The International Research Training Group “Brain-behavior relationship of emotion and social cognition in schizophrenia and autism” (IRTG 1328) is formed by German and American scientists of the RWTH Aachen University with the University Hospital Aachen, the Research Center Jülich (all within the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance, JARA) and the University of Pennsylvania and is funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG). The major aims of the German-American IRTG are interdisciplinary and international scientific co-operation and the support of young scientists with aspiration to cutting-edge research. Three basic principles shape the profile of the IRTG: excellence, innovation and international co-operation. To make allowance for the various aspects of the complex clinical disorders of schizophrenia and autism, scientists from a widespread area of disciplines are involved, including medicine, psychology, biology, physics and computer science, among them some of the world’s leading experts in the respective fields. The excellence of faculty and trainees and the international character of the enterprise combine to provide a uniquely inspiring research environment. The IRTG offers a study program that structures an internationally collaborative doctoral process under joint mentorship of a German and an American supervisor. The participants of the IRTG apply advanced brain imaging techniques, including structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI and fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), magnetoencephalography (MEG), computational modeling of brain dysfunction, receptor distribution and microstructural, architectonic brain mapping, to study the neurobiological basis of emotion processing in schizophrenia and autism.

The IRTG 1328 represents the only structured doctoral program in Germany that is explicitly focused to the neural basis of two clinically and socio-economically highly relevant psychiatric disorders, schizophrenia and autism.

Gamma oscillations and cognitive binding

Gamma oscillations and cognitive binding was the topic of the talk given by Prof. Jochen Kaiser (Institute of Medical Psychology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main) on 11 September. The high-frequency gamma activity measured with EEG and MEG and its relation to cognitive processes were highlighted and discussed. Furthermore, Prof. Kaiser gave some hints for further research projects.

First RISE students have finished their studies in Aachen

The first three RISE students, Amy Rea, Milan B. Shah, and Aditi Ramakrishnan, have finished their work in Aachen. They report on their research activities.

“From May to July of the summer of 2007, I traveled from Philadelphia, where I attend the University of Pennsylvania, to spend 6 weeks in the RWTH Aachen Psychiatry and Psychotherapy department. I was paired with a PhD student mentor, Janina Seubert, who helped me to formulate and run a short study on olfaction and emotional processing. Although my stay at RWTH ended shortly after I completed collecting data, Janina and I are still in close contact and are co-writing a paper on the study. After such a successful trip, I hope to return to RWTH Aachen in the coming summer.”
Amy Rea, August 2007

“During the summer of 2007, I was fortunate to work on a research project that focused on neural mechanisms of congruent and incongruent multisensory perception of motion with Mikhail Zvyagintsev. Through our efforts, particularly through the usage of EEG and MRI, I learned not only the relevance of our work in a research setting, but also how it may be applied in a clinical setting. I was truly impressed by the breadth of researchers in the Psychiatry and Psychotherapy department at the University of Aachen. One facet of the experience that particularly fascinated me was the focus on research by clinicians, in addition to their everyday activities of examining patients. The collaboration between the University of Aachen and the research center in Jülich enabled me to further my neuroimaging interests. Our study required use of an MR scanner for anatomical purposes, and the research assistants in Jülich were helpful in organizing these visits.”
Milan B. Shah, August 2007

“I spent my summer in Aachen cooperating with Yu-Han Chen on a research project in the IRTG 1328. We designed an MEG study combined with EMG to investigate the time-course of neural activation during active imitation and passive observation of facial expressions. EEG was first applied for a pilot study in preparation for the later MEG study. Here I got a general idea of how to conduct a complete study including designing an experiment, setting up an EEG experiment, and data analysis. This experience has raised my interests in the field of neuroscience. I also enjoyed the multidisciplinary research environment in University Hospital Aachen and Research Center Jülich very much and this influenced my plan for a future research career in neuroscience.”
Aditi Ramakrishnan, September 2007

Electrophysiological Mouse Models of Schizophrenia and Semiannual Antipsychotic Drug Delivery
Monday, 10 September 2007 00:00

On August 28 Steven J. Siegel, Professor of IRTG 1328 and US supervisor of IRTG student Tobias Halene, gave a talk on his absorbing work. The first part of his presentation focused on electrophysiological mouse models of schizophrenia. Prof. Siegel presented findings from event-related potentials (ERPs) in mice and their importance for a better understanding of schizophrenia in humans. The second part of the talk focused on new technologies for antipsychotic medication by using next generation implants for long-term drug delivery. The very well attended talk was warmly welcomed by the auditory and stimulated lively discussions.

Cooperation in research activities

The IRTG 1328 students Miriam Dyck and Evelina Haralanova are working on their research projects in Philadelphia in cooperation with the Brain Behavior Lab of the University of Pennsylvania. Read more about their experiences.

“Together with the people working in the Brain Behavior Lab here in Philadelphia I started a new project investigating the neural correlates of emotional experience in schizophrenia with a new mood induction paradigm. Since this lab has a great expertise in emotion research several discussions took place regarding the precise project plan and design. Now, the paradigm is set and first pilot data are collected. For practical issues, we together decided that I will run the project in Aachen and return afterwards for data analysis and possible follow-up studies. Summarizing, I really appreciate working in this lab and am looking forward to further collaboration in the future.”
Miriam Dyck, August 2007

“Being part of such a large-scale international program I have the feeling that my efforts are well paid off. With the help of the colleagues from BBL (Brain Behavior Lab) I am developing emotional and sensory-motor tests that might be incorporated in the UPenn Computerized Neuropsychological (CNP) Battery. It is satisfying to know that the tests I construct may be used not only in my study, but also in further studies in both Germany and the USA. In addition, together with Ruben Gur we are analyzing PET data and there seem to be promising results.”
Evelina Haralanova, August 2007

Jülich Aachen Research Alliance enhances research on schizophrenia and autism

On August 6, the Rector of the RWTH Aachen University, Prof. Dr. Burkhard Rauhut, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Research Center Jülich, Prof. Dr. Achim Bachem, signed the contract for the foundation of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA). The aim of JARA is to institutionalize the long standing fruitful cooperation of the RWTH Aachen University and the Research Center Jülich. The three starting domains of the cooperation are JARA-BRAIN Translational Brain Medicine (Neuroscience), JARA-FIT Fundamentals of Future Information Technology (Information technology) and JARA-SIM Simulation Sciences (Simulation sciences). Further domains will follow before long.

The aim of JARA-BRAIN is to constitute a leading center for translational medicine in psychiatric and neurological research in Europe by deepening the well established cooperation of Aachen and Jülich. This cooperation provides unique opportunities for researchers by combining clinical practice and research work, supported by the most advanced neuroscience technologies. For the students of the IRTG 1328 the foundation of JARA-BRAIN offers excellent research opportunities and facilitates graduation supervised by researchers of both institutes.

Please read more about JARA-BRAIN on the official website.


JARA contract

NeuroNRW scholarships for members of IRTG 1328

Mikhail Zvyagintsev and Dr. Susanne Leiberg (Postdoctoral Fellow), members of the IRTG 1328, have been awarded a scholarship from the research network NeuroNRW. The aims of the NeuroNRW are the advancement of interdisciplinary projects and of young researchers, the networking of various neuroscience institutes in North Rhine-Westphalia, and the utilization of synergies. NeuroNRW provides international scholarships for talented young researchers. Susanne Leiberg has just started her work at the SwartzCenter for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California-San Diego. She is working in the lab of Professor Scott Makeig, one of the world’s leading experts in EEG and MEG research.Her study focus is the application of and the development of new methods, including Independent Component Analysis and Time Frequency Analysis. Mikhail Zvyagintsev will start his work in the lab of Professor Tim Roberts (University of Pennsylvania) in September. He will focus on MEG research.

Please read more about NeuroNRW on the official website.


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