Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience in Mannheim and Heidelberg
18 June 2010
A new integrated research venture in the neurosciences is to be established at the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) in Mannheim and at Heidelberg University. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has approved funding of approx. 9.6 million euros to support research work at the Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience for an initial period of five years. This work will focus on the neural bases of higher cognitive functions and on their disturbances in disorders like schizophrenia, depression and age-related degenerative phenomena. A total of 16 teams of scientists at the CIMH will be involved in the project together with the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg and the Interdisciplinary Centres for Neurosciences (IZN) and Scientific Computing (IWR) of Heidelberg University.
In particular over the last decade, a number of genes have been identified that increase the risk for various psychiatric disorders. These genes regulate different molecules involved in neuronal information processing. But how exactly do the molecular changes they initiate affect the properties of nerve cells and the connections between them? And, in turn, how do these cellular changes affect brain function and therefore behaviour? To answer these questions, the researchers at the Bernstein Centre Heidelberg/Mannheim will develop computer models of neural networks in key regions of the brain, in close interaction with experimental studies and data. These computer-based simulations will improve our understanding of normal and aberrant neural information processing, and specifically how it will be altered by various medical agents.
One focus of this new research venture will be so-called cerebral oscillations, neural reverberations caused by large groups of nerve cells emitting signals in near-synchrony. They play a major role in memory storage and the consolidation of information from various regions of the brain. In diseases like schizophrenia and depression these processes are severely disturbed. Enhancing the understanding of the molecular causes for these disturbances will therefore be helpful in designing more specific and effective therapies for psychiatric disorders. The coordinator of the Bernstein Centre in Mannheim/Heidelberg is Dr. Daniel Durstewitz of the Central Institute of Mental Health.
The BMBF-funded centre combines research on cell physiology and molecular biology at the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Neurosciences of Heidelberg University with research on psychiatric disorders at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim in conjunction with the Medical Faculty of Mannheim. In addition, members of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Computing in Heidelberg will be contributing their expertise in the computer simulation of complex dynamic systems. A team of scientists from BioQuant will also be involved. In addition, the Bernstein Centre will be making an important contribution to the education of students and young scientists. Alongside a special-subject component in the “Molecular Biosciences” MSc programme, there are also plans for a doctoral programme in “Computational Neuroscience” at Heidelberg University.
The new research centre in Mannheim and Heidelberg is part of the Bernstein Computational Neuroscience Network initiated in 2004 and now comprising some 200 research groups at 20 different locations in Germany. The network is named after the physiologist Julius Bernstein (1839-1917). For more information on the Bernstein Network and the Bernstein Centres, go to www.nncn.de.
Dr. Daniel Durstewitz
Central Institute of Mental Health
phone: +49 621 1703-2361
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