Lifespan Neuroscience Research Group


Our group studies how aging influences cognition and emotion using behavioral tools, peripheral physiology as well as structural and functional neuroimaging methodologies. We have a major current focus being the differentiation between successful and non-successful aging with respect to cognitive and emotional health. Both seem to be maintained by compensatory and adaptive mechanisms in response to age-related life and brain changes. We want to know how the brain contributes to this adaptation and whether/why this adaptation is lacking in non-successful aging like late-life depression and older people with cognitive impairment. Accordingly, in our current intervention studies we investigate whether it is possible to boost cognitive and emotional resilience in aging. In this context, as part of the SFB TR 134, we are interested in the effects of weight and eating behavior on neurobehavioral functions across the life-span and how such effects can be modulated by dietary intervention.

  • Staff
  • Staff
    Stefanie Brassen
    Priv.-Doz. Dr.
    Stefanie Brassen


    Joshua Baker

    My project explores the effects of the induction of positive expectation, on emotional processing under different attentional states, in healthy young adults, and both healthy older adults and those with Later Life Depression (LLD). In using functional neuroimaging, I will explore the top-down control of emotional inputs as regulated by fronto-limbic systems, and examine how such regulation is modulated as a function of attention, age, and LLD.


    Jonas Rauh

    Within the SFB-TRR 289 I investigate in what way positive expectations influence emotional processing, focussing on the behaviour of patients with a late life depression (LLD). For this purpose, together with Josh, we combine behavioural paradigms and physical measures with high-resolution imaging techniques. As study physician I am further responsible for medical and psychiatric screening and obtaining informed consent of the participants.

    PhD Students

    Vivien Breckwoldt

    I investigate the metabolic-cognitive control of food choices and long-term dietary success in aging. There is evidence that central insulin may also affect prefrontal networks involved in cognitive control, but whether central insulin impacts on self-control during eating decisions is still unknown. In a crossover, placebo-controlled, double-blind fMRI study, I combine a newly developed self-control paradigm with previously established protocols of intranasal insulin application.

    Riccardo Mattia Galli

    My project’s aim is to investigate possible behavioural and neuronal predictors of emotional well-being across the lifespan, with a specific focus on older adults. Therefore, I work on functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) connectivity data combined with behavioural and cognitive tests from the Hamburg City Health Study (HCHS) database with the intent to discover how people can successfully undergo emotional adaptation when confronting late life adversities.

    Student Assistant

    Ronja Alexandra Eppel


    Katrin Giesen, MD Physician

    Judith Hettel, M.Sc. Psychology PhD student

    Laura Katharina Sasse, Postdoc

    Sophia Schneider, Postdoc

    Paul Francke, cand. Med. MD student

    Lena Tiedemann, M.Sc. Neuroscience PhD student

    • Emotion regulation and self-control across the life-span
    • Metabolic and cognitive control of eating behavior
    • Age-effects of eating behavior on homeostatic, cognitive and neural functions
    • Decision making and aging, e.g. delay discounting, food choice
    • Autobiographical memory and regret regulation
    • Enhancement of mental and physical health in older age

  • Tiedemann LJ, Schmid SM, Hettel J, Giesen K, Francke P, Büchel C, Brassen S (2017) Central insulin modulates food valuation via mesolimbic pathways. Nature Communications 8:16052

    Sasse LK, Peters J, Büchel C, Brassen S: Effects of prospective thinking on intertemporal choice: The role of familiarity. Hum Brain Mapp 2015; 36(10):4210-21.

    Brassen S, Gamer M, Peters J, Gluth S, Büchel C: Don't look back in anger! Responsiveness to missed chances in successful aging. Science 2012; 336(6081):612-4

    Brassen S, Gamer M, Büchel C: Anterior cingulate activation is related to a positivity bias and emotional stability in successful aging. Biol Psychiatry 2011; 70(2):131-7

    Brassen S, Gamer M, Rose M, Büchel C: The influence of directed covert attention on emotional face processing. Neuroimage 2010; 50(2):545-51

    Brassen S, Büchel C, Weber-Fahr: Structure-funktion interactions of correct retreaval in healthy elderly women. Neurobiol Aging 2009; 30(7):1147-56

    Brassen S, Kalisch R, Weber-Fahr W, Braus DF, Büchel C: Ventromedial prefrontal cortex processing during emotional evaluation in late-life depression: a longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Biol Psychiatry 2008; 64(4):349-55

  • SFB TRR-134 Ingestive Behaviour: Homeostasis and Reward, Project C03 The influence of weight and weight loss on homeostatic, mnestic and reward-related brain circuits in older adults

    DFG Research Grant Decision making in successful aging: Influence of temporal distance and socioemotional relevance (BR2877/2-2)

    DFG Research Grant Emotional processing in successful aging and late-life depression (BR2877/2-1)

    DFG Research Grant Decision making in successful aging: Influence of temporal distance and socioemotional relevance (BR2877/2-2)

    Young Scientist Grant UKE Multimodal neuroimaging study for the early detection of preclinical dementia (FFM F-154)

  • Poster award 2016 of the German Psychological Society (DGPs; Section Biological Psychology) for the poster “"Insulin resistance and central insulin effects on food liking”" (Lena Tiedemann)

    New Investigator Travel Award 2016 of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) in recognition of research project presentation at the 24th Annual Meeting of the SSIB, Porto, Portugal (Lena Tiedemann)

    Travel Award 2013 of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in recognition of research project presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, USA (Laura Sasse)

    Paper of the Month (POM) 2009 awarded by the Medial School of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf for the paper Brassen et al.: "“Don’t look back in anger! Responsiveness to missed chances in successful and nonsuccessful aging”", published in Science

    Faculty Young Investigator Grant 2005 of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (Stefanie Brassen)