Center for Intervention and Research on adaptive and maladaptive brain Circuits underlying mental health
Meet the C-I-R-C in Our Image Video:
C-I-R-C will become a future site of the German Center for Mental Health
The health of our mind and brain is influenced by many factors, such as genetic predispositions, early childhood experiences and education, social interactions, physical exercise and nutrition, and traumatic and stressful episodes. In addition, global psychosocial challenges like the current pandemic strongly contribute to how we feel, perceive and interact with the world.
At C-I-R-C a unique circuit-driven concept and proven research paradigms at multiple scales enable us to focus on how immune factors, inflammatory processes, and microbiome changes affect our mental health and well-being. We aim to find neural access points in the brain where such factors take action to modify our mood, mind and body response, and where new treatment solutions can arise.
Since the German reunification, the Mid-German region – represented by the federal states of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia – has developed a rich landscape of top-level scientific institutions and extensive research infrastructure in the field of biomedicine with a particular strategic focus on Neuroscience, Inflammation and Ageing research.
Serving as a historical hub of the optics industry, the Mid-German region has a world-leading reputation in bioimaging from nano- to macroscale that we aim to combine with excellence in social/interpersonal interaction research as a key psychological dimension of mental health across all age groups.
In the three university towns of Magdeburg, Jena and Halle, numerous non-university research institutes have been founded and established research partnerships with the universities, and a steadily growing community of start-up businesses is driving translation of research into medical and industrial applications.
Combined forces for a future C-I-R-C
The Mid-German regions of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt join together in the C-I-R-C-entitled endeavour to create a network of joint strategic research on adaptations of neural circuits in mental disorders across all developmental ages and stages of life.
Over the past 30 years the federal states have developed a rich landscape of top-level scientific institutions and extensive research infrastructure in the field of biomedicine with strategic focus on Neuroscience, Inflammation and Ageing research.
C-I-R-C as an internationally competitive biomedical competence-hub is strategically well-placed at the intersection between circuit-driven research and behavioural outcomes.
Our major strengths are:
- Multiscale, multispecies research into brain circuitries underlying maladaptive processes in abnormal social interaction
- Inflammatory processes and their influence on neuroplasticity mechanisms
- A track record of multi-scale bio-imaging method development.
In the C-I-R-C we aim to use this unique and integrative portfolio towards the elucidation of neural access points (NAPs).
We particularly focus on longitudinal profiles of these processes and markers in different time scales. In collaboration with the specific expertise of other future members of the German Center for Mental Health this will ultimately result in novel diagnostic markers and therapeutic interventions.
Prof. Dr. med. Martin WalterPsychiatry and Psychotherapy, JenaMartin Walter, Coordinator of C-I-R-C, is the Director and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry in Jena, Head of the Psychiatric Imaging Group at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg, Head of the Translational Psychiatry Division, University Tübingen, and Director of the Clinical Affective Neuroimaging Laboratory (CANLAB). Previous positions include a research group leadership at the Max Planck Institute for biological cybernetics in Tubingen and international research fellowships and visiting professorships at the Institute for Automation, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, UMDNJ, Neward, Standford, Queensland Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. His clinical focus is on complex depressions, their underlying neurobiology and novel AD treatments. For this research his team develops multimodal medical imaging approaches towards diagnostics and intervention. Current projects include pharmacological augmentation of psychotherapy (CBASP) and neurofeedback as well as imaging based response prediction to ketamine treatment.
Prof. Dr. med. Thomas FrodlPsychiatry and Psychotherapy, MagdeburgThomas Frodl is Professor of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and Director of the University Hospital of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics at the University Hospital RWTH Aachen. His research experience in systemic neuroscience with the use of imaging and neurophysiological methods as well as their combination with genetic, social environmental factors and immunological markers fits very well into the unique DZP landscape. Goals are to investigate the regulation and dysregulation of neuronal circuits in association with the signaling pathways of the stress hormone system, the neurotransmitter systems and the immune system and to identify markers helpful for decision support and therapy monitoring. Moreover, his group develops apps for self-management of depression and to support psychotherapeutic processes, such as apps for cognitive bias modification and combined digital remediation programs with local electric current stimulation. Thematic foci here are prevention, (early) diagnosis and therapy of affective disorders, schizophrenias, trauma sequelae and developmental disorders. In the EU project DeepHealth, the computational group is developing models using Deep Learning to support the diagnosis and therapy of dementia, depression and schizophrenia in the future.
Dr. Dorothea HämmererCognitive Neurology and Dementia Research, MagdeburgDorothea Hämmerer is head of the working group on developmental cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging in dementia at the Institute of Cognitive Neurology and Dementia research at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg. Her major expertise is in developing cognitive paradigms that isolate cognitive functions associated with dopaminergic and noradrenergic modulation as well as in using novel neuroimaging methods that allow to characterize neuromodulatory brain networks in different ages or patient groups. She is also co-founder of the Magdeburg meeting on imaging the noradrenergic system. She will contribute to translational circuit imaging and to identifying novel neural access points in neuromodulatory brain systems.
Prof. Dr. Kristine KrugSensory Physiology, MagdeburgKristine Krug heads the Department of Sensory Physiology in the Institute of Biology and is an external scientific member at the Leibniz-Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg. She runs a research programme investigating the neural circuits underlying perception and decision-making in humans and monkeys. Her major expertise lies in directly linking neural circuits from single neurons in monkeys to cognitive behaviour across primates, both in health and disease. Utilising neural activity manipulation inside the high-field scanners at Magdeburg, she will contribute to the exploration of neural access points for psychiatric disease intervention and collaborate on the translation of those findings to patients.
Prof. Dr. Volkmar LeßmannInstitute of Physiology, MagdeburgVolkmar Leßmann is the Director of the Institute of Physiology at the Medical Faculty of the Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg. His research is focussed on molecular and cellular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in health and disease. Using combined electrophysiological and advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques, his group investigates how neuromodulatory transmitters like dopamine and neurotrophins like BDNF shape synaptic transmission in neuronal circuits of the mouse hippocampus and amygdala, and how this affects learning in vivo. In collaboration with Psychiatrists, Neurologists, and Sports scientists from the University Clinics of Magdeburg and Jena, his team further investigates the role of BDNF as a biomarker in patients of major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia and dementia. Together with the group of Frank Ohl from the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology Magdeburg, his research in the DZPG addresses optogenetically driven BDNF regulation of neuronal access points in maladapted cortico-hippocampal circuits that are involved in MDD and fear learning.
Dr. Carolin LiggesChild and Adolescent Psychiatry, JenaCarolin Ligges leads the research group "Neurophysiology" at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy. In addition, she is the head of the department's neurophysiology lab as well as the head of the research groups "Neurofeedback" and "TransGender". Her major expertise is in the investigation of neurobiological correlates of child psychiatric disorders (especially dyslexia) as well as the development of methods for the analysis of time-varying multivariate neural network activity. She will collaborate with Max Stenner (Magdeburg) to investigate the phenomenology of compulsive action, and with Kerstin Krauel and Katharina Rufener (Magdeburg) to investigate the neurophysiology and transcranial electrical stimulation of dyslexia.
Dr. Janelle PakanNeural Circuits & Network Dynamics, MagdeburgJanelle Pakan is head of the Neural Circuits & Network Dynamics research group funded by the Center for Behavioural Brain Sciences at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg. Her research is focused on functional neural circuits that underly the transformation of sensory information to behavioural output in both health and disease states. She utilizes advanced two-photon imaging in behaving mice in combination with virtual environments and functional neuroanatomical techniques to investigate cell-type specific adaptive plasticity in sensory systems due to behavioural modification. Through ongoing collaborations with both local and international partners, her research also directly relates behavioural readouts with neuronal activity across multiple scales in both humans and animal models – an important aspect of translational circuit imaging in psychiatric conditions.
Prof. Dr. Dr. Ronny RedlichBiological and Clinical Psychology, HalleRonny Redlich is chair of the department of biological and clinical psychology and head of the outpatient unit at the University of Halle. Furthermore, he is head of the Prevention, Intervention and Neuroimaging group at the Department of Mental Health, University of Münster. He has extensive experience in structural and functional imaging as well as machine learning techniques. The key objectives of his research include (a) neurobiological mechanisms of specific and unspecific treatments (b) the discovery of patient-biotypes and the development of individual prediction models based on neurobiological and clinical data, and (c) the development and evaluation of innovative psychotherapeutic interventions and prevention strategies. Further research areas include imaging genetics and neurobiological child and adolescent psychology.
Dr. phil. Katharina RufenerNeuropsychology, MagdeburgKatharina Rufener is Principal Investigator at the Neuropsychology Section, Department of Neurology Magdeburg. She runs a research project on the effects of transcranial electrical stimulation in children and adolescents diagnosed with developmental dyslexia. Here, she establishes an intervention that can be carried out by the patients and their caregivers independently at home. In addition, she is interested in electrophysiological biomarkers in dyslexia and their potential as diagnostic criteria. Her major expertise is in the area of non-invasive brain stimulation of the human auditory system, including speech and language processing. She will collaborate with Kerstin Krauel in Magdeburg and Carolin Ligges in Jena to investigate the neurophysiology and transcranial electrical stimulation of dyslexia.
Prof. Dr. med. Stefanie SchreiberNeurology, MadgeburgStefanie Schreiber is a senior neurologist at the department of neurology at the Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg and leader of the research group on small vessel disease (CSVD) and vascular aging. Her group studies the pathological cascade of CSVD in an animal model, using immunohistochemistry, 2-photon-microscopy and behavioral testing, as well as in large multimodal human cohort-studies applying ultra-high resolution 7T MRI, PET, lifestyle, cognitive testing and advanced biomarker research. The work is focused on the interplay and the possible relationship between small vessel wall damage, i.e. blood-brain barrier breakdown, and the accumulation of pathological proteins and the consequent increase in the risk for intracerebral hemorrhages, ischemic stroke and (vascular) dementia as well as for more subtle impairments like personality alterations, depression and avolition. Within the scope of her contribution to CRC 1436 the effects of training on the aged vasculature will be investigated to illuminate potential avenues for therapy and prevention.
Prof. Dr. Constanze SeidenbecherSynapse-Brain-Cognition, MagdeburgConstanze Seidenbecher is a molecular neuroscientist and head of the Synapse-Brain-Cognition group in the Behavioral Neurology department at LIN Magdeburg. She also heads the LIN Science Management & Public Outreach office and the Commission for Ethics in Security-Related Research. Her research is focused on synaptic molecules and the perisynaptic extracellular matrix of the brain as determinants of neural and homeostatic plasticity. She is council member of the International Society for Neurochemistry and chair of the ISN Career Development committee and will help to structure career support measures for young scientists within C-I-R-C.
PD Dr. Gerd WagnerPsychiatry and Psychotherapy, JenaGerd Wagner leads the research group "Suicidology" at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and is head of the Network for Suicide Prevention in Thuringia (NeST). His research focuses on the identification of specific markers associated with suicidal behavior using functional and structural brain imaging as well as conducting neuropsychological experiments in suicide attempters. Moreover, his NeST group is implementing a series of suicide prevention strategies. It includes destigmatization of suicide, e.g. by means of press campaigns, public events as well as by qualifying potential gatekeepers. He is also developing and implementing specific psychotherapeutic treatment programs for patients after a suicide attempt to prevent future attempts.
- Prof. Dr. med. Martin Walter
- Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Frodl
- Dr. Dorothea Hämmerer
- Prof. Dr. Kristine Krug
- Prof. Dr. Volkmar Leßmann
- Dr. Carolin Ligges
- Dr. Janelle Pakan
- Prof. Dr. Dr. Ronny Redlich
- Dr. phil. Katharina Rufener
- Prof. Dr. med. Stefanie Schreiber
- Prof. Dr. Constanze Seidenbecher
- PD Dr. Gerd Wagner
A strong and multi-faceted network is essential for success.
Our network of expertise includes the competencies of top-level scientists from Jena, Halle and Magdeburg.
We will built on well-established interdisciplinary networks, both at a structural and bilateral level. This is reflected by highly successful joint research programs that particularly foster interdisciplinarity and exploit the translational potential in mental health research.
A Bird’s Eye View of Our C-I-R-C Sites (Drone Flight)
The C-I-R-C will have a huge impact
Public outreach, consumer, and carer involvement is key to counteract prejudice and negative attitudes against patients with mental health problems and helps to improve compliance and therapeutic outcomes. C-I-R-C outreach programs address all relevant target groups, from the public to patients and their relatives, advocacy groups, practitioners, and healthcare stakeholders.
The C-I-R-C will provide together with multiple local partners substantial benefits to public science, patient care and prevention of mental health problems.
A solid infrastructure is crucial to successful research
The interdisciplinary infrastructure of the C-I-R-C partner sites is ideally set up for achieving our aim of translating circuit-level imaging research into translational benefits for multiple patient groups as well as educational gains for young clinicians.
3D Visualization and 360° Tour of Our Facilities at the Jena Site
Careers with Opportunities
Building a long-term future concept
To do this, it is essential to train scientifically interested physicians as well as clinically inspired and interested natural scientists for joint research projects. Hence, we provide
- Specific Postgraduate Programs (young scientists / early career programs)
- Clinician, Medical Scientist & other advanced career programs
- Measures for gender equality, diversity
- Compatibility of scientific career and family
- Recruitment of excellent, international experts