreas Draguhn
Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology
Tel.: +49 (0)6221 / 54-4057
E-mail: andreas.draguhn(at)physiologie.uni-heidelberg.de

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/can-computers-be-used-to-understand-brain-function