A team of neurosurgeons at Heidelberg University Hospital and psychiatrists at the Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim have for the first time successfully treated a patient suffering from severe depression by stimulating the habenula, a tiny nerve structure in the brain. The 64-year-old woman, who had suffered from depression since age 18, could not be helped by medication or electroconvulsive therapy. Since the procedure, she is for the first time in years free of symptoms.
Over the years pianists develop a particularly acute sense of the temporal correlation between the movements of the piano keys and the sound of the notes played. However, they are no better than non-musicians at assessing the synchronicity of lip movements and speech. This was discovered by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in a comparative study on the simultaneous brain processing of stimuli from different senses by musicians and non-musicians. The researchers also used functional magnetic resonance imaging in their study to map the areas of the brain active during this process.
The human voice is as characteristic as a face – a friend can often be identified by a message on an answering machine, even if he or she forgot to mention the name. The main region for face recognition lies within the inferior temporal lobe in primates. There, groups of clustered nerve cells can be found that respond significantly stronger to faces than to other images. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, have begun to search for similar structures that process voice information in the brain. In the temporal lobe of rhesus monkeys they discovered “voice cells” that respond selectively to calls and sounds from conspecifics.
Researchers led by Jörn Rickert at the Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience and the University of Freiburg have now discovered that completely different neural activities in the motor cortex can lead to identical movements depending on how well the movement is planned in advance. The results were recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience and amongst other things are of importance for the development of brain-controlled prostheses used by severely paralysed patients.
In order to get a better picture of our surroundings, the brain has to integrate information from different senses, but how does it know which signals to combine? New research involving scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Tübingen, the University of Oxford, and the University of Bielefeld has demonstrated that humans exploit the correlation between the temporal structures of signals to decide which of them to combine and which to keep segregated. This research is about to be published in Current Biology.
Unexpectedly scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory EMBL in Heidelberg Germany have now discovered a true counterpart of the cerebral cortex in an invertebrate a marine worm. Their findings are published today in Cell and give an idea of what the most ancient higher brain centres looked like and what our distant ancestors used them for.
The human brain is the most complex of all organs, containing billions of neurons with their corresponding projections, all woven together in a highly complex, three-dimensional web. To date, mapping this vast network posed a practically insurmountable challenge to scientists. Now, however, a research team from the Heidelberg-based Max Planck Institute for Medical Research has developed a method for tackling the mammoth task. Using two new computer programs, KNOSSOS and RESCOP, a group of over 70 students mapped a network of more than 100 neurons – and they did so faster and more accurately than with previous methods.
Although numerous scientists have spent decades exploring the brain and many things are already known the brain is still considered one of the greatest mysteries of science. While structural elements such as cell and axon distribution can only be mapped post mortem motor and sensory functions can only be studied in vivo i.e. using living organisms. Dr. Tonio Ball and his colleagues at the BrainLinks-BrainTools cluster of excellence at the University of Freiburg focus on ways to control movements. They are eavesdropping on the activity of the brain during everyday movements by placing electrodes on the surface of the brain.
The “Life Science Meets IT Hackathon”, which took place from 20 to 22 May 2016, brought together 80 people from the fields of IT, science, medicine, and business to work on challenges in the health sector and transformed Heidelberg’s Marsilius Arcades into an interdisciplinary development centre for fifty-four hours. Minister Theresia Bauer praised the participants’ dedication to tackling the challenges of digitalisation.
With the establishment of the Centrum für Medizintechnische Innovationen Tübingen, or CeMIT, the University Hospital of Tübingen is building a bridge between hospitals and medical device companies, which share the aim to develop new and better medical technology products and methods. Partners from small and medium-sized companies are expected to particularly benefit from the services that CeMIT provides and the guidance it can offer in finding new cooperation partners.
Visual and tactile objects in our surroundings are translated into a perception by complex interactions of neurons in the cortex. The principles underlying spatial and temporal organization of neuronal activity during decision-making and object perception are not well understood yet. Jason Kerr from Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, in collaboration with Winfried Denk from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, now investigated how different sensations are represented by imaging activity from neuronal populations deep in the cortex.
Prof. Dr. Hannah Monyer, neurobiologist from Heidelberg and Leibniz prizewinner, has spent her entire professional career searching for answers to questions as to how human memory functions. Her investigations focus on the role of the hippocampal interneurons that coordinate the activities of nerve cells involved in spatial short- and long-term memory.
The neuroanatomist Prof. Dr. Jochen Staiger from the University of Freiburg is investigating the so-called barrels in the somatosensory cortex of rodents which represent a body map with which the tactile environment can be perceived. Prof. Staiger is looking for the basic circuit in this highly ordered and structured part of the brain which enables the connection between perception and behaviour.
Researchers led by neurosurgeon Dr. Astrid Weyerbrock from the Freiburg University Medical Centre are working on the improvement of therapies for the effective treatment of glioblastomas that involve deciphering the biological mechanisms that lead to these complex brain tumours. They are using a volatile molecule that is also found in the earths atmosphere.
The human olfactory system possesses a special electric amplification mechanism that enables olfactory cells to respond even to extremely weak stimuli. Scientists at Heidelberg University headed by physiologist Prof. Dr. Stephan Frings have now established how this mechanism works. Crucial is the role played by chloride ions stored in the sensory cilia of the nose. As soon as the olfactory receptors in the sensory cilia detect odorants the chloride ions are immediately discharged.
Researchers led by a scientist at the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital in Heidelberg has identified a new gene variant as a risk factor for cerebral venous thromboses. 16.7 per cent of patients with cerebral venous thrombosis had the new variant compared to only 5.5 per cent of the healthy population.
Scientists from German Cancer Research Center and Heidelberg University have discovered a new dioxin receptor-coupled metabolic pathway which weakens the immune system and promotes the growth of malignant gliomas. Glioma is the most frequent and most malignant brain tumor in adults. In Germany, about 4,500 people are newly diagnosed with glioma every year.
Back in 2009 two researchers from the Department of Neurology at the Freiburg University Medical Centre were able to show during their research stay in the USA that the repeated stimulation of the brain with weak direct current increases the brains ability to acquire new complex motor skills. The researchers have now investigated the underlying mechanisms and published the results in the current issue of the renowned scientific journal Neuron.
Neuroscientist at the Excellence Cluster CIN at the University of Tübingen together with French colleagues uncovered in an animal model the neuronal processes that underlay the development of sensory maps in the developing brain.
Graduates from the private training college of the Deutsches Erwachsenen-Bildungswerk (German Adult Education Centre) in Fellbach received their certifi-cates last Friday from principal Claudia Volz. The newly qualified assistants in chemical and pharmaceutical engineering were joined by twelve biotechnology assistants (BioTA). The year's top BioTA-graduate, Juliane Maget, received a Euro 250 award from BioRegio STERN Management GmbH.
In cooperation with the University of Mainz, the Springer publishing house is now offering distance learning courses for laboratory and technical assistants who wish to study while they are working. The courses lead to a Bachelor of Science degree. The successful programme for ambitious non-academics is being developed in several Baden-Württemberg cities.
The physicist and neuroscientist Prof. Dr. Abigail Morrison from the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience BCCN in Freiburg has always been interested in theoretical questions relating to thinking and remembering. She now works on the development of computer models of different brain areas. Is it possible to untangle the complexities of neural networks in the brain using mathematics and informatics?