Computer-based modelling

With the help of modern imaging brain activity can be measured and analyzed via computer programs and mathematically related directly to the behaviors of a proband. Here the IFB cooperates with the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig.

Computer Modellierung NWG
Dr. Jane Neumann at work (Photo: IFB Adipositas)

Cognitive mechanisms like error detection and the processing of reward signals are fundamental in human decision making and learning. Obesity is associated with alterations in these processes.

Goal of the junior research group is the systematic examination of these modifications in combination with the underlying brain processes. Computer based analysis methods of information technologies are used to answer complex medical and neuroscientific questions. Brain activities measured in modern imaging techniques are (computer-based) analysed and mathematically related to behaviors of probands.

The data from these studies allow the development of comprehensive computational models that can explain learning and decision-making processes in the healthy brain and possible cognitive changes with respect to obesity.

Scientific foci of junior research group

  • Model-based functional magnet-resonance-tomography (fMRI): the combination of computational modelling with functional imaging oft the brain, which allows to correlate brain activities of individual probands to behaviors
  • Functional connectivity analyses: the assessment of brain networks based on graph theory and mathematical network analysis techniques
  • Meta-analyses: the joint analysis of results from independently performed functional neuroimaging studies
  • PET/MR: the simultaneous measurement of brain function and alterations in underlying neurotransmitter systems (e.g. Dopamine or Serotonin)

These questions are addressed by state-of-the-art methodology. First results of our work point at obesity-related physiological and behavioural changes in the processing of food cues, but also in the processing of negative feedback in learning and decision making tasks outside of the food context. These changes are accompanied by functional alterations in the brain’s reward system and the prefrontal cortex. In addition, we are investigating possible parallels in structural and functional brain changes between obesity and various forms of substance and non-substance addiction.

The JRG brings together different research disciplines that so far often addressed related research questions independently and in isolation. Researcher from cognitive psychology, medical sciences and biology join forces with computer scientists and mathematicians. This unique integration of several research branches and academic disciplines is expected to deepen and extend our knowledge about processes of both general decision-making and learning as well as their obesity-specific alterations.

We closely collaborate with other IFB Junior Research Groups (Annette Horstmann, Wiebke Fenske) and IFB professorships (Swen Hesse, Anja Hilbert, Peter Kovac) as well as with several research groups at the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig. Our JRG is part of the Leipzig O’Brain Project.

Duration: 2010 - 2015

Members of the reesrach group:

Dr. Jane Neumann (Group leader)
Dr. Isabel Garcia-Garcia (Postdoc, funded by MaxNetAging)
Lucas Kastner (Medical student, IFB MD Pro1)
Dipl.-psych. Jana Kube (PhD student)
Dipl.-math. David Mathar (PhD student, funded by FAZIT-Stiftung)
Christoph Mühlberg (Medical student, IFB MS Pro)
Anke Theileman (B.Sc. sport management, research assistant)
Carolin Wickner (B.Sc. biology, research assistant)

The junior research group "computer-based modelling" is headed by Dr. habil. Jane Neumann.

Prof. Dr. Jane Neumann

Head of research group "Computational modelling of reward-related and decision-making processes"
Member: board of directors, internal board
Head of project

+49 341 99-402621

neumann [at] cbs [dot] mpg [dot] de