Prof. Dr. Nadja Freund, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

Nadja Freund

Research Programme:

Psychiatric disorders are often caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental influences. The aim of our work is to model these factors in animals and to investigate the resulting changes in the brain.

A characteristic feature of the brain is that the two cerebral hemispheres take on different tasks. For example, the left hemisphere is specialized in understanding and generating language, while the right hemisphere is responsible for recognizing emotions. In patients with psychiatric disorders, this division of tasks is often altered and the two halves of the brain do not work together optimally.

In our rodent models, we investigate how hemisphere specializations develop and what factors are able to influence his specification. Numerous influences during development play a major role in the brain. One example is early life stress. In our animal model, we e.g. use maternal separation to induce early life stress and to investigate the consequences like increased anxiety or depressive-like behavior later in life.

Another influencing factor early in life that we investigate, is the immune response of the mother during pregnancy. Furthermore, pharmacological manipulation and the use of lentiviruses are used to generate our animal models for, among others, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. The animal models imitate the possible changes that occur in the brain of patients or try to identify the causes that lead to the disease.

With the animal models used in our group we aim to better understand psychiatric disorders. Specific behaviors, brain regions involved and corresponding therapy options can be examined. Our goal is to contribute to the development of better treatment options, improved diagnostic criteria and early detection methods for psychiatric disorders.