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Theoretical Neuroscience


Professor in Theoretical Neuroscience / Department Head

Prof. Dr. Daniel Durstewitz

Phone: +49 621 1703-2361

Fax: +49 621 1703-6255


Secretariat: Christine Roggenkamp, M.A.
Phone: +49 621 1703-6252, e-mail


Laboratory Building, 4th Floor, Room 4.18 / Room 4.02


In our department we follow three major lines of research:

Statistical Machine Learning & Neural Networks
We develop novel machine learning approaches for data analysis from a theory-driven statistical perspective. Our focus is on the analysis of high-dimensional and multimodal time series, such as brain signals or mobile data, with the major goal of identifying the underlying dynamical system that generated a set of observed time series. Our major methodological framework for modeling and predicting such time series, and integrating them with other information, are deep generative recurrent neural networks (RNN; e.g. Koppe et al. 2019, PLoS Comp Biol). We have also developed novel machine learning tools and statistical tests for unsupervised spatio-temporal pattern detection in non-stationary environments (e.g. Russo & Durstewitz 2017, eLife), which we apply, for instance, to simultaneous electrophysiological recordings from tens to hundreds of neurons for decoding cognitive processes from neural activity.

Computational Psychiatry & biomedical applications
We apply our innovative methodology for diagnostic and prognostic (predictive) purposes in psychiatry and neurology, but also to gain insight into underlying disease mechanisms. For instance, based on generative RNN we can infer dynamical models of an individual’s brain from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalographic (EEG), or magnetoencephalographic (MEG) measurements (e.g. Durstewitz et al. 2019, Molecular Psychiatry), or dynamical models of an individual’s behavior from mobile sensors and Smartphone data (e.g. Koppe et al. 2018, Schiz. Bulletin). Such RNN-based dynamical systems models, trained on individual subjects, can then be used to forecast future behavioral or neuronal trajectories to enable early intervention. They can also be simulated to study the effect of potential pharmacological or behavioral treatments. In addition, we use formal reinforcement learning models of behavior to study learning processes in psychiatric conditions (e.g. Koppe et al. 2017 PLoS Biol).

Biological AI
We also develop mathematical models of brain function at a more biophysical level (e.g., Hass et al. 2016, PLoS Comp Biol), as well as statistical approaches for inferring such models directly from experimental observations like multi-cell recordings or neuroimaging data (e.g. Hertäg et al. 2012, Front Comp Neurosci). These strongly data-driven models are then used to gain insight into the neuro-dynamical and neuro-computational processes underlying cognitive function, and in how these are altered in psychiatric conditions. Such models can be harvested to derive novel diagnostic and prognostic criteria for psychiatric and neurological conditions, and for devising more effective and individualized treatment options.

Zentralinstitut für Seelische Gesundheit (ZI) - https://www.zi-mannheim.de