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 Behavioral Neurology

 Neuroimaging of neuro-psychiatric dysfunctions

Prof. Dr. Martin Walter

The research group "Neuroimaging of neuro-psychiatric dysfunctions" uses non-invasive imaging methods to investigate brain mechanisms underlying abnormal stimulus and context processing in psychiatric disorders. Intrinsic, spontaneous brain activity, can be viewed as a highly memory driven mechanism, that prepares the healthy individual for optimal interaction with a largely unknown environment. Under pathological conditions, adverse experiences, especially in early development, and genuine neurobiological disposition can lead to the generation of dysfunctional inner representations of the outer world, which strongly influence patients novel experiences. Even more, such intrinsic dispositions may even bias future behavior disadvantageously and mechanisms of biased attention and memory can reinforce and even worsen intrinsic brain network behavior during inevitable human interaction.

We recently developed passive resting state network analyses to identify deviant brain networks and associated behavioral consequences. Application in patient populations leads to identification of the crucial importance of a disintegration of the anterior cingulate cortex especially in major depression. Multimodal investigations and pharmacological imaging thus focuses on specific glutamatergic deviations in this area and their reversal by different novel treatment approaches. In detail, we investigate, how altering mechanisms related to synaptic plasticity offer novel ways to stop the strongly reinforced, though not hard wired network representations of pathological brain states found in psychiatric disorders.

To date we primarily focused on affective disorders, where we could provide evidence for a close link of a regionally specific glutaminergic deficit towards functional aberrances during processing of rewarding situations in depression. Here, a primacy suggestive of a causal influence was found for a local dysfunction in pregenual anterior cingulate cortex affecting functional integration in networks associated with external attention or internal integration of stable concepts of the past and the future.

Image 1: Graph theoretical investigation of resting-state network properties in healthy control subjects and depressed patients. Regions of interest that showed alterations between groups are depicted. Blue and red nodes represent brain regions exhibiting higher and lower scores in participation index ( a local graph metric), respectively.
Figure obtained from Lord et al, 2012, Changes in Community Structure of Resting State Functional Connectivity in Unipolar Depression, PloS One, volume 7.

Image 2: Interaction of affective information, neural transmission and processing, and brain activation.
Emotional stimuli evoke neural activity, which can be measured via the regional level of blood oxygenation (BOLD effect), revealing activated brain regions in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Alterations in neurotransmitter and metabolite concentrations can be assessed with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).


To the Publikations of the Group




Prof. Dr. Martin Walter


Dr. Johan van der Meer, PhD



Venessa Teckentrupp, Msc (Psychology)


Viola Borchard, Msc (Neuroscience)


Leijla Colic, Msc, (Biolgy)


Australia: Michael Breakspear (QMRC), Steven Yang (UQ)
USA: Bharat Biswal (UMDNJ), Gary Glover (Standford), Catie Chang (NIH)
France: Harold Mouras (Paris)
Finnland: Vesa Kiviniemi (Oulu)
Netherlands: Dick Veltman (Amsterdam)
Switzerland: Erich Seifritz (Zürich)
China: Huiguang He (Chinese Academy of Science), Chunshui Yu (Tianjin school of medical imaging)
Germany: Birgit Abler (Ulm), Henrik Walter (Berlin), Peter Schönknecht (Leipzig), Sascha Sartorius (Mannheim), Udo Dannlowski (Marburg), Till Krüger (Hannover), Nicola Palomero-Galagher (Jülich), Simone Grimm (Berlin), Anke Henning (Tübingen)


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