Cognitive Neurogenetics

Otto Hahn | research group

🧬 🧠 🌈 🤖 🧩

How does brain structure support human cognition? Integrative mental processes are likely enabled by the unique structural and functional network organization of the human brain. Indeed, contemporary accounts suggest that mammalian neural processing is organized along multiple hierarchies that define how information from nearby and distant neural populations is integrated and segregated across the cortex. These hierarchies are expressed in fundamental anatomical, topological, and genetic patterns, which vary as a function of processing complexity. The goal of our research is to study how the anatomy of the human brain gives rise to human cognition. To study this question we (1) study the evolutionary and genetic basis of brain structure and function, i.e. to understand the biological processes and evolutionary adaptations that shape the human brain, (2) we study how individual variation in cognition in health and disorder relates to brain structure and function, and (3) we study the effects of development and environment on this interrelation, e.g. to further understand how being human and living a life relates to brain structure and function, and cognition. We are thankful to be funded by the Max Planck Society, FZ Juelich, and HIBALL.

We are situated at the MPI CBS, Leipzig and INM-7, FZ Jülich and have strong ties with the MICA-MNI, Montreal .

Genetic basis of brain organisation 🌈

Recent advances in system neuroscience have enabled the study of connectome organization through unsupervised manifold learning techniques, which project whole-brain data into a lower dimensional space governed by connectivity. In healthy individuals, these techniques have gained significant traction to study large-scale principles of functional and microstructural neuroimaging data. Here we study such organizational axis, to further uncover the innate architecture of the brain.

Relation between dual origin and large-scale organization of structural covariance in humans and macaques.
For details, see e.g. Valk et al. (Science Advances)

Brain structure and cognition 🧶

This theme evaluates the association between cognition and brain, such as the relationship between personality and brain structure and function.

Association between personality and local brain structure.
For details, see e.g. Valk et al. (NeuroImage)

The adaptive brain 🤖

To understand to what extend the brain is shaped by experience and environmental factors, we study the effects of intervention, but also development on brain structure and function.

Mental training alters local brain structure.
For details, see e.g. Valk et al. Science Advances (2017)

Connect with our friends and collaborators:

Boris Bernhardt and team, MICA, MNI

Jonny Smallwood, Queens University, CA

Daniel Margulies, Institut de Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, Paris, France

Thomas Yeo, National University of Singapore

Connect with our institutes:

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
INM-7 FZ Jülich


In general, we are always looking for talented and enthusiastic people to join our lab!
If you are interested in joining, please email us your CV and a cover letter

Sofie Valk, PhD
Otto Hahn Research Group Leader at MPI CBS and INM-7 FZ Jülich
Cognitive neuroscience | Heritability | Plasticity

Lina Schaare
Postdoctoral Researcher
Mind-brain-body-genetics interactions| Multimodal neuroimaging | Big data

Seyma Bayrak
Researcher & Medical Student
Gradients | Plasticity | Structure-Function

Bin Wan
PhD researcher
Asymmetry | Structure-Function | ASD

Neville Magielse
MSc intern
phylogeny | cerebellum | open science

Meike Hettwer
PhD rotation student - School of Cognition
disorder | connectome | genes

Sabine Oligschläger
Researcher & data scientist
connectome | networks | Bauplan