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Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Fakultät für Psychologie
AE Biopsychologie
IB 6-121 - Postfach 18
D-44780 Bochum

Phone: +49 234 - 32 28213
Fax: +49 234 - 32 14377


News & Views

PhD Thesis Judith Schmitz

On Wednesday, the 25th of July 2018, Judith succesfully defended her PhD thesis entitled "The ontogenesis of asymmetry in humans – a genetic and epigenetic perspective". Judith impressed the comitee and other visitors of her Defense with a strong, theory-driven presentation of the papers on the genetics and epigenetics of hemispheric asymmetries she had published in her Phd. In true pioneer fashion, she was one of the first researchers to establish epigentic research in hemispheric asymmetries in humans. During the subsequent discussion, Judith was able to answer even the most difficult questions with ease. Due to the excellence of both her written thesis and her thesis defense , the comitee awarded her the rarely given "Summa cum laude" - the highest honor for a PhD thesis in Germany. Congratulations Judith! Your supervisors and the rest of the lab are very proud of you!


News & Views

Brain and Evolution 2018: First Japanese-German Summer school on comparative neuroscience and brain evolution

During the last week, the "Brain and Evolution 2018” workshop took place in one of the most exciting cities in Japan: Sapporo. Supported by the DAAD and the Japanese Society for Zoology, students, young academics and senior scientist from the biopsychology lab and different Japanese labs had the opportunity to discuss their projects, plan new experiments and intensify Japanese-German cooperation in the field of comparative neuroscience and brain evolution. From cetacean neuroanatomy to chicken behavior and fish brains (and many other research areas) the summer school covered a wide range of fascinating topics within the field of comparative neuroscience and brain evolution. Despite unfortunately being cut short by an earthquake that hit Sapporo, the summer school was a great experience and received overwhelming positive feedback from all participants. We are looking forward to further cooperations and activities with our old and new friends from Japan!


News & Views

Why the left hemisphere understands language better than the right

We understand language primarily due to our left hemisphere, which is dominant for linguistic processes. The asymmetry between the left and right hemispheres is easily demonstrated during so-called dichotic listening: When different syllables are presented to either ear, such as "pa" to the left ear and "ba" to the right ear, most people report that they heard the "ba". That is because right ear possesses a more direct pathway to the left, language dominant hemisphere. The effect is also reflected in a speed difference between the left and right hemisphere: Measuring the EEG during dichotic listening reveals faster processing in the left compared to the right hemisphere. But why is the left hemisphere faster? The answer to this question was often believed to lie within a brain region called "Planum temporale", which is bigger on the left than the right hemisphere. Importantly, the left Planum temporale possesses a higher number of neural connections than the right on. This microstructural asymmetry might solve the mystery about the left hemispheric speed advantage. Hence, we tested if there is a direct relation between the processing speed and microstructure in a large sample of almost 100 human participants. Using advanced imaging methods, we measured the density of neural connections of the Planum temporale. Additionally, the processing speed was measured via EEG during dichotic listening. Our results showed that participants with a high density of neural connections in the left planum temporale indeed showed faster processing speed. This finding unreveals a key mechanism for the question why the left hemisphere is so important for language: The high number of neural connections in the left Planum temporale possibly enables a higher precision in the communication between neurons, which in turn leads to faster processing. This superiority in microstructure might be a crucial part of why the left hemispheric became specialized for language.


Ocklenburg, S., Friedrich, P., Fraenz, C., Schlüter, C., Beste, C., Güntürkün, O., Genç, E. (2018). Neurite architecture of the planum temporale predicts neurophysiological processing of auditory speech. Science Advances. 11 Jul 2018. Vol. 4, no. 7. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aar6830


News & Views

DNA methylation of MORC1: A possible biomarker for depression?

The MORC1 gene has been suggested as a link between early life stress and major depression in humans as well as in animal models. Here, researchers from the Biopsychology department and the division of Experimental and Molecular Psychiatry investigated DNA methylation in the MORC1 promoter region in healthy human adults. In a non-clinical population, DNA methylation in the MORC1 promoter region was significantly correlated with the Beck Depression Inventory score. In contrast, DNA methylation was negatively associated with birth complications, an indicator of early life stress. These findings further confirm that MORC1 is a stress-sensitive gene and a possible biomarker for depression.


Mundorf A, Schmitz J, Güntürkün O, Freund N, Ocklenburg S (2018). Methylation of MORC1: A possible biomarker for depression? Journal of Psychiatric Research, 103: 208-211.

News & Views

Left- or right-handed? The molecular basis of handedness

Based on latest research output, researchers from the biopsychology lab were invited to contribute a review article to the prestigious journal BIOspektrum, a molecular biologically oriented journal by the German genetics association. Reviewing the current state of research on handedness, the most prominent of functional hemispheric asymmetries, this German article describes research on genetic and epigenetic factors potentially contributing to handedness ontogenesis. Initially thought to be determined by a single gene, molecular genetic studies have shown that handedness is influenced by multiple genes. However, genetic factors can only explain a quarter of the variance in handedness data. Recent research indicates that epigenetic regulation induces asymmetrical gene expression in the embryonic spinal cord, potentially leading to motor asymmetries. An integration of multiple genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors is essential to fully comprehend handedness ontogenesis.


Schmitz J, Lor S, Güntürkün O, Ocklenburg S. Links- oder Rechtshänder? – Die molekularen Grundlagen der Händigkeit. BIOspektrum. 2018 03: 253-255.


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