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Developmental Psychology


Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dorothea Hämmerer

Drei Generationen
  • Changes in neuromodulatory systems across the lifespan 

  • Age differences in cognitive functions related to neuromodulatory changes (attention, reinforcement learning, episodic memory) 

  • Better understand the relevance of altered neurotransmission in the brain across the lifespan, but also in disease and dementia

  • Imaging methods (fMRI) to study changes in the noradrenergic system in old age and the early stages of Alzheimer's dementia

Prevention and Health Aspects
  • Neuromodulatory changes are an important symptom of many mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression or anxiety disorders. Many of these illnesses begin in adolescence. It is therefore important to better understand and recognize the earliest relevant cognitive and neurophysiological changes by means of cognitive tests that are developed to detect disorder-specific changes as well as by means of imaging methods that are able to detect early physiological changes and risk factors.

  • Neuromodulatory changes also play a significant role in psychiatric and neurological diseases at the other end of the lifespan. Neuromodulatory structures can show dementia-typical brain pathologies as early as the 4th and 5th decade of life. Imaging methods make it possible to depict corresponding structural and functional changes from the 5th decade of life. A better understanding of early neuromodulatory changes in old age will help to better recognize the earliest cognitive and physiological changes in dementia and to understand the relevance of neuromodulatory changes for the progression of dementia.

Lifespan Perspective
  • A particular focus on periods typically associated with greater vulnerability such as adolescence and older age.

Externally funded projects
  • Ein bewilligter Antrag zur Forschungsinfrastrukturförderung (~ 98T Euro) wird dem FZ zugutekommen, insofern als die bewilligte Forschungsinfrastruktur von beteiligten Wissenschaftler*innen mitgenutzt werden kann. Er beinhaltet eine Erweiterung des Forschungsinstrumentariums zur Untersuchung einer Veränderung zirkadianer Rhythmen über die Lebensspanne (MR-kompatibles EEG, Kühlschrank für Blutproben, Bewegungstracker)

  • fMRI 

  • Psychophysiology 

  • Eyetracking 

  • Endocrinology

Publication Highlights
  • Ludwig M, Wienke C, Betts MJ, Zaehle T, Hämmerer D. Current challenges in reliably targeting the noradrenergic locus coeruleus using transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS). Auton Neurosci. 2021 Dec;236:102900. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2021.102900. Epub 2021 Oct 29. PMID: 34781120.

  • Yi, Y. J., Lüsebrink, F., Maaß, A., Ziegler, G., Yakupov, R., Kreißl, M. C., ... & Hämmerer, D. (2021). It is the Locus Coeruleus! Or... is it?: A proposition for analyses and reporting standards for structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging of the noradrenergic Locus Coeruleus. bioRxiv.

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