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Alumni Projects

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Even before the SFB 1280 started, the subprojects presented their research plans to a number of experts in a short video.

The renewal effect describes the return of a previously unlearned reaction. This reinstatement occurs when a situation or a context is different from that in which extinction happened. Renewal occurs in very different learning situations, in fear conditioned behaviour as well as in learning through reward or punishment. In our studies without fear components only about half to two thirds of participant exhibit a renewal effect and related activation pattern in the hippocampus and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Additionally subjects with renewal show hippocampal activation already during the initial learning, not only during extinction. Here we want to gain a deeper understanding of which internal and external factors influence the occurrence of renewal. We manipulate context parameters such as serotonin levels or with the help of noninvasive brain stimulation, and look at how subjects perform a predictive learning task in an MRI scanner to analyse the resulting manifestation of the renewal effect.

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Our project investigates why a memory sometimes returns after extinction but sometimes does not. This renewal effect can be caused by external causes, as a reaction to the personal history or also by internal causes, rooted in the process itself. As we know brain activation patterns for two regions for successful renewal, we can systematically test for potential reasons for renewal. On the one hand we look at the structure of participating brain regions, we look at what the influence of impaired attention through stress or medication is and how the salience of the learning context impacts behaviour.

Through the combination of noninvasive brain stimulation and imaging we can look at influences and interactions between brain regions and structures relevant for extinction during the renewal process.

Find out more on the project page >>

Play Video

Even before the SFB 1280 started, the subprojects presented their research plans to a number of experts in a short video.

Play Video

Even before the SFB 1280 started, the subprojects presented their research plans to a number of experts in a short video.

When a person or an animal is surprised, i.e. confronted with an event that deviates from our expectations, learning happens: expectations are adjusted to reality. We want to figure out how organisms integrate the diverse information from the environment into a model of their surroundings and then adjust their experiences, so that prediction errors no longer occur, as the model was brought into accordance with the reality. In our experiments we use a widespread theory, that is based on error correction. We are especially interested in which way errors are processed in extinction learning.

A negative prediction error dictates that an anticipated event does not occur. A positive prediction error describes an event that occurs unexpectedly. In our project we investigate how positive and negative predictions errors affect extinction learning.

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We research the development of extinction learning over the entire lifespan: from infancy, childhood, adolescence into young adulthood (18-22 years). Our experimental setups are designed so that subjects learn either to gain a pleasant reward or avoid an unpleasant situation. We compare how learning systems develop differently or similarly. We will follow extinction developmental transitions during brain maturation qualitatively and quantitatively. Also using developmental neuropsychological methods our project will apply findings from animal research to human research and create an important basis for future clinical applications for the first time.

Find out more on the project page >>

Play Video

Even before the SFB 1280 started, the subprojects presented their research plans to a number of experts in a short video.