Prof. Dr. Michael Nitsche, Dept. Psychology and Neurosciences, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors

Michael Nitsche

Research Programme:

Modern working conditions are highly demanding with regard to cognitive processing, including life-long learning, flexibility of behavioural control, and affective/emotional components. The Department Psychology and Neurosciences aims to understand the physiological and psychological underpinnings of these performance-relevant processes, from basic research to application in real-life work scenarios. Improved understanding of factors which influence the respective processes will help to identify, and implement beneficial and to avoid aversive work conditions on a rational basis, help to optimize performance, and avoid work-related diseases. The research projects of the Department are therefore organized along the following topics, which are highly interconnected:

Determinants and modulators of cortical activity, and neuroplasticity in the human brain.

Cortical activity and neuroplasticity are important foundations of psychological and behavioural processes, including learning and memory formation. Newly developed neurophysiological tools allow the controlled induction of respective processes, and the systematic evaluation of intrinsic and environmental factors which affect these. Important aspects of this research topic are (1) to enhance our understanding of mechanisms of plasticity in the human brain, including development of new intervention protocols, and (2) to identify intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which affect cerebral activity, and neuroplasticity, i.e. neuromodulation.

Physiological basis, and psychological mechanisms of cognition, motor functions, and emotion.

This topic encompasses the identification of the physiological and psychological determinants of cognitive, motor, and emotional processes. Specific emphasis is dedicated to the topics flexible control of behaviour, motor functions, extinction learning, and neuromodulatory impact on learning, memory, and attention.

Physiology-based improvement of work conditions.

Knowledge about the impact of neuromodulatory processes on human brain physiology, cognition, motor system, and emotion will help to define health- and performance-promoting work conditions. The project group Flexible Control of Behaviour identifies conditions which improve the benefit, and reduce the cost of self-control. The project group Neuromodulation will explore interventions which help to overcome aging-related decline of functions, including learning and memory formation, as well as develop conditions which are suited to improve performance and well-being, and transfer these to realistic work conditions.

These topics including their translational aspects are explored by the project groups Neuromodulation and Flexible Control of Behaviour. The Department furthermore participates in the network group "Aging".