The IKND investigates the mechanisms of higher cognitive brain functions such as memory, motivation, targeting, decision making and behavioral control. A particular focus is on the investigation of disorders of these brain functions in old age and neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson's disease.
Memory functions are particularly early affected in dementia. In dementia of the Alzheimer type (AD) the episodic memory, i.e. the ability to remember personally experienced events, is already limited in its early stages. However, slight impairments in episodic memory are often also found in healthy elderly people.
In recent years, functional imaging by magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electrical recording (EEG) have provided new insights into the neuroanatomical organization of these memory functions, which are directly relevant for the development of preventive and therapeutic strategies in dementia. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenalin, serotonin and acetylcholine play an important role. These are not only important for the regulation of higher brain functions, they are also strongly affected by neurodegenerative processes. At the IKND, innovative functional and structural imaging methods and the analysis of genetic variations are used to investigate how these neurotransmitters regulate brain functions and the effects of their disorders.
Research results of the IKND indicate, for example, that the neurotransmitter dopamine improves the long-term memory for new events and has motivational activating effects on mobility. Dopamine combines the motivational aspects of reward expectation with novelty and thus stimulates exploratory behavior of new environments, from today's perspective an important driving mechanism for brain plasticity in old age. Functional and structural imaging studies show that degenerative processes of dopamine-producing brain regions are also associated with memory problems in healthy elderly people. Age-related degeneration of these regions therefore has negative effects on long-term memory and on the motivation to explore new things. This has consequences for the prevention of memory loss in old age.
Another focus of research at the IKND is the decoding of brain activity on the basis of electromagnetic brain function data. Using mathematical decoding methods, IKND researchers have succeeded in detecting the "reactivation" of memory traces.
If you are interested in a Bachelor/Master thesis or doctorate
please ask for more information:
- Dr. Florian Heinzmann:
or by telephone under +49 391 67-245 43