Perception of the own Self

In collaboration with namely Daniela Hubl and Martin Jandl, my workgroup conducts experiments that probe the subject's pre-reflective understanding of what saying "I" refers to and the experience that this "I" has a causal role (sense of agency). These studies run on one part in samples of healthy subjects. We also systematically manipulate these experiences by interfering in the causal chain between the subjectively experienced "act of will" and the perceived consequences of these acts. On the other side, we systematically study psychiatric patients that fail to produce these experiences in the commonly expected way and relate these abnormalities to alterations in brain activity and their psychopathological status.

Involved team members: Daniela Hubl, Martin Jandl, Yosuke Morishima and Maria Chiara Piani

State dependent information processing

Human perception and cognition depend critically on age, arousal, clinical and pharmacological conditions, cognitive and motivational state, and previous experience. We hypothesize that many of the symptoms observed in psychiatry may be understood as the result of an interaction between situational information and abnormal patterns of pre-activation of the brain. Specifically, we want to clarify the interaction of resting and pre-stimulus brain states with cognitive capacities and performance in a broad range of normal and clinical populations and under various experimental conditions. Currently, Sarah Diezigs project taps into spontaneous alterations of our state of consciousness as they typically occur, e.g., during sleep onset. In these states, healthy subjects produce mental contents that contain hallucinatory elements and lack the usual coherence of thinking. Such properties are also part of the mental content of patients with schizophrenia in an awake state. Therefore, studying brain functions during sleep onset is an excellent research opportunity to explore the normal psycho-biology of brain functions that exert, during wakefulness, a specific cognitive control over our thinking and experiencing. The results of such studies may shed additional light on conditions where these modes of thinking and experiencing occur as part of a psychiatric illness during wakefulness and on the normal functions of sleep.

Involved team members: Thomas KoenigSarah Diezig, Daniela Hubl, Collaborations with Jochen Kindler and Matthias Liebrand