Funding period for SFB 1280 extended: Research on the 2nd memory enters the next round
What happens in the brain with acquired knowledge that is no longer really important? Researchers from the medical faculties of the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) are seeking and finding answers to this exciting question. Since 2017, they have been working on this as part of the Collaborative Research Center "Extinction Learning". Due to the successes already achieved, the German Research Foundation has now approved funding of around 10 million euros for the next 4 years.
The SFB 1280 "Extinction Learning" has set itself ambitious goals for the second funding period: "In our research, we want to comprehensively understand the mechanisms of extinction learning, from genes to the brain to behavior," explains spokesperson Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Onur Güntürkün, holder of the Chair of Biopsychology at the RUB. "In doing so, we want to use or develop new methods that make it possible to track what happens in the brain during learning from the individual cell to the entire system, manipulate it experimentally and simulate it with computational models." Based on these findings, the team hopes to develop new therapeutic options for patients suffering from anxiety disorders or chronic pain.
In the first four years of funding, the researchers were able to achieve more than they had initially expected in several areas. For example, they were able to prove their thesis that what is learned is often not erased from the brain; that is, we forget much less than we think. Instead, a second memory is formed that inhibits the memories of the first. The SFB has expanded and changed the previous map of where extinction learning occurs in the brain. "We were particularly surprised by the cerebellum," says co-spokesperson Prof. Dr. Dagmar Timmann-Braun (Department of Neurology and C-TNBS, University Medicine Essen). "Its involvement in extinction learning had previously received little attention and will be better understood within the second funding period."
The successes during the first funding period resulted from the complementary expertise of a research program in which experts from psychology, neurology, biology and theoretical neuroscience synergistically contribute their respective expertise. "With this successful formula, we can now conduct four more years of research to more deeply decipher the mechanisms of extinction learning and use these findings for clinical interventions," Güntürkün and Timmann-Braun are pleased to report.
A total of five SFB projects are located at UK Essen, all of them integrated into the Center for Translational Neuro- and Behavioral Sciences (C-TNBS): in Neurology, Medical Psychology, and the Erwin L. Hahn Institute (ELH). The project leaders are Prof. Dr. Ulrike Bingel, Dr. Katarina Forkmann, Prof. Dr. Harald Engler, Prof. Dr. Sigrid Elsenbruch, Priv. Doz. Dr. Martin Hadamitzky, Prof. Dr. Manfred Schedlowski, Prof. Dr. Dagmar Timmann-Braun and Prof. Dr. Harald Quick. Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Human Factors Research at the Technical University of Dortmund and the Philipps University of Marburg are also involved.