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.

Treatment of PTSD: Evaluation of therapeutic effects

On 5 June, Professor Anke Karl (University of Southampton) presented examples of her absorbing research. Her talk focused on the evaluation of cognitive behavioral therapy effects in PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) patients, more precisely traffic accident victims. The wide range of applied methods included behavioral measures, EEG, Startle, and heart rate, as well as the registration of genetic aspects that might influence PTSD and therapeutic effects. The students honored the fascinating talk with lively discussions.

Student of IRTG 1328 invited for Summer School

IRTG 1328 student Jens Hansen has been invited for the 2007 Integrated Interdisciplinary Training in Computational Neuroscience Summer Program at the University of Pennsylvania from 18 June – 27 July. He will receive a six weeks scholarship for his participation. His work will be advised by Professor Leif Finkel from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania.The goal of the Integrated Interdisciplinary Training is to foster training that integrates experimental and theoretical approaches to understanding neural function.

Winter School 2007 in Philadelphia

The Winter School 2007 of the IRTG 1328 will take place from 29 October – 1 November in Philadelphia, PA. One year after the first Winter School,each IRTG student will present the preliminary results of his or her research and meet with their US supervisors. In addition to scientific exchange, the Winter School aims to enhance international cooperation and German-American friendship. The schedule for the four days includes student talks, supervisor meetings, lab visits, and cultural events.

SPM: Integrating anatomy and function

The SPM Anatomy Toolbox and its opportunities in integrating anatomical and functional data was the topic of the talk given by Dr. Simon Eickhoff (Research Center Jülich) on 15 May. SPM is a MATLAB software package implementing Statistical Parametric Mapping for neuroimaging data. Since functional magnetic resonance imaging is a core part of most IRTG 1328 projects, the talk was highly interesting to the students and was warmly welcomed by the auditory.

First RISE students to arrive at IRTG 1328

On 14 May, Amy Rea from the University of Pennsylvania will be the first of three RISE students of the IRTG 1328 to start her work at RWTH Aachen University Hospital, supervised by IRTG 1328 student Janina Seubert, MSc. Supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the RISE project (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) gives undergraduate students from the United States and Canada the opportunity to gain research experience in Germany under supervision of German doctoral students. RISE provides the unique chance of getting an insight into scientific work and research projects and enhances international cooperation – one of the major aims of the IRTG 1328.

Please read more about the RISE program on the DAAD website.

Understanding emotional prosody

On 24 April, Dr. Thomas Ethofer and Sarah Wiethoff (University of Tübingen) gave a highly interesting talk on their fascinating work. The first part, given by Sarah Wiethoff, focused on bottom-up processes in the comprehension of emotional prosody, whereas the second part by Thomas Ethofer dealt with respective top-down processing. Besides the absorbing results, the researchers vividly illustrated their talk with many examples of stimulus materials.


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