Berlin School of Mind and Brain
"Complex questions relating to how the human brain functions can no longer to be answered by one science alone," underlines Michael Pauen, Professor of Philosophy and one of the spokespersons for the Excellence Graduate School called 'Berlin School of Mind and Brain'. "The neuroscientists supply the philosophers with information about the mechanisms of the brain, while the neuroscientists need philosophy and its conceptual and ethical clarifications."
The initiators of the graduate school have set themselves the goal of advancing science at the interface between mind and brain and giving it a platform. Basic research and applied research are closely linked in this context.
60 eminent scientists, philosophers, psychologists, linguists, biologists, neurologists and representatives of other disciplines are contributing to 'Mind and Brain'. Each graduate is supervised by two scientists, one from mind science, the other one from brain science.
Daniel Margulies was one of the first to do a PhD at the graduate school. The New Yorker was awarded his doctorate in the record time of just two years ago after writing an outstanding dissertation. The test subjects who laid down in the MRI scanner for Margulies' research weren't given any tasks to do – he simply made images of people at rest with the aim of capturing the spontaneous fluctuations of the brain. These formed the basis for an investigation of the interaction between certain regions of the cerebral cortex and a subsequent comparison with the same regions in macaque monkeys. "Imagine parts of a city that are linked by many roads. I didn't want to draw a map of these streets, but to describe the flow of people through them," he explains. Today, Margulies is a post doc at the Mind Brain Institute, which belongs to the graduate school and focuses on decision-making processes.
Christiane Rohr is also a member of Margulies' research group. The young Austrian studied media science and musicology and became especially interested in the cognitive component of her subjects of study. As part of her doctoral dissertation, she would like to explore the effect of film music. "I chose a torture scene from Quentin Tarantion's Reservoir Dogs, which is underpinned by pleasant pop music," says the young scientist. With the help of volunteers she wants to use magnetic resonance imaging to study which processes are set in motion in the subjects by this contradictory scene. As a humanities scholar she couldn't write a PhD thesis of this kind on her own. She is picking up the necessary neuroscience know-how from the relevant literature and in conversations with other young scientists and her supervisors.
In addition to decision-making processes, the graduate school's research fields include 'conscious and unconscious perception', 'language', 'brain plasticity and ontogenetic development' and 'brain disorders and mental dysfunctions'. During their first two years the PhD students attend a comprehensive training program in addition to their individual work. The course subjects include neurophysiology, philosophy of the mind, clinical neurosciences, language and the brain, neuroimaging, and several others. In addition, there is a broad interdisciplinary program covering such topics as scientific writing, presentation techniques, and rhetoric. A mentoring program is open to the doctoral students which helps them prepare for a career in science or some other profession of their choice.
Female students from all over the world have an opportunity to get to know the program of Mind and Brain on a week-long, science-oriented travelling scholarship for woman. Three series of lectures organized by Mind and Brain, in which world-renowned researchers and scientists from their own faculty present the results of their work, are very popular among the Berlin neuroscience community. After the lectures, the PhD students can deepen their knowledge in exclusive Q&A sessions with the speakers. When it is a matter of recruiting new, outstanding doctoral students, these leading international neuroscientists can also be approached as contacts for the graduate school.
Berlin has developed into an attractive centre for the neurosciences in Europe, and the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, based in Luisenstrasse no. 56, is at its focus. It cooperates closely with a number of PhD programs. The partners include Medical Neurosciences at Charité Hospital and Computational Neuroscience at the Bernstein Centre, with which the joint Internet platform www.neuroscience-berlin.de was set up in 2007.
The platform is Berlin's central information portal for the neurosciences, containing information on training and PhD programs, Clusters of Excellence, researchers and researcher groups and job advertisements. In addition, cross-program training courses are planned, and conferences for doctoral students organized and staged: e.g. the 'Berlin Brain Days' with a total of seven neuroscience PhD programs.
- Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
- Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
- Freie Universität Berlin
- Technische Universität Berlin
- Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg
- Universität Potsdam
- Max Planck Institute for Human Development Berlin
- Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Neurosciences Leipzig
- Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience Berlin
- Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch