The Bernstein Center Heidelberg-Mannheim investigates implications of genetic variations for neural information processing in psychiatric conditions.
Recent years have seen a tremendous progress in identifying risk genes for a number of psychiatric conditions, but we mostly lack a mechanistic understanding of the causal and dynamical links between genetically determined neuronal properties, their implications for cortical network dynamics, and their impact in turn on behavior and cognition. However, such knowledge would be of tremendous clinical relevance.
Computational models of neuronal systems are an excellent tool to study such causal links. The ultimate goal of the Bernstein Center Heidelberg-Mannheim is to derive an explanatory and theoretical framework for linking genetic conditions to higher cognitive function and its aberrations in schizophrenia, depression, and age-related mental decline.
To these ends, biologically detailed models of relevant brain structures as well as their connection to intracellular processes on the one hand and to macroscopic brain dynamics (fMRI, EEG) on the other hand, will be developed. In close exchange with experimental studies on different levels (genes, intracellular processes, network physiology, fMRI/EEG-measurements, behavior) these models will be parameterized, validated, and their predictions tested. Translation into clinical application is sought through novel diagnostic predictors and a computational platform for an ‘in-silico psychopharmacology’. In Heidelberg the more cellular and network-physiological aspects of the proposal will be pursued, while work at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim will focus more on the psychiatric, human, and applicational aspects.