Ayça Akan
(lab rotation, master student at Berlin School of Mind and Brain)

  • My main research interest is cognitive neuroscience, and I highly value interdisciplinary research that connects philosophy, social perspectives, human biology and human psyche.

  • Currently I am conducting a systematic review on how lifestyle interventions for obesity affects human gut microbiome under OMEGA Lab (pre-registered protocol).

  • Furthermore, I am a passionate advocate for good scientific practices, and currently conducting a meta research study on Western Blot visualization practices under Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and writing a paper on replication crisis in neuroscience under Boğaziçi University, Turkey.

Nazife Ayyildiz
(Ph.D. in Neuroscience, Guest Post-doc)

  • I am generally interested in life-span changes, multi-modal imaging, and numerical functions of the human brain
  • My current project is on investigating the relationships between retina and brain morphometry in humans (in cooperation with LIFE-Adult Project)

Frauke Beyer
(Postdoctoral researcher in cooperation with the University of Bordeaux)

  • Since my PhD, I have been interested in lifestyle and cardiovascular factors that influence brain ageing and cognitive decline and the mechanisms involved. I am particularly interested in cerebral small vessel disease, as it is thought to underlie both stroke and dementia.
  • My current project in collaboration with the SHIVA consortium at the University of Bordeaux investigates whether cerebrovascular changes can predict dementia in a cohort of elderly subjects.
  •  In my work, I make use of large datasets such as the LIFE-Adult study, which include magnetic resonance imaging, cognitive questionnaires and diverse measures of lifestyle. I also contribute to intervention studies that investigate the influence of diet (Mediterranean diet, polyphenols) or combined interventions ( on cognition and brain measures

Lina Eisenberg
(Medical Student at University of Leipzig)

  • My overall research interest is the role of cholinergic signaling in systemic inflammation and its implications on the diseased brain.

  • Therefore I am studying how the cholinergic tone and its molecular regulators such as micro-RNAs and single nucleotide polymorphisms impact these conditions with a focus on sex- and age-related differences.

  • To study this, my project combines clinical, genetic and brain-imaging data of the population-based LIFE study cohort.

  • I am working in a collaboration project together with the Soreq Lab of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Konrad Jakob Endres

  • Medical student at Leipzig University working on my medical doctoral thesis at OMEGA Lab.

  • Interested in the interaction between psychiatric disorders like depression and obesity.

  • Furthermore I am investigating the role of the hormone ghrelin in the development of depression.

Silke Friedrich

  • Project Coordinator SFB1052 - Mechanisms of Obesity, Project A1: Targeting neurobehavioral determinants of obesity

  • Study assistant in OMEGA Lab - collaboration in the projects:

    • MiFood study: "Effects of microbiome-changing interventions on food decision-making and the gut-brain axis in obesity".

    • Long Covid II study (in cooperation with the LIFE-Adult ambulance)

    • Research into the long-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection (in cooperation with the Day Clinic for Cognitive Neurology at the University of Leipzig)

    • MetaSurg-Brain- Bariatric Surgery and Brain (in cooperation with the University Hospital of Leipzig)

Simon M. Hofmann
(M.Sc. Brain and Cognitive Sciences)

  • Explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) for neuroscience

  • Application of deep (recurrent) neural networks as signal processing tool for MRI and EEG (neural decoding), as well as model of cognitive processes in agent-environment interactions (encoding).

  • Development of ecological valid research paradigms that incorporate naturalistic, multi-sensory stimuli (e.g., in VR) to trigger natural responses in behavior and in the brain.

Laurenz Lammer
(medical student at University Leipzig)

  • I am interested in the application of concepts from social epidemiology to the study of neurological diseases.

  • My research focuses on social isolation as a potentially modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

  • I am intrigued by the challenges and opportunities of the use of Bayesian statistics for Neuroscience and Epidemiology.

  • Moreover, I am interested in the practical implementation of concepts from Philosophy of Science and Medicine to improve research practices.

Evelyn Medawar
(Dual M.Sc. Brain and Mind Sciences)

  • I study the effects of an unconventional diet on food decision-making, brain structure and other cognitive processes implicated in choosing between food items. It has been shown that a change in diet affects our intestinal microbial composition and other metabolic markers, however, cognitive effects have not been fully investigated yet. We suggest that unconventional eaters manifest changes not only on a biological but also on a cognitive level (i.e. more self-control). We are interested in whether gut microbiotic status is predictive of brain activity in regions related to the adoption of an unconventional diet.

  • To do this, we are running multiple studies and analysing data in the context of meal choices a) in cafeterias b) in a smartphone environment c) in a dietary intervention study and d) cross-sectionally in the LIFE-Adult-Study.

  • Furthermore, I am interested in quality control of longitudinal studies and am collaborating in a MR scanner comparison study on T1-weighted images.

Marie Meemken
(researcher, Dr. rer. medic.)

  • After my Masters studies in Neurocognitive Psychology, I moved to Leipzig for a PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the IRTC ‘AdiposityDiseases’ at the University Medical Center. Here, I focussed on cognitive measures of learning and reinforcement processing in people with overweight or obesity. I am fascinated with the different perspectives on human health and behaviour. As part of the Leipzig Research Centre for Civilization Diseases (LIFE), I now investigate the pathophysiology of Long COVID symptoms using MR imaging.

Anna Prunell
(PhD student, Guest researcher)

  • During my research stay, I investigate the link between genotypes associated with obesity and structural brain connectivity in children.

Ronja Thieleking
(M.Sc. Biophysics)

  • I am mainly interested in the effects of memory and attention on and the role of the hippocampus and amygdala in making food choices and thereby energy regulation and body weight status. To investigate these effects, we are running a dietary intervention study with functional, structural and diffusion-weighted MR imaging. Body weight status in general and obesity in specific are important factors for cognitive functions and brain structure - therefore, we further evaluate effects of bariatric surgery on these two domains.

  • Following more physics-related interests, I investigate the impact of scanner, sequence and preprocessing pipeline on diffusion imaging outcome parameters. To do so, I evaluate quantitative differences in the images of identical diffusion-weighted sequences collected on two Siemens 3T Magnetom MRI scanners, Verio and Skyra. This way, we want to find measures for the comparability of the scans.   

  • Working with diffusion-weighted images, I am also comparing different artefact removal tools on a quantitative level. The aim is to integrate a tool to address the Gibbs Ringing artefact in the standard preprocessing pipeline of diffusion-weighted images.

Emmy Töws
(Medical Student at University Leipzig)

  • Metabolic disorders related to higher cardiovascular risk have become more prevalent in countries following Western lifestyle. These health problems have been associated with increased systemic inflammation parameters in the blood serum (Libby et al., 2009; Pradhan et al., 2001). In my project I aim to investigate if a high-fiber diet for a period of two weeks shows beneficial effects with respect to reducing inflammatory processes in the systemic circulation as well as in the mediobasal hypothalamus as opposed to a placebo intervention.

Meghedi Vartanian
(M.Sc. Clinical Psychology)

  • I completed my B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Clinical Psychology  at University of Tehran. Currently,  I‘m a PhD student at IMPRS NeuroCom and doing my project in OMEGA lab at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in collaboration with Day Clinic for Cognitive Neurology, University of Leipzig Medical Center, Leipzig, Germany.

  • In my PhD project (MIFOOD), I focus on the effects of neurocognitive behavioral lifestyle (NCBL) and dietary fiber interventions on food decision-making and the gut-brain axis in obesity with the intention of developing novel preventive and therapeutic options to combat unhealthy weight gain in our society.


Yee Teng Lee (Lilian)

  • I am a PhD student in OMEGA Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.

  • I am interested in the relationship between obesity and brain aging. My research focuses on the role of the bidirectional gut-brain axis and its underlying microbial mechanism that regulates obesity and affects brain structures and functions.

  • Besides, I am also working on a systematic review on how lifestyle interventions targeting obesity affects gut microbiome.

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