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„Internationally acclaimed research unit“

Positive evaluation for the Neurobiology Laboratory
The staff of the Neurobiology Laboratory in May 2016. Photo: Karin Tilch
Prof. Hansjörg Scherberger, head of the Neurobiology Laboratory, plans the positioning of an array of electrodes for an upcoming surgery. Photo: Thomas Steuer
Prof. Hansjörg Scherberger, head of the Neurobiology Laboratory, plans the positioning of an array of electrodes for an upcoming surgery. Photo: Thomas Steuer
A scientist programs a robotic arm to study motion sequences. Photo: Thomas Steuer
A scientist programs a robotic arm to study motion sequences. Photo: Thomas Steuer
A neuroscientist during grasping-training with a rhesus macaque in a primate chair. Photo: Thomas Steuer
A neuroscientist during grasping-training with a rhesus macaque in a primate chair. Photo: Thomas Steuer

On March 20, 2018, the Scientific Advisory Board of the DPZ evaluated the Neurobiology Laboratory. The fourteen-member department, headed by Hansjörg Scherberger, provided the guests with a comprehensive overview of their research in several lectures and posters as well as during laboratory visits – and thereby impressed the experts who rated the performance of the department as "very good". All the research departments of the DPZ are evaluated every five years by the Scientific Advisory Board with the support of additional external expert assessors.

The Neurobiology Laboratory researches the planning and implementation of hand and finger movements in the brain. For this, the researchers train rhesus monkeys to perform certain grasping movements. During the experiment, both the movement of the hands and fingers as well as the nerve cell activity in certain brain regions is measured. For this, the department developed a data glove and innovative surgical techniques. The findings of data processing in the brain should also serve as a method to control neuroprosthetics. These prosthetics are meant to replace missing hands and arms and will be steered through brain activity.

The group of experts certified the department’s "outstanding achievements and their commitment to responsible handling of animal experiments". They specifically emphasized the high motivation of the team, the close networking of the department within and outside of the DPZ as well as the exemplary commitment to public relations work on animal experimental research as done by the head of the department. In conclusion, the evaluation was exceptionally positive. The group of experts was highly impressed with the quality of the scientific projects, the amount of third-party funding and the multitude of innovative developments. With this, the department is well equipped for the evaluation of the entire institute, which will take place in two years' time and perhaps there will by then be something to report on the new research focus of the department - virtual grasping actions.