Research Groups

  • Using neuroscientific methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we study the neural mechanisms of emotional processing and how emotions affect other cognitive functions such as learning or decision making. In part, we employ very simple paradigms such as classical conditioning, because this enables a link of our research to existing animal work. Methodologically, we are also bridging the gap between human neuroscientific research and animal neurophysiology by using high resolution fMRI for instance to investigate emotional processing in different subnuclei of the amygdala and the striatum. The interaction between emotion and cognition is also exemplified by the modulation of pain processing by various cognitive factors. A prime example of this effect is placebo analgesia in which expectation and experience shape pain perception. Using fMRI (including novel MR protocols to investigate spinal cord responses), pharmacological interventions and computational models, we investigate the neuronal mechanisms underlying this effect.

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  • Our research is concerned with how we envision the future, how we remember the past, and how these processes affect the choices we make. One focus is how we make decisions about outcomes that are delayed in time. Typically, humans and animals de-value future rewards as a function of the time to their delivery. Many psychiatric conditions (e.g. addiction) are associated with a hypersensitivity to such delays, and we are interested in the underlying neural mechanisms. Vividly imagining the future, on the other hand, can make people less impulsive, and we study the underlying processes. Naturally, we are very interested in regions of the reward circuit such as the ventral striatum, orbitofrontal cortex and midbrain, but also in medial temporal lobe regions such as the hippocampus and adjacent structures. We explore the roles of these networks in memory, prospection and decision-making.

    We are associated with the IMAGEN project , and in this context examine how reward processing changes across the life span.

    Our weekly lab meetings take place jointly with the memory and decision-making group of Tobias Sommer.

    Methods: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), cognitive modeling.

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  • Our research focuses on the neurobiological underpinnings of fear and anxiety related processes. Thereby we use fear conditioning, extinction as well as return of fear manipulations as laboratory models for the acquisition and (behavioural) treatment of anxiety disorders as well as relapse respectively. In addition, we are interested in emotional attention processes as well as the molecular genetic associations with fear and anxiety related processes. Specifically, we are interested in how acute and chronic stress experiences over the lifetime affects behavioural and neural correlates of fear conditioning, extinction as well as attention processes.

    Methods

    We use a multidimensional approach including peripheral psychophysiological (skin conductance responses, fear potentiated startle), hormone measurements, as well as functional neuroimaging (fMRI) methods

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  • Our work group continuously contributes to national and international research evaluating new therapy approaches to headaches and facial pain. Projects focus on the effectiveness of new pharmaceutical approaches but also on invasive and non-invasive neuromodulation and/or neurostimulation. Patients who are interested in participating in research might be given the opportunity to contribute to clinical trials subject to eligibility.
    We are looking forward to receive your email: kopfschmerz@uke.de

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  • 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.

    We are part of the SFB TR 134, and in this context investigate effects of weight and eating behavior on neurobehavioral functions across the life-span.

    Current intervention studies include dietary intervention and autobiographical memory trainings.

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  • Our group explores what might seem two very distinct cognitive domains (episodic memory and decision making) and their neural correlates. On the one hand, we investigate these processes independently from each other by employing a variety of paradigms and experimental manipulations. But on the other hand, we also study their interaction by linking medial temporal lobe dependent memory with reward processing in the ventral striatum and tegmentum. In addition to cognitive-psychological methods, we also use eye-tracking and skin conductance responses to infer the underlying sub-processes. To determine the neural correlates and to advance thereby not only cognitive but also neurobiological theories of episodic memory and decision making, we use genetic approaches, (pharmacological) fMRI and prospectively also EEG and MEG.

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  • Die Arbeitsgruppe "MR-Physik" ist Teil von NIN - NeuroImage Nord, einem vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) und der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) geförderten Bildgebungszentrum in den klinischen Neurowissenschaften, an dem die Universitätskliniken Hamburg-Eppendorf und Schleswig-Holstein beteiligt sind.Unsere Arbeitsgruppe beschäftigt sich mit den physikalischen Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Magnetresonanz-Tomographie (auch Kernspin-Tomographie genannt) und -Spektroskopie am Menschen. Schwerpunkte unserer Arbeit sind die Entwicklung neuer Bildgebungstechniken und Spektroskopiemethoden, die diffusionsgewichtete Bildgebung des Nervensystems und die funktionelle Hirnbildgebung. Darüber hinaus gehören zu unseren Aufgaben die Qualitätssicherung an den zur Verfügung stehenden MR-Tomographen und die methodische Unterstützung der anderen Arbeitsgruppen bei ihren Forschungsprojekten. Als reine Forschungsgruppe sind wir nicht in die klinische Routinediagnostik eingebunden.

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  • We are developing a classification system of learning and memory systems based on the information processing properties of the relevant brain areas.

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  • Until recently, white-matter fibers were neglected in most studies of cognition and learning, despite the fact that these fibers make up half of the human brain and define the organization of functional networks. Recent studies have shown that white-matter plasticity is highly related to functional changes. However, the underlying mechanisms of white-matter plasticity are not understood yet.

    We are developing novel methods for fusion of high-resolution quantitative MRI (qMRI) to enable MRI-based in vivo histology (hMRI) in the brain and spinal cord. The main focus of our group is to better understand the underlying mechanisms of white-matter plasticity and to relate it to metrics from ex vivo histology such as myelin density, fiber density, and the g-ratio – i.e. the ratio between inner and outer fiber diameter.

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  • Every day in our lives is plastered with decisions, from the minute (What shall I have for
    breakfast?) to the grand (Shall I pursue a career in decision neuroscience?). Common theoretical
    accounts posit that the human brain accomplishes decision making through a series of neural
    computations, in which the expected future reward of different decision options are compared with one another and then the option with the highest expected value is usually selected.
    Thus, valuation lies at the heart of the puzzle of human decision making.
    Our group is interested in tracking down these values in the brain and the representations of
    choice options using computational modeling of choice behavior in combination with fMRI and
    more recently with EEG. This approach allows us to identify neural structures that participate in the computation of expected values and their updating through learning.
    In general, we try to understand valuation by perturbing this process through experimental manipulation, record the change in valuation and therefore learn how the brain organizes value computations. More recently, we have been focussing decision making in real-time social interactions and seek to understand how social reasoning about others affects our own choices. Moreover, we also investigate how stimulus properties, pharmacological manipulations, behavioral genetics are biasing human valuation.

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  • Our research focuses on neurotransmitter systems involved in aversive learning. In particular, we investigate how neurotransmitters such as Dopamine, Opioids and Cannabinoids contribute to emotional states of fear and anxiety. Read more...