Prof. Dr. Martin BrÜne, LWL University Hospital, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine
My current main research interest is Social Cognition in patients with schizophrenia. Social cognition involves, among other abilities, the recognition of affect from facial pictures and the ability to correctly infer the mental states of other individuals (“theory of mind”). The latter is tested using cartoon stories, where subjects have to describe the intentions, thoughts and feelings of the story characters.
After a period of Social Cognition research into all stages of the schizophrenic disorder, we now increasingly focus on prodromal stages and first-episode patients to study whether Social Cognition deficits may predict the course and outcome better than “non-social” cognitive variables. The Social Cognition test battery is applied both neuropsychologically and in a functional brain imaging design (the latter in collaboration with the group of Prof. Martin Tegenthoff at Bergmannsheil Hospital in Bochum). Our group is also interested in how impaired Social Cognition in patients with schizophrenia is associated with abnormal social behaviour, including non-verbal communication.
A broader interdisciplinary approach to the study of psychopathology from an evolutionary perspective includes research into psychopathological symptoms and syndromes in nonhuman primates. We aim at identifying adverse conditions in chimpanzees during infancy causing severe behavioural abnormalities in juveniles and adults such as stereotypies, coprophagy, automutilation and a broad spectrum of symptoms relating to abnormal anxiety and depression. Clinical characterisation of these condition and response to treatment will be addressed.