Language, empathy, attention - as different as these abilities may be, one brain region is involved in all these processes: The inferior parietal lobe (IPL). Yet until now it was unclear exactly what role it plays in these profoundly human abilities. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have now shown that the IPL comes into play when we need to interpret our environment. more

So far, he has done a great deal of work on stem cells and zebrafish, but now he is devoting himself to neurons and the brain: Nico Scherf, head of the newly founded methodological group "Neural Data Science and Statistical Computing" at the MPI CBS, is certain that many basic principles of embryonic development in these animals are also reflected in complex structures such as the brain. "Understanding such self-organizations from simple to complex is incredibly interesting." A conversation about regular patterns in nature, the communication of ants and access to ever larger amounts of data. more

Over 70 million deaf people around the world use one of more than 200 different sign languages as their preferred form of communication. Although they access similar structures in the brain as spoken languages, it has been difficult to identify the brain regions that process both forms of language equally. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) have now discovered in a meta-analysis that Broca's area in the left hemisphere of the brain, which has already been shown to be the central hub for spoken languages, is also the crucial brain region for sign languages. This is where the grammar and meaning of language are processed, regardless of whether it is spoken or signed language. This shows that our brain is generally specialized in processing linguistic information. Whether this information is spoken or signed seems to be of secondary importance. more

Being able to feel empathy and to take in the other person's perspective – these are two abilities through which we understand what is going on in the other person's mind. Although both terms are in constant circulation, it is still unclear what exactly they describe and constitute. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, together with colleagues from Oxford University and other institutions, have now developed a model which explains what empathy and perspective taking are made of. They show that it is not one specific skill that enables us to put ourselves in another person's shoes. These skills are made up of many individual factors that vary according to the situation. more

Women are the majority of patients who are prescribed antidepressants – two out of three patients who have been prescribed a drug for depression are female. Some of these antidepressants are thought to help with motor recovery after stroke. While age-specific stroke rates are higher in men, women experience more frequent and more severe stroke events, and are less likely to recover. But in many pre-clinical trials it is still mainly male participants who are tested, although there is clear evidence of sex-specific differences in disease and the response to medication. In order to bridge this gap neuroscientists around Julia Sacher from the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have tested 64 healthy women, to see how their brain reacts to the combination of motor learning while taking a common antidepressant. Surprisingly, and in contrast to previous clinical trials, they found no improvement in motor learning among the participants. more

To recognise a chair or a dog, our brain separates them into their individual properties and then  puts them back together. Until recently, it has remained unclear what these properties are. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have now identified them - from "fluffy” to “valuable” - and found that all it takes is 49 properties to recognise almost any object. more

Traditionally, neuroscience regards the brain as being made up of two basic tissue types. Billions of neurons make up the grey matter, forming a thin layer on the brain’s surface. These neuronal cells are interlinked in a mindboggling network by hundreds of millions of white matter connections, running in bundles, deeper in the brain. Until very recently, not much was known about the interface between the white and grey matter – the so-called superficial white matter. Yet, previous investigations had suggested the region to be implicated in devastating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and autism. Now a multidisciplinary team led by Nikolaus Weiskopf has succeeded in making the superficial white matter visible in the living human brain. more

Every region has its place in the brain. However, it has been unclear why brain regions are located where they are. Now, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) and the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) have defined two main axes along which brain regions are genetically organized, stretching from posterior to anterior and inferior to superior parts of the brain. more

How is conceptual knowledge represented in the brain such that we can flexibly use it to interpret unfamiliar information or to infer relations we’ve never directly experienced? One means of organizing conceptual knowledge would be in a kind of internal map. Thus, in order to use a map-like representation to transfer meaning to novel information via similarity to familiar exemplars, the map would have to be dynamically defined along those feature dimensions that are currently relevant to the concept.
Stephanie Theves and Christian Doeller together with Guillén Fernández of the Donders Institute Nijmegen, have now shown such a distinction between conceptually relevant and overall features for the mapping function of the hippocampus. more

Individual frequency can be used to specifically influence certain areas of the brain and thus the abilities processed in them - solely by electrical stimulation on the scalp, without any surgical intervention. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have now demonstrated this for the first time. more

Go to Editor View