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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.

 
Writing abstracts of scientific research papers

On 31 July, Claire Ryalls (Aachen University of Applied Sciences) gave a workshop on writing abstracts of scientific research papers. The workshop included theoretical background as well as advices for practical implementation. The students liked the topic and got involved in working on the presented examples.

 
IRTG 1328 welcomes Prof. Norman Badler
Tuesday, 24 July 2007 00:00

The IRTG 1328 welcomes Professor Norman I. Badler, Ph.D. ( School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania) as its newest member. Norman Badler is a Professor at the Computer and Information Science Department and Director of the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation. He will be the US supervisor of IRTG 1328 student Dominik Sibbing.

 
Cognitive Control: Hot and cool aspects

“Hot” and “cool” aspects of cognitive control was the topic of the talk given by Professor Siegfried Gauggel (Department of Medical Psychology, School of Medicine, RWTH Aachen University) on 17 July. He presented his work, including past and planned experiments, making use of behavioral data as well as modern sophisticated techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation.

 
Functional insights into apraxia

On 03 July, PD Dr. Peter Weiss-Blankenhorn (Research Center Jülich) gave a talk on his work on apraxia. The absorbing presentation gave an introduction into the field of apraxia and demonstrated behavioural and biological findings. The IRTG students seized the opportunity and made many interesting contributions to the following discussion.

 
IRTG 1328 activities at UPenn

Since four IRTG 1328 students are currently working at the University of Pennsylvania, there is an intensive exchange of students and professors in the weekly meetings. Furthermore, the young scientists are working on various challenging research projects. The students report on their activities.

“We (IRTG students and participating researchers) meet once a week after lab hours. This is a good opportunity to keep others posted about projects, research, and to get to know each other... Meetings are usually held on Tuesdays or Wednesdays; interested students and researchers are always welcome. Hope to see you there!”
Tobias Halene, June 2007

“My research project in UPenn is based in the MEG lab in Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania. The project is focusing on studying the time course of emotional processing, and using synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) to localize the brain activity. The results analyzed using SAM and Magnetic Field Tomography (MFT) will be compared. I am also interested in studying the functional connectivity of emotional processing using multisensory paradigm combined emotional faces with emotional prosody. SAM will be used to study the functional connectivity between visual and auditory cortex in congruent and incongruent emotional conditions.”
Yu-Han Chen, June 2007

"I am at UPenn for 2 months now and I really like it a lot. I am working in the Brain Behavior Lab with Ruben Gur and James Loughead. I am very impressed by the support, feedback and motivation you receive from the folks here in the lab. During weekly meetings you can profit a lot from their expertise in emotion research. At the moment I am developing a new paradigm for mood induction in schizophrenia which I am going to pilot over the summer. Additionally, I have the opportunity to analyse fMRI data and look for differences in brain activation in response to posed and evoked emotional expressions."
Miriam Dyck, June 2007

“So far, my stay at UPenn is quite efficient. Everything is going on very smoothly and I am constantly learning new things that are essential for my project.

  • I have had personal meetings with most of the people in the lab and received valuable advice and support.
  • There are several weekly group meetings that are very interesting and helpful. I really like these meetings, because they are very practically oriented and most of the time the ongoing projects are discussed, with all the arising problems and things that should be considered together with the possible solutions.
  • There have been several tutorials for creating tests in Flash. These tutorials were very important for me, because I am using Flash for the construction of the experimental tasks.
  • There was an opportunity to discuss the tests I am preparing in 3 different group meetings. I received constructive feedback and suggestions for all the details, regarding the tests.

After the final version of the test battery is ready (hopefully comparatively soon), I would start with pilot studies.

Our weekly group meetings at the Brain Behavior Lab:

  • Adolescent meeting (Tuesdays, 11:30 a.m.)
  • Computer meeting (Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m.)
  • Clinical meeting (Wednesdays, 12:00 p.m.)
  • Emotion meeting (Wednesdays, 3:00 p.m.)
  • fMRI meeting (Thursdays, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Neuropsychological (XNP) meeting (Fridays, 9:30 a.m.) ”

Evelina Haralanova, June 2007

 

UPenn students
(from left to right: Tobias Halene, Jeff Valdez, Miriam Dyck, Evelina Haralanova, Kosha Ruparel, Amy Pinkham, Noah Sasson, Jens Hansen)

 
New insights from cognitive psychology

On 19 June, Professor Iring Koch (Department of Psychology) presented his work on inhibition in task control. His talk gave insight into a fascinating topic of cognitive psychology and gave lots of suggestions for further research in the field of task switching and inhibition. The presentation stimulated lots of discussions in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

 
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