Current research of the group aims to investigate neural correlates of affective and cognitive disorders in humans.
Available PhD projects
Running projects focus on structural neuroimaging of diencephalic substructures such as the hypothalamus and associated regions which have until now not been depicted systematically, in affective disorders such as major depression and bipolar disorder. The hypothalamus is involved in many aspects of autonomic, endocrine and behavioural responses which may be affected in affective disorders. The term "hypothalamus" relates to subdivisions of several nuclear cell complexes that differ in their micro-anatomical properties. It has been suggested early but not investigated in vivo that functional abnormalities of the hypothalamus are associated with structural hypothalamic changes. Until now, parcellation of hypothalamic subnuclei (Nucleus suprachiasmaticus, Nucleus supraopticus) has only been feasible with histological techniques post-mortem. Hypothalamic subregions are differentially involved in the pathophysiology of affective disorders and indeed, volume deficits in the hypothalamus were found in patients with affective disorders post mortem. By using high resolution (7T) structural neuroimaging our research may now allow the investigation of the hypothalamus and certain substructures systematically in vivo. In one of our main projects we are investigating the hypothalamus and its nuclei in affective disorders using structural high (3T) and ultra-high (7T) resolution MRI as well as diffusion-weighted MRI (3T DWI) in cooperation with PD Dr. S. Geyer and Prof. Dr. B. Turner, Max Planck Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig. Based on ultra-high resolution MRI we are establishing a reliable manual segmentation algorithm of the hypothalamus and the mamillary bodies, in order to apply them in vivo to the investigation of depressive patients (major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder) in comparison with healthy controls. Using the directionality information inherent in diffusion-weighted MRI data we further parcellate the hypothalamus into subregions for a localization of regional volumetric changes.
Further projects of the group focus on neurochemistry of subcortical markers and electroencephalography as well as morphometric and functional analyses in neurodegenerative diseases (PET), and the development of EEG-MRI methods.