Brain Café - 2011


Mental Timetraveling: When the brain dreams of christmas

Dr. Julia Weiler, Neuropsychology, Faculty of Psychology

Timetraveling is more than science-fiction. Our brain carries us to other times and to other places all the time. For example we can recall last Christmas vividly and we also have a colourful picture of our next Christmas. Recent research shows that in the brain there are similar regions active when we look in the past or in the future. How does the brain manage then to distinguish between past and future thoughts? Examinations with functional magnetic resonance therapy as well as with people who suffered a stroke give first answers to these questions.

Download audio podcast (86 MB | 37:25 min) (in German)


How does the brain control our reactions?

Dr. Christian Beste, Biopsychology, Faculty of Psychology

During our normal life we are always caught in a cross-fire of sensory stimulations. Going shopping we might see a nice jacket in a shop window, while at the end of the road a neighbour emerges waving to us. At the same time we realize how hungry we are and that there lies a smell of fresh bread in the air. How does our brain decide which stimuli are important for us and how we should react? Dr. Christian Beste's lecture gives answers to these questions and explains which tricks can be used to choose the right stimulus and if some people are better than others in doing this.


The discovery of slowness: A concept of self-organisation in the brain

Prof. Dr. Laurenz Wiskott, Institut for Neuroinformatics

The human brain is so complex and rich in details, that it can't be only genetically predetermined. Furthermore, this awesome adaptability indicates its ability to self-structure by learning. To understand those processes of self-organisation means a great challenge to both experimental and theoretical scientists. The latter try to simulate these processes by mathematical models. In his lecture, Prof. Laurenz Wiskott presents slowness as one possible concept of self-organisation and gives several examples of it.


How to see? Vision processing and vision problems

Dr. Oliver Höffken, M.A., Neurological University Hospital Bergmannsheil, Faculty of Medicine

Vision is a matter of course. But the information processing of the light, falling into the eye, to the perception and recognition of an object is very complex and it evolves continuously from birth to adulthood. The importance of the brain for vision reveals when damages in the nervous system occur. In his lecture, Dr. Oliver Höffken demonstrates the various stages of vision from the transformation of light into nerve impulses in the eye to the information processing in the vision centers of the brain. On the basis of disease examples, he explains the appearance of typical vision disorders, which manifest themselves by certain disorders of the brain.

Download audio podcast (116 MB | 50:28 min) (in German)


From crossword puzzles to making coffee: The organization of semantic knowledge in the brain

Dr. Christian Bellebaum, Neuropsychology, Faculty of Psychology

Our memory is very powerful. In addition to vivid recollections of personal experiences we have general knowledge about the world, the so-called "semantic knowledge". It is being acquired during the entire life and it includes, for example, knowledge about the appearance and function of organisms and objects. Neuroscientists still argue about how this knowledge is organized in the brain. Studies with brain-damaged patients in the 1980s had shown that knowledge of "animate" (animals, plants) and "inanimate" things (tools) can get lost separately. On the basis of current findings and theories, Dr. Christian Bellebaum explores the question whether the “semantic knowledge” can be organized in such a "category-specific" way.

Download audio podcast (128 MB | 55:46 min) (in German)


The brain under electrical power: Modern methods of artificial brain stimulation

Prof. Dr. Klaus Funke, Neurophysiology, Faculty of Medicine

Our brain is constantly under electrical power, as neurons process information by means of electrical signals. Therefore, it is also possible to excite nerve cells artificially by electricity. When you think of brain stimulation, perhaps you imagine the electric shocks that Jack Nicholson had to suffer in the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“. However, this form is only used as a last choice for very heavy, pharmacologically not treatable psychosis. In his presentation, Prof. Dr. Klaus Funke gives an overview of various methods of brain stimulation from implanted electrodes to electromagnetic stimulation and explains their medical importance.

Download audio podcast (115 MB | 49:20 min) (in German)


Fear in the brain: Effects of stress hormones and sex

Dr. Christian Merz, Cognitive Psychology, Faculty of Psychology

Everybody is afraid of certain things in life; these can be spiders or tall height. Fear of specific objects or situations can be learned unconsciously, e.g. by the so-called classical conditioning that is known as the Pavlovian reflex. In extreme cases, such fear learning processes lead to mental illness that occurs differently often in men and women. For example, women suffer more often from anxiety disorders – but why? Psychologist Christian Merz explains in his lecture "Fear in the brain: influence of stress hormones and sex", what the functional magnetic resonance imaging reveals on the relationship of fear, stress and gender.

Download audio podcast (105 MB | 45:53 min) (in German)


Our brain: Structure and function

Dr. Nora Prochnow, Institute of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine


Stroke: Effects in the brain

PD Dr.  Boris Suchan, Neuropsychology, Faculty of Psychology

Our memory is very powerful. Therefore diseases such as stroke can have very different consequences depending on the affected brain region. It can result in paralysis of certain body areas, attention deficits or memory problems. In his presentation "Stroke: Effects in the brain” Dr. Boris Suchan takes the audience on a journey through the brain by explaining the functions of different brain regions and describing the consequences of stroke in these areas. He also presents famous patients, who cooperated with neuroscientists and thereby contributed a fundamental understanding of memory processes and the seat of personality in the brain.