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Using Computers to Understand the Brain

Press Release No. 222/2010
8 October 2010
Starter conference of the new Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience in Heidelberg

The project leaders and research teams of the newly established Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience Heidelberg-Mannheim will be meeting for a starter conference in Heidelberg on 12 and 13 October 2010. This integrated research venture has been receiving funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research since the summer of this year. It brings together brain researchers, psychiatrists, psychologists, mathematicians and biologists from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and Heidelberg University. They are investigating the neural bases of higher cognitive functions and their disturbance by psychiatric illnesses. The conference assembles some 100 participants, including colleagues of the members of the Bernstein Centre from all over Germany, France, Spain and Norway.

Although research has taken great strides in the investigation of normal and abnormal brain functions, many fundamental questions still remain unanswered. What influence do inherited properties have on the functioning of our brains? What makes a gene into an illness hazard? The research teams at the Bernstein Centre Heidelberg-Mannheim will focus much of their attention on the question of how genetic alterations affect the properties of nerve cells and the links between them and what repercussions these altered properties have on the functioning of the brain and hence on behaviour. The scientists hope to make a significant contribution to our understanding of disorders triggered by schizophrenia and other mental illnesses that we still know too little about.

Their research work is based not only on precise measurements but also on computer-based model calculations. This is the only way in which hypotheses on the complex interplay between billions of nerve cells can be tested within a reasonable space of time. Vice versa, computer simulations are only ever as good as the data they are based on. Accordingly, the experts on computational neuroscience depend heavily on ongoing exchanges with experimentalists. The new integrated research venture unites scientists from the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) in Mannheim and from the Faculties of Medicine at Heidelberg and Mannheim with researchers working at Heidelberg University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Neurosciences and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Computing. The coordinator of the Bernstein Centre Heidelberg-Mannheim is Dr. Daniel Durstewitz of the CIMH.

At the starter conference, different research approaches and designs will be discussed. For more information, go to and .


Prof. Dr. Andreas Draguhn
Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology
phone: +49 6221 544057

Communications and Marketing
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