Translational Neuroscience

Lecturers and Scientists

Instructors of the MSc program Translational Neuroscience

The involved researchers in this study program are mainly members of the faculties medicine and psychology. Simultaneously they are also members and principal investigators of the Graduate School of Life Sciences. Below you will find a list of involved scientists.

Esther Asan

Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology

The corpus amygdaloideum (amygdala) is the telencephalic center for processing of emotional, particularly fear- and anxiety-induced stimuli. Malfunctions in interconnections of this brain area may contribute to affective disorders. We analyze the structure of amygdaloid networks and investigate which factors could be responsible for normal function and pathological changes, focusing on the role of monoaminergic afferents and peptidergic systems of the amygdala.

Robert Blum

Institute for Clinical Neurobiology

Our research group concentrates on signaling mechanisms of neurons. The Blum lab focuses on the spatial and temporal interplay of signaling cascades that are regulated by the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This neurotrophin is a high-affinity ligand of the receptor tyrosine kinase TrkB and contributes to neuronal survival and differentiation in the peripheral nervous system. These "classical" neurotrophin effects that are relatively slow, but neurotrophins also elicit rapid signaling in central neurons and modulate a variety of cellular functions such as neuron excitability, calcium homeostasis, synaptic transmission, and activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. Our work is hypothesis-generating research on the molecular-cellular level and we use corresponding mouse models to validate a given hypothesis. As BDNF is a key regulator of synaptic plasticity, we ask how neurotrophin signaling affects learning and memory. This is of clinical relevance in the context of psychiatric diseases, such as anxiety disorders. Finally, we collaborate with members of our institute to understand the role of neurotrophin signaling for motorneuron function.  

Andreas Buck

Clinical Director and Chair Department of Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital 

The Department of Nuclear Medicien has a particular experience in clinical and experimental neuroimaging. The working group "functional neuroimaging", headed by Prof. Isaias, has access to a high-energy cyclotron and two GMP-conform units for the daily production of radiopharmaceuticals. The group is supported by  Prof. Samnick who directs the Dept. of Radiochemistry providing a variety of standard and innovative radio tracers on a daily basis. A state-of-the-art 64 slice PET/CT scanner (Siemens mCT Biograph) is available for clinical studies and a µPET device (Siemens Inveon) for preclinical studies in rodents. This infrastructure enables us to non-invasively visualize molecular targets in the central nervous system and to ´watch`biological processes in vivo. Standard imaging studies include the non-invasive characterization of the presynaptic dopamine (D1) transporter (18F-DOPA, 99mTc-FP-CIT), the postsynaptic dopamine transport (11C-Raclopride) and cerebral glucose metabolism as readout for neurodegenerative disorders. Furthermore, beta-amyloid specific radiotracers (18F-Florbetaben) as a surrogate marker for cerebral plaque load in Alzheimer's disease are available for clinical studies and preclinical experiments. Novel radio tracers established in Würzburg include specific targeting of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (123I-5IA), norepinephrine transported (18F-Reboxetin), and 11C-PK11195 for targeting glial neuroinflammation.

The major goal of our research is the non-invasive assessment of pathophysiological processes in a very early stage of disease, enabling early diagnosis and monitoring the effects of therapeutic interventions. Furthermore, imaging biological processes enables us to understand the pathophysiology of neurological disorders and to uncover the crosstalk to other, non-brain related diseases. most recent research projects include the crosstalk between dementia or Parkinson's disease and heart failure.


Paul Dalton

Functional Materials in Medicine and Dentistry

My research philosophy is to apply materials science for the betterment of neuroscience, through nanomedicine, 3D printing and regenerative medicine. I pioneered a 3D printing technology that results in nano- and micro-scale structures using electrohydrodynamic phenomenon. Biodegradable polymers can be processed into new 3D objects for medical devices and biomedical applications.  Ultimately, the 3D fabricated materials can be translated into clinical applications. 

Jürgen Deckert

Clinical Director and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Center of Mental Health

The Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy as part of the Center of Mental Health (http://www.zentrum-fuer-psychische-gesundheit.ukw.de) offers a comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic service for mental disorders, e.g. anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, affective disorders, dementias, schizophrenias, attention-deficit/hyperactivity and addictive disorders.

Our interdisciplinary research by an international research team of medical doctors, psychologists and biologists utilizes modern imaging techniques of systemic neuroscience such as functional nuclear magnetic resonance tomography and near-infrared spectroscopy as well as modern methods of molecular neuroscience such as genomics and proteomics, cell culture and transgenic animal models.

Research at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy is characterized by a close interaction between the clinical research groups on one side and the laboratories on the other side. These include the laboratories of translational neuroscience (Prof. Lesch), functional genomics (Prof. Domschke), functional neuroanatomy (PD Schmitt), functional imaging (PD Hermann) and experimental and clinical psychotherapy (Prof. Lüken).

Taking advantage of the broad methodological spectrum we concentrate on translational questions from the identification of genetic risk factors over the functional characterization of identified pathomechanisms to emotional and cognitive processing with a special focus on gene-environment interactions, neuronal plasticity and adult neurogenesis over the life span as potential new therapeutical mechanisms in cooperation with the other departments of the Center of Mental Health and the other neuroscience groups at Würzburg. At the national and international level we are part of several international networks, e.g. Transregio-SFB TRR58, GK 1253, Protect-AD, Agressotype and other BMB, DAAD, and EU. Our research is funded by the IZKF, DFG, BMBF, DAAD, and EU.

Frank Döring

Institute of Physiology, Molecular Electrophysiology

Our research interests focus on molecular mechanisms that modulate cellular excitability and their effects on structure and function of neurons and neuronal circuits. Potassium channels are key molecules in such processes and especially inward rectifying and two-pore domain K+ channels substantially contribute to the resting membrane potential, as they are open at negative voltages. We have identified and characterized diverse members of these K+ channel subfamilies and mainly contributed to the discovery of K2P channels that are regulated by the plethora of sensory and modulatory stimuli, such as temperature, pressure, anesthetics, protons and neurotransmitters. Activation or inhibition of these channels are effective approaches to investigate the influence of excitability on neuronal function and development, which include synapse formation, axon outgrowth, gene expression and protein targeting. We apply recombinant systems, primary cultures and brain slices as well as imaging techniques to address these questions.

Ralf-Ingo Ernestus

Clinical Director and Chair, Department of Neurosurgery

The Department of Neurosurgery belongs to the Wuerzburg Head- and Neck-Clinic and, based on its interdisciplinary context, provides comprehensive diagnostics and therapy for patients with tumors of the brain, spine, spinal cord and peripheral nerves, degenerative spine and disc disease, pain syndromes, peripheral nerve lesions, pituitary tumors and dysfunction, neurovascular disease, skull base tumors (jointly with department of ORL), movement disorders (jointly with Department of Neurology), psychiatric disorders (jointly with the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology).

Infants and children with inborn malformations of the nervous system and of the skull and spine, with neoplasia and trauma are taken care of by the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Special interdisciplinary treatment protocols have been established for patients with vascular malformations (in close cooperation with the Department of Neuroradiology), furthermore for patients with brain tumors together with radiotherapists and neurooncologists as well as for skull base lesions, namely vestibular schwannomas and meningiomas with ORL surgeons.

Clinical and experimental research is performed together with the Division of Experimental Neurosurgery and a multitude of cooperating clinics and institutes of the university and with external German and international institutes. Major topics of research are: Neuro-oncology, rare genetic diseases such as neurofibromatosis, functional microsurgery and neurostimulation, neurovascular disease, translational neurotrauma research, neurodegeneration and -regeneration, and craniofacial malformations. 

Matthias Gamer

Department of Psychology,  Biological Psychology, Clinal Psychology, and Psychotherapy

Our research primarily focuses on how social and affective signals are processed in the brain, how they are perceived and evaluated in mental disorders and how these processes can be modulated by cognitive interventions (such as psychotherapy) or exogenously administered substances (e.g., neuropeptides). We use a multimodal approach consisting of behavioral studies involving a measurement of eye movements and autonomic responses, as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) techniques. 

Barbara Händel

Department of Psychology, Cognitive Psychology

Research of my group primarily focuses on the relationship between body movement and perception with a particular interest in their  rhythmic interactions. In humans, little is known about the influence  of movements on sensory brain areas mainly due to technical  challenges; however, human behavioral studies suggest that perception  is linked to movement. My group uses human non-invasive recordings  from electro- and magnetoencephalography (EEG, MEG) as well as  invasive human (ECoG) and animal multi-electrode recordings to  investigate (oscillatory) brain activity. Mobile eye tracking, motion  tracking and psychophysics are used to measure body movements and  perception.

Martin Herrmann

Associate Professor, Psychophysiology and Functional Imaging, Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Center of Mental Health

We are working with different psychophysiological methods, like fMRI, EEG, near infrared-spectroscopy (NIRS), emotional startle modulation on the following topics: (i) Neurobiology of psychiatric disorders with a main focus on anxiety disorders, obesity and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), (ii) Healthy and pathological aging. Additionally, we are using transcranial brain stimulation methods (TMS, tDCS) to augment psycho- or neurotherapy (in phobics, in elderly, and in addiction). 

Takahiro Higuchi

Professor for Molecular and Cellular Imaging, Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital 

Our major interest is preclinical molecular imaging using µPET. Within the research initiative Comprehensive Heart Failure Centre (CHFC), we collaborate with neuroscientists (neurologists, psychologists,and psychiatrists) and basic scientists in radiology and imaging, medical physics, biomedical research and tissue engineering. 

Sibylle Jablonka

Institute for Clinical Neurobiology

Spinal muscular atrophies are among the most common forms of monogenetic disorders leading to childhood death. In both forms (proximal spinal muscular atrophy, SMA and spinal muscular atrophy with respiratory distress, SMARD1) dysregulated RNA processing mechanisms seem to play a crucial role causing motoneuron degeneration. By combining genetics with high-resolution and imaging studies in the mouse models, our research focuses on the identification of specifically affected intracellular targets. The discovery of such targets opens the view on further therapeutic strategies especially in case of SMARD1.

Thomas Kerkau

Institute for Virology and Immunology

Regulation of misguided immune reactions: We are working on the pathophysiology of novel immunotherapeutic approaches for pathological immune reactions. For this, we are focusing on animal models of multiple sclerosis (MS) and Graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD), a major complication after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation.

The role of CD4+ T cells in myocardial wound healing: While the role of innate immunity to wound healing after myocardial infarction (MI) is well established, little is known about the contribution of adaptive immunity, in particular CD4+ T cells, to this process. 

Klaus Peter Lesch

Chair of Molecular Psychiatry, Laboratory of Translational Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy, Center of Mental Health


Manfred Lutz

Institute of Virology and Immunology, University of Wuerzburg

The objectives of our research are to understand the peripheral tolerance mechanisms of the immune system under healthy conditions and when exploited by microbial immune evasion.From these type of analyses we learn how immunological tolerance can be re-establishes in diseases such as autoimmunity and allergy or can be applied to prevent transplant rejections.

Rudolf Martini

Department of Neurology, Developmental Neurobiology

The role of innate and adaptive inflammation as a modifier and amplifier of many neurological disorders in incompletely understood. The focus of the group is to analyze the pathological role of neuroinflammation in animal models of distinct neurological disorders with presently poor treatment options, with the aim to alleviate disease by modulating disease-related inflammation.

Cordula Matthies

Vize Chair, Department of Neurosurgery


Beatrice Oehler

Department Anesthesiology, University Hospital Würzburg, Center for Operative Medicine

Paul Pauli

Department of Psychology, Biological Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Psychotherapy

The group's research focuses on emotions as an important trigger for normal and pathological behavior. Emotional responses are measured with state of the art biopsychological methods registering autonomic and neural responses. Emotions are triggered in the laboratory also with virtual reality as a tool simulating ecological valid environments and allowing overt behavioral responses which can be registered with high precision. The developed paradigms are used to assess the interplay between environmental stimuli and emotional responses with the goal to understand how pathological emotions may develop and to identify possibilities to change pathological emotional responses. 

Heike Rittner

Department Anesthesiology, University Hospital Würzburg, Center for Operative Medicine

Despite advances in the treatment of acute and chronic pain substantial challenges remain in daily medical practice. Our research group focuses in neuroimmune interactions in inflammatory and neuropathic pain. A second research topic is the blood-brain barrier and the perineurial barrier and its modulation for drug delivery as well as understanding its role in the pathophysiology of pain. A better understanding of the development of pain will stimulate innovative therapeutic strategies with new drug classes or routes of administration outside the central nervous system. This could improve treatment of acute and chronic pain and minimize adverse drug reactions due to dose reduction and reduction of central nervous system side effects.

Marcel Romanos

Director and Chair Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Center of Mental Health

At our department, we address research questions with regard to etiology, developmental course, therapy and prevention of neuropsychiatric disorders with the onset in childhood and adolescence. Our main interests cover attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHS), anxiety disorders and autism. Methodologically the dept. comprises several working groups with focus on a) neurobiology (genetics, zebrafish, cell models, CLARITY), b) brain imaging (fMRI, dynamic causal modeling), c) clinical biomarkers (peripheral biomarkers, proteomics transcranial sonography, olfaction), d) clinical and experimental psychotherapy research, e) therapeutic drug monitoring. Our future goals pertain at implementing translational infrastructure facilitating research agendas from basic neurobiological research to clinical research questions and across species in a developmental approach. Our projects are funded by the BMBF, DFG, BfArM and IZKF and characterized by close collaborations with e.g. the Department of Psychiatry, Dept. of Molecular Psychiatry, Biological Psychology, Dept. of psychol. Chemistry, Dept. of Neurobiology, Dept. of Neuroradiology, the Magnet-Resonanz-Bayern-Research center.

Angelika Schmitt

Associate Professor, Functional Neuroanatomy, Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Center of Mental Health

The main ambition of our group is to gain insights into the role of various neuroplasticity phenomena such as adult hippocampal neurogenesis, neuronal morphology, neuronal activity pattern during adaptation to different environments, e.g. enriched environment and/or stress. For our gene by environment approach we use animal models for anxiety disorders, depression, and neurodegenartive disorders (e.g. Alzheimer's disease).

Michael Sendtner

Director, Institute for Clinical Neurobiology

The Institute for Clinical Neurobiology is engaged in research on the molecular and cellular actions of neurotrophic factors, in particular Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) and the cellular and molecular mechanisms how they are involved in modulating synaptic plasticity, axon regeneration and maintenance under physiological conditions during development and in the adult, and in neurodegenerative diseases.

Various animal models for motor neuron diseases have been established to develop novel therapeutic strategies for treatment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the most common form of neuromuscular disease in children. Here, the main focus is on the pathophysiological mechanisms of disturbed axon growth leading to defects in neurotransmission at the neuromuscular endplate. There is growing evidence that defects in axon growth might be due to disturbances in the axonal trafficking of certain transcripts required to facilitate localized protein synthesis in axons and dendrites. The aim is (i) to investigate axonal transcriptome alterations in models of motoneuron diseases and (ii) to assess the role of non-coding RNAs using RNA sequencing, iCLIP and in situ hybridization in conjunction with compartmentalized motoneuron cultures.

We also work on signal transduction processes important for the differentiation of neural stem cells especially on neurotrophic factors and their impact for differentiation, survival and neurite outgrowth. Central techniques are neuronal cell culture, generation of mouse models, confocal microscopy, 2-Photon laser microscopy, life cell imaging.

The institute is also involved in sustaining the special health care centre for motoneurons diseases at the Department of Neurology, in order to allow and ensure the transfer of scientific knowledge into clinical applications. Our projects are characterized by collaborations with e.g. Department of Psychiatry, Dept. of Molecular Psychiatry, Biological Psychology, Dept. of Anesthesiology, Dept. of Neurology and are funded by the BMBF, DFG (Transregio-SFB TRR58), EU and IZKF.

Claudia Sommer

Department of Neurology

Our group is specialized on peripheral neuropathies and pain. We do have a strong neurobiological interest and focus on translational research concerning neuro-immune mechanisms including autoantibodies, cytokines, and micro-RNAs in the pathogenesis of pain and nerve disease.

Volker Sturm

Department of Neurosurgery, Emeritus

Regina Taurines

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy

Our research focus is on peripheral biological correlates in neuropsychiatric developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit-/hyperactivity disorder (ADHS) and schizophrenia, and therapeutic drug monitoring.

Carmen Villmann

Institute for Clinical Neurobiology

Our research focus is on ion channelopathies associated with neuromotor phenotypes in human. Especially we are interested in the underlying pathomechanisms in disturbances of inhibitory signal transduction pathways important in adult spinal cord and brainstem. We use electrophysiological techniques and a variety of cell biology methods as well as protein biochemistry for identification of subcellular trafficking routes of defective receptor proteins.  

Jens Volkmann

Clinical Director and Chair, Department of Neurology

Erhard Wischmeyer

Institute of Physiology, Molecular Electrophysiology

Our group investigates cellular signal transduction pathways from receptors to ion channels in excitable cells using molecular approaches as well as electrophysiological methods.


Grit Hein

Translational Social Neuroscience Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic and Psychotherapy

We study how social interactions shape human motivation, learning and behavior, and how they can be used as a tool for the diagnosis and therapy of psychological disorders, e.g., from the anxiety disorder spectrum. Our approach integrates neuroscience, social and experimental psychology, and behavioral economics. We use a range of methods including brain imaging, computational modeling, and behavioral experiments.