Research Profile

Research Structure

In the research area intellectual as well as methodological neuroscience resources of leading researchers in the field of sensory, cognitive, cellular and molecular research are combined. Cutting-edge research underpins this research strength of the Ruhr University Bochum.

The RDN has adopted a neuroscience strategy that fuses basic research with clinical approaches and extends to the level of computational modeling of brain function. Researchers of the RDN are particularly interested in the mechanisms of sensory perception, learning and memory, but also in the mechanisms and therapies of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s chorea, and schizophrenia.

The RDN, as the umbrella of the interdisciplinary research in neuroscience at the Ruhr University, places focus on three areas to provide and develop an excellent, competitive and international research environment.

1. Expanding the research infrastructure

The aim of the RDN is the strengthening of the existing excellent neuroscience research by funding state-of-the-art group equipment. Thus, in the last years the RDN purchased joint equipment for a variety of interdisciplinary research projects. Thus, the most modern methods are available for investigations of molecular and cellular aspects (2-photon- and multiphoton confocal microscopy; deep-brain fluorescence optical imaging system; patch-clamp systems; optical imaging systems; multi electrode array systems) as well as for investigations of cognitive processes with methods such as EEG (128-channel-Electroencephalography (EEG)-lab), rTMS- analysis and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (3-Tesla-human MRI (funded by the RDN); 7-Tesla animal MRI (funded by Stiftung Mercator)).

See also equipment

2. Supporting the establishment of multidisciplinary research projects

Building upon a long-standing tradition in the field of systems neuroscience research, in 2010, the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Centre SFB 874 “Integration and Representation of Sensory Processes” was founded (funded by the DFG). The goal of this project is the implementation of a systems neuroscience strategy to clarify key aspects of sensory processing. Within the 13 projects the SFB 874 addresses how sensory information (visual, olfactory or somatosensory) is integrated in the brain such that a representation of the world and a memory trace results.
Beginning in 2010, the Mercator Research Group "Structure of Memory" (supported by the Stiftung Mercator) began examining the structure of memory in the combined area of Medicine-Psychology-Philosophy. Within the scope of the Research Unit
FOR 1581 „Extinction Learning“ (beginning 2011, funded by the DFG) scientists explore neural, behavioral, and clinical mechanisms of extinction in various species, incl. humans. Using a highly interactive research strategy, they intend to harvest deep insights into both the common and the distinct mechanisms of extinction learning in different systems and organisms. By this, they aim to achieve translational insights between Basic and Clinical Sciences.
Within the BMBF project Bernstein Focus “Neuronal Basis of Learning” (which began in 2009), PIs of the RDN (from the Institute of Neuroinformatics, Faculty of Psychology and Faculty of Medicine) are significantly involved in three joint projects. In the focus of these projects is the identification of the neuronal basis of learning and how to use these results. This aim is accompanied by a close interdisciplinary collaboration of experimental and theoretical analysis. Since early 2011, the EU funded project “Neural Dynamics” strives to build a robotic system that mimics the human cognitive abilities to orient oneself in space (eg. in a room).
Moreover, PIs of the RDN are also involved in numerous network projects, such as the Competence Network Neuroscience “NeuroNRW” and the Competence Network for Stem Cell NRW. These are networks fostered by the state of NRW that promote close collaborative interactions between scientists working at different universities and institutions in NRW. PIs of the RDN are also involved in the competence network “stroke”, “multiple sclerosis” and “Parkinson's disease”.

3. Fostering the next generation of neuroscientists

A very important focus of the RUB and the RDN is the education of young neuroscientists. The International Graduate School of Neuroscience (IGSN) is an independent pillar, firmly established under the umbrella of the RDN, for a structured internationally renowned interdisciplinary neuroscience doctoral programme. This is reflected in the high number of talented students in the Graduate School from around the world (currently ca. 60). This “open Faculty” of neuroscience with its own promotional rights for a “PhD in Neuroscience” at the Ruhr University has almost tripled in size since its founding in 2001. With the establishment of the Bochum Research School for Medical Neuroscience (BoNeuroMed) 2009, the Integrated Research Training Group (IRTG) of the SFB 874, and the graduate education arm of the FOR 1581, a further strengthening and expansion of the IGSN occurred.
The strategy of high level education combined with state of the art research projects, along with extracurricular soft skills training by the Ruhr University Research School (RUB-RS), promotes the synergy of an excellent education in an excellent research environment for young neuroscientists.
The RDN also provides an important role in the support of young scientists at the level of postdoctoral fellows. It supports independent research in a very early stage in the career of young scientists and integrates them into the decision-making processes of the RDN.

Organisational profile

The RDN was founded in 2010 as part of the future concept "Research Campus RUB" of the Ruhr University Bochum in order to support excellent research. The RDN was financially supported by the Ministry for Innovation, Science, Research, and Technology of the state North Rhine-Westphalia until the end of 2010.

The organs of the RDN are:

• the General Assembly, consisting of neuroscience researchers who fulfill criteria for membership according the by-laws

• the Executive Board (consisting of 12 members, including speaker and vice-speakers)

• Speaker (Prof. Dr. Sen Cheng) and two Vice-speakers (Prof. Dr. Stefan Herlitze and Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün)

The Executive Board as well as the speakers are elected by the General Assembly. All important decisions in the RDN are taken by the Executive Board, but with consideration of the proposals and decisions of the General Assembly. The speaker is the executive director of the RDN and is assisted by the Science Manager.

The legal basis for executive right comprises the by-laws of the RDN, which were adopted by the General Assembly and approved by the Rector of the Ruhr University Bochum.