Brain Café - 2016


"Graded Balance": A way out of the Vicious Circle of Chronic Back Pain

Prof. Dr. Monika Hasenbring, Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, Faculty of Medicine, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Almost everyone has experienced it at least once in their lives: severe acute back pain, half of the population suffers from discomfort that sometimes lasts for months, in 10% of the cases the pain becomes a chronic affliction. Psychological factors such as enduring negative stress in everyday life and our pain-coping mechanisms play a major part in the transition from acute to chronic pain. Negative stress influences our nervous system: our chemical messengers become more receptive to pain, stronger pain in turn increases stress levels: a vicious circle. "Graded Balance" is a step-by-step concept of diagnostics and therapy. It integrates psychological mechanisms into medical therapy, physiotherapeutic applications, as well as psychological pain therapy. Its objective is to prevent pain from becoming chronic at an early stage und effectively alleviate chronic pain.

Download audio podcast (127 MB | 55:37 min) (in German)


How Speakers find the right word at the right time: Word finding and Word finding Difficulties in Healthy and Aphasic Speakers

Prof Dr. Eva Belke, Empirical and Simulative Psycholinguistics, Institute for Linguistics, Faculty of Philology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

When speakers talk about things in the world, they must retrieve the correct denotation for these things from their mental lexicon, the inventory of their known words and meanings. This is not an easy task, because there is usually no link between an object's appearance and properties and its name – for example, why is a hat a "hat" and why call a bag a "bag"? Professor Eva Belke will show how healthy speakers can bridge the gap between things and their names in a way that allows for a quick and largely faultless retrieval of words. Prof. Belke will conclude with diagnostic and therapeutic implications, which result from the findings discussed in her lecture.

Download audio podcast (42 MB | 46:19 min) (in German)


Actions speak louder than words: Neurobiological findings in connection with Paedophilla

Prof. Dr. Boris Schiffer, Head of Therapy, LWL Maßregevollzugsanstalt Herne, Faculty of Medicine,
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

How, where, and when (deviating) sexual interests and preference patterns develop and become manifest in the brain and what causes these interests to be put into action is the subject of heated scientific debate. Unfortunately, very little empirical research has been conducted in this area. The lecture will summarise current knowledge in regards to these questions and present findings of a DFG-funded research project, as well as results of a research association funded by the Germany's Federal Ministery of Education and Research (, which has performed an in-depth neurobiological categorisation of more than 150 paedophiliac men.

Download audio podcast (41 MB | 44:53 min) (in German)


The Dress code in our Brain: What a striped dress which became a worldwide internet phenomenon has to do with neuroscience in Bochum

Anne Golisch, Neurological University Clinic, BG-Kliniken Bergmannsheil Bochum

In February 2015 a picture of a striped dress became known worldwide and sparked a global debate: some people saw a black and blue dress, others perceived it as gold and white. What colour did the dress really have? And how is it possible that a single dress can elicit such contrary colour perceptions?

Neuroscientists at the Bergmannsheil University Clinic in Bochum have tried to answer these questions and were able to show that different brain activations are responsible for the optical illusion. This phenomenon may help us broaden our understanding of visual processing.

Download audio podcast (27 MB | 30:14 min) (in German)


Stressed? No need to lose your temper! - On the connection between stress and aggression?

Dr. Angelika Dierolf, Department of Cognitive Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Stress, caused by too much work and too little time, is almost allegorical for life in the 21st century. The physical and psychological consequences are manifold – we sleep less, when we are stressed. We feel unwell and under pressure. Often, we become easily irritated and "fly off the handle". Does stress really make us aggressive? The talk will give an overview of how this question can be investigated scientifically, and which are the deciding factors that play a role in the interplay of aggression and stress.

Download audio podcast (40 MB | 43:56 min) (in German)


The Brain sees more than the eye

Prof. Dr. med. Ulf Eysel, Department of Neurophysiology, Medical Faculty, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

The eye is a miracle of nature, in which physical optics and neurons perform tasks that are often compared to a camera. In comparison the eye fares moderately well; only the interaction between eye and brain creates the good pictures we see. The brain improves the eye's mistakes and adapts the visual input to our surroundings. In this way, our internal image of the world is to some extent "better" than the underlying physical "reality". These mechanisms normally result in a trustworthy visual perception that is useful for our behaviour. At the same time, we become susceptible to optical illusions. On the one hand, they are a fun and entertaining phenomenon, on the other, they illustrate vividly why our sense of vision is much more powerful than a "brainless" camera.

Learn more about our visual sense and what optical illusion tell us about it in the Videocast of Prof. Dr. Eysel's talk at the Brain Day 2012:
Download of the video from Brain Day 2012
(in German)


The Significance of the Immune System for Glaucoma

PD Dr. Stefanie Joachim, Experimental Eye Research, University Eye Clinic, Knappschaftskrankenhaus, Bochum

Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. In the course of the disease the ganglion cells in the eye's retina, as well as the fibres in the visual nerve gradually die. The main risk factor for glaucoma is an increased intraocular pressure, but it is by far the only cause of the disease. In some glaucoma patients a change in their autoantibodies has been shown. The "Experimental Eye Research Institute" investigates how the immune system contributes to the development of the disease. Its findings could, in the future, help develop new forms of therapy.

Download audio podcast (35 MB | 38:58 min) (in German)


Do Lefties die earlier? Myths and Facts on Handedness from a Neuroscientific perspective

PD Dr. Sebastian Ocklenburg, Biopsychology, Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

While 90% of the population uses their right hand for most motor tasks, around 10% of the populace is left-handed. Why this is so remains a scientific mystery. Many myths circulate on left-handedness, among them, that left-handed people die earlier than those who are right-handed, or the idea, that artists tend to be left-handed. In this talk, these assumptions will be discussed from a scientific point of view. Furthermore, a short insight into current genetic and neuroscientific research on the development of handedness will be given.

Download audio podcast (28 MB | 30:37 min) (in German)


"Another year older!" – The latest News in age Research

PD Dr. Hubert Dinse, Neural Plasticity Lab, Institut für Neuroinformatik, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

"Everyone wants to grow old, but no one wants to be old" characterises very poignantly the dilemma of aging. What happens to our brain when we grow old? Do nerve cells really die? Does the aging process affect everyone in the same way? What can be done against aging? Recent results of research into aging have given us some interesting and often surprising insights. "Neuroplasticity" plays a pivotal role in these findings. Its possibilities and limits will be discussed in this talk.

Download audio podcast (46 MB | 50:21 min) (in German)