Cécile & Oskar Vogt Institute of Brain Research

The brain is one of the most complex systems of all and a fascinating subject of research. At the Cécile and Oskar Vogt Institute of Brain Research, we are concerned with the question of the basic organizational principles and functions of the human brain, in particular the cerebral cortex and its dependence on various internal and external influences. Here we work very closely with the Research Center Jülich (Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, INM-1).

We are investigating the architecture of connections in the human brain using PLI (Polarized Light Imaging) with unprecedented micrometer resolution. We are creating an atlas of the human brain based on architectural and functional criteria and making the maps freely available to the scientific community (Julich-Brain Cytoarchitectonic Atlas, SPM Toolbox).

The three-dimensional brain model "BigBrain" makes it possible for the first time to see and understand the complicated structure of the brain on a microscopic level in all three levels of space (BigBrain).

Together with Research Center Jülich, we are involved in the Human Brain Project, one of the flagship projects of the EU's FET Initiative (http://www.humanbrainproject.eu).


INM-1 contributes to National Research Data Infrastructure for Microscopy and Image Analysis

At the beginning of November, the Joint Science Conference (GWK) decided to include eight more consortia in a third round of funding for the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI). This means that the NFDI4BIOIMAGE consortium will also be funded for the next five years. At INM-1, Prof. Timo Dickscheid's research group "Big Data Analytics" is involved in the consortium. https://www.fz-juelich.de/en/inm/inm-1/research/big-data-analytics

The National Research Data Infrastructure NFDI is an initiative to establish an infrastructure framework for research data management in Germany. The aim is to develop reliable central standards and infrastructures for the storage, networking and use of data from science and research. This should enable data to be used across disciplinary and institutional boundaries.

The NFDI4BIOIMAGE initiative focuses on microscopy and biological image acquisition and processing ("bioimaging"). It is precisely in these areas that huge amounts of research data accumulate. For many disciplines in the life sciences that rely on bioimaging, adequate data management is indispensable, but it has not yet been sufficiently realised.

NFDI4BIOIMAGE aims to create solutions so that bioimaging data can be shared and reused across disciplinary boundaries. This should enable the full information content of the data to be exploited. They should also be available for re-analysis in order to gain new insights - possibly beyond the original research question.

Multilevel brain atlases provide tools for better diagnosis

The multilevel Julich Brain Atlas developed by researchers in the Human Brain Project, could help in studying psychiatric and aging disorders by correlating brain networks with their underlying anatomical structure. By mapping microarchitecture with unprecedented levels of detail, the atlas allows for better understanding of brain connectivity and function. Researchers of the HBP have provided an overview of the Julich Brain Atlas in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The paper focuses on the cytoarchitecture and receptor architecture of the human brain, and how to apply the atlas in the field of psychiatric research.

Cytoarchitecture, the study of the distribution, density and morphology of cells in the nervous system, has a long standing history in brain mapping. Neuroscientists first noticed structural differences between areas of the cortex back in the late 1800s and started dividing it into distinct areas. The areas have been considered important correlates with brain function and dysfunction. In addition to the cellular architecture, the Julich Brain Atlas also includes maps of the distribution of receptors for the neurotransmitters which modulate brain activity. Neurotransmitter receptors differ not only between areas, but also between the different layers of an area and thus are closely related to its connectivity pattern, and relevant for its role in larger networks. Based on the data collected from post mortem brains, the atlas accounts for the naturally occurring variability between subjects by producing probabilistic maps in 3D spaces instead of the map of an individual brain only.

The Julich Brain Atlas is a “living” atlas that grows with new insights into the parcellation of the brain constantly being integrated. It is linked to other maps, e.g., coming from studies of fiber tracts in the living human brain. Such macroscopic and microscopic data are integrated in the HBP’s Multilevel Human Brain Atlas, which is openly accessible on the EBRAINS digital research infrastructure through the siibra software tool suite.

The researchers listed recent use cases of the tools in different peer-reviewed studies. Users can, for example, analyse and share high-resolution imaging data and compare it with fMRI datasets. They can look into the cytoarchitecture of a certain region and its connectivity, both within itself and with other regions. With a special tool called JuGEX, the maps can be linked to gene expression data from the Allen Brain Atlas, allowing deep multimodal investigations: For example, using the Julich Brain Atlas, researchers had identified new brain areas that play a role in major depressive disorder. Neuroimaging data from patients revealed area-specific changes in gray matter volume and activation. With JuGEX, these findings were further linked to local differences in the expression of several candidate genes for major depressive disorder. From large population studies, individual, personalised maps of aging or dysfunction can also be extracted to provide diagnostic tools for dementia. 

Text by Roberto Inchingolo

Reference: Daniel Zachlod, Nicola Palomero-Gallagher, Timo Dickscheid, Katrin Amunts (2022). Mapping cyto- and receptor architectonics to understand brain function and connectivity. Biological Psychiatry, DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2022.09.014

A combination of micro and macro methods sheds new light on how different brain regions are connected

To understand how our brain works, there is no getting around investigating how different brain regions are connected with each other by nerve fibres. In the most recent issue of Science, researchers of the Human Brain Project (HBP) review the current state of the field, provide insights on how the brain’s connectome is structured on different spatial scales – from the molecular and cellular to the macro level – and evaluate existing methods and future requirements for understanding the connectome’s complex organisation.

Read the full article here.


Original publication:

Markus Axer & Katrin Amunts. Scale matter: The nested human connectome. Science, 3 Nov 2022. Vol 378, Issue 6619, pp. 500-504, DOI: 10.1126/science.abq2599

Atlasing in rodents:

In the same issue, HBP Infrastructure Director Jan Bjaalie (University of Oslo) and principal investigator Trygve B. Leergaard review brain data integration in rodent atlases:

Leergaard & Bjaalie. Atlas-based data integration for mapping the connections and architecture of the brain. Science, 3 Nov 2022. Vol 378, Issue 6619, pp. 488-492, DOI: 10.1126/science.abq2594  

Media Contact:

Peter Zekert

Tel.: +49 2461 61 96860


BrainComp 2022: Experts in neuroscience and computing discuss the digital transformation of neuroscience and benefits of collaborating

A new field of science has been emerging at the intersection of neuroscience and high-performance computing - this is the takeaway from the 2022 BrainComp conference, which took place in Cetraro, Italy from the 19th to the 22nd of September. The meeting, which featured international experts in brain mapping, machine learning, simulation, research infrastructures, neuro-derived hardware, neuroethics and more, strengthened the current collaborations in this emerging field and forged new ones.

Now in its 5th edition, BrainComp first started in 2013 and is jointly organised by the Human Brain Project and the EBRAINS digital research infrastructure, University of Calabria in Italy, the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf and the Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany. It is attended by researchers from inside and outside the Human Brain Project. This year was dedicated to the computational challenges of brain connectivity. The brain is the most complex system in the observable universe due to the tight connections between areas down to the wiring of the individual neurons: decoding this complexity through neuroscientific and computing advances benefits both fields.

Hosted by the organising committee of Katrin Amunts, Scientific Research Director of the HBP, Thomas Lippert, Leader of EBRAINS Computing Services from the Juelich Supercomputing Centre and Lucio Grandinetti from the University of Calabria, the sessions included a variety of topics over four days.

Please find here further information.

Text: Roberto Inchingolo

Congratulations on passing the doctoral exam! We are always interested in the continuing education and personal development of our employees. We are very happy and proud to announce that Dr. Kai Kiwitz has received his doctoral degree yesterday. Congrats from all of us!

We are very proud of you, Doctor Kiwitz!

We are very proud to announce that our dear colleague Prof. Dr. Nicola Palomero-Gallagher had been awarded the title of an Extraordinary Professorship at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. On October, 18th, 2022 she received her certificate of appointment from Prof. Dr. Heiner Fangerau, the vice dean for strategic development of the HHU.


On 12 October 2022, HBP Scientific Director Katrin Amunts and Tommaso Calarco, chair of the Quantum Community Network of the Quantum Flagship, presented two special pieces from Forschungszentrum Jülich to the European Commission in Brussels: an enlarged image of human brain fibers and a true-to-scale replica of the quantum computer "OpenSuperQ". It had been an inspiring meeting about the EU Flagships Human Brain Project and Quantum Flagship with the EC’s DG CNECT.

Further information can be found on: https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en/follow-hbp/news/2022/10/13/hbp-image-human-brain-network-exhibited-offices-european-commission/


New research study published in Brain Structure & Function

From the current research of our scientist Christina Herold there are again interesting facts to read. This time it's about the anatomy, biochemistry and connectivity of cluster N and the hippocampal formation in a migratory bird (garden warbler). The data suggest that the densocellular hyperpallium may provide a central relay station for the transmission of magnetic compass information to the hippocampal formation, where it may be integrated with other navigational cues in nocturnal songbirds. The work was done in collaboration with Dr. Dominik Heyers of the University of Oldenburg. More information can be found here.

Heyers D, Musielak I, Haase K, Herold C, Bolte P, Güntürkün O, Mouritsen H, Morphology, biochemistry and connectivity of Cluster N and the hippocampal formation in a migratory bird, 2022, Brain Structure and Function, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-022-02566-y


Katrin Amunts and Alan Evans present their work to German government during Canada visit

In August 2022, Katrin Amunts from Forschungszentrum Jülich and Alan Evans from McGill University in Canada presented AI applications in brain mapping to German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck and a delegation of high-ranking industry representatives during their visit of the Institut québécois d'intelligence artificielle (Mila) in Montreal.

The successful collaboration between the research teams of Amunts add Evans is carried out under the funding umbrella of the Helmholtz International BigBrain Analystics & Learning Laboratory (HIBALL). In 2013, the neuroscientists jointly presented the BigBrain in the journal Science - a three-dimensional reconstruction of a single human brain with uniquely high resolution. HIBALL takes the successful collaboration to the next level by strengthening the use and joint development of the latest technologies in artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) for neuroscience.

In close partnership with the European Human Brain Project and the Canadian Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives programme, HIBALL is building new transatlantic computing platforms to share big data and workflows between Canada and Germany, enabling collaboration across national, structural and technical boundaries.

During the visit to Canada, the German Chancellor praised the great progress made, especially in AI, which is an important field both for Germany as a science location and for the future of the German economy.


Media coverage:

Hector Research Career Development Award

We would like to draw your attention to the Hector Research Career Development Award. Since 2020, this award is given by the Hector Fellow Academy to support the career of scientists in the phase between postdoc and professorship. The award is aimed at:

  • W1 junior professors (with and without tenure track)
  • Junior research group leaders in comparable positions in natural sciences, engineering, medicine or psychology

Further requirements for an application are an excellent doctorate, which has been completed no longer than seven years ago, a position at a German university or a comparable research institution, as well as a substantive or formal qualification to supervise doctoral students. The award will be given to 3 scientists, of whom at least 50 percent will be female. It is endowed with 25,000 € and includes additional funding for a doctoral position.

The application period is from September 1 to October 30, 2022. For more information, please visit the Hector Fellow Academy website.

The Hector Fellow Academy looks forward to receiving your application!


Avian neurons consume three times less glucose than mammalian neurons

Very interesting findings from recent research by our scientist Felix Ströckens and colleagues. Avian neurons consume three times less glucose than mammalian neurons. The article has just been published in the journal Current Biology. More information can be found here.

von Eugen K, Endepols H, Drzezga A, Neumaier B, Güntürkün O, Backes H, Ströckens F, Avian neurons consume three times less glucose than mammalian neurons, 2022, Current Biology, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.07.070


Open application for Max Planck School of Cognition

The application of the Max Planck School of Cognition is now open until December 1st 2022. The program starts each year on September 1st. 

The Max Planck School of Cognition invites applications from exceedingly bright students with strong academic experience in areas related to cognition such as artificial intelligence, biology, (cognitive) neuroscience, genetics, linguistics, mathematics, neurobiology, neuroimaging, neurology, neurophysics, philosophy, physics, psychiatry, and psychology.

Further information regarding the application procedure can be found on their website: https://cognition.maxplanckschools.org/en/application

They also accept applications for the new Clinician Scientist Program now: https://cognition.maxplanckschools.org/en/csp

Congratulations Alexey!

Congratulations to our Master's student Alexey Chervonnyy for successfully completing his Master of Science in Translational Neuroscience. Great achievement! We look forward to his doctoral studies at the C.&O. Vogt Institute of Brain Research.

Four new brain areas involved in various cognitive processes mapped

Researchers of the Human Brain Project (HBP) have mapped four new areas of the human anterior prefrontal cortex that plays a major role in cognitive functions. Two of the newly identified areas are relatively larger in females than in males.

The human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is involved in cognitive control including attention selection, working memory, decision making and planning of actions. Changes in this brain region are suspected to play a role in schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and bipolar disorder, making it an important research target. A research team based at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine of Forschungszentrum Jülich and the C. & O. Vogt Institute of Brain Research at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf now provide detailed, three-dimensional maps of four new areas of the brain region.

In order to identify the borders between brain areas, the researchers statistically analysed the distribution of cells (the cytoarchitecture) in 10 post mortem human brains. After reconstructing the mapped areas in 3D, the researchers superimposed the maps of the 10 different brains and generated probability maps that reflect how much the localization and size of each area varies among individuals.

High inter-subject variability has been a major challenge for prior attempts to map this brain region leading to considerable discrepancies in pre-existing maps and inconclusive information making it very difficult to understand the specific involvement of individual brain areas in the different cognitive functions. The new probabilistic maps account for the variability between individuals and can be directly superimposed with datasets from functional studies in order to directly correlate structure and function of the areas.

When comparing the brains of female and male tissue donors, the researchers found that the relative volumes of two of the newly identified areas were significantly larger in female than in male brains. This finding may be related to sex differences in cognitive function and behaviour as well as in the prevalence and symptoms of associated brain diseases.

The maps are being integrated into the Julich Brain Atlas that is openly accessible via the Human Brain Project’s research infrastructure EBRAINS.


Original publication: Bruno A, Bludau S, Mohlberg H and Amunts K (2022) Cytoarchitecture, intersubject variability, and 3D mapping of four new areas of the human anterior prefrontal cortex. Front. Neuroanat. 16:915877. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2022.915877   

Brain and Evolution 2022 summer school

During the last week, the ‘Brain and Evolution 2022’ summer school took place in one of the most exciting cities on this planet: Istanbul, Turkey. Supported by the Erasmus+ Program of the European Union and organized by scientists from Koç University Istanbul, Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf, Ruhr-University Bochum and Medical School Hamburg, students, young academics and senior scientist from different German and Turkish labs had the opportunity to discuss their projects, plan new experiments and intensify Turkish-German cooperation. From mammalian neuroanatomy to song bird behavior and crow brains (and many other research areas) the summer school covered a wide range of fascinating topics within the field of comparative neuroscience and brain evolution. In the marvelous environment of Koç University, students from all different fields of neuroscience took the chance to approach and interact with experienced senior scientists and initialized first contacts for collaboration and cooperation projects. Given the enthusiasm of both participating students and scientists, we are certain that these projects will prosper and we are looking forward to further cooperations and activities with our old and new friends from Turkey and Germany! Author: Dr. Felix Ströckens

„Leave of absence“

Behind these three words in the CV of brain researcher Nataliia Fedorchenko lie war and flight, and the hope that she will be able to use her knowledge, which she is now contributing to the Human Brain Project at the Forschungszentrum Jülich, to help rebuild Ukraine.

Further information can be found on the following website: https://www.helmholtz.de/en/newsroom/article/leave-of-absence/

Seven new areas in the human insular cortex are mapped for the first time

A team of researchers from the C. and O. Vogt Institute for Brain Research at the University of Düsseldorf and the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-1) at Forschungszentrum Jülich have identified seven new areas of the human insular cortex, a region of the brain that is involved in a wide variety of functions, including self-awareness, cognition, motor control, sensory and emotional processing. All newly detected areas are now available as 3D probability maps in the Julich Brain Atlas, and can be openly accessed via the Human Brain Project’s EBRAINS infrastructure. Their findings, published in NeuroImage, provide new insights into the structural organisation of this complex and multifunctional region of the human neocortex.

The human insular cortex, or simply “insula”, has gained the attention from researchers since the early 19th century. But a 3D cytoarchitectonic map of the insula that could be linked to neuroimaging studies addressing different cognitive tasks was thus far not available.

The HBP team analysed images of the middle posterior and dorsal anterior insula of ten human brains and used statistical mapping to calculate 3D-probability maps of seven new areas. The probability maps reflect the interindividual variability and localisation of the areas in a three-dimensional space.

Brain areas with differences in their cytoarchitecture - or the organisation of their cellular composition - also likely differ in function. Based on this hypothesis, the researchers aimed to better understand the differences in the microstructure of the insula, and to identify areas that may correlate with its diverse and complex multifunctionality.

The team found that the microstructure of the insula has a remarkable diversity and a broad range of cytoarchitectonic features, which might be the basis for the complex functional organisation in this brain region.

A cluster analysis based on cytoarchitecture resulted in the identification of three superordinate microstructural clusters in the insular cortex. The clusters revealed significant differences in the microstructure of the anterior and posterior insula, reflecting systematic functional differences between both entities.

The new maps are now openly available in the Human Brain Project’s Multilevel Human Brain Atlas on EBRAINS to support future studies addressing relations between structure and function in the human insula.


Quabs J, Caspers S, Schöne C, Mohlberg H, Bludau S, Dickscheid T, Amunts K (2022).

Cytoarchitecture, probability maps and segregation of the human insula,

NeuroImage, Volume 260, 119453, ISSN 1053-8119, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119453.

Alexey Chervonnyy receives PhD Scholarship from Hector Fellow Academy

Alexey Chervonnyy has been awarded a PhD Scholarship from the Hector Fellow Academy. The scholarship, awarded after a multi-stage selection process, will fund a three-year research project at the C. and O. Vogt Institute for Brain Research in Düsseldorf under the supervision of Hector Fellow Katrin Amunts. Chervonnyy will investigate the structure of the human hypothalamus, a part of the brain that plays a key role in regulating neuroendocrine, behavioural and autonomic processes essential to life, such as circadian rhythms, metabolic processes, sleep and body temperature.

“It is a great honour for me to be part of this prestigious programme,” says Chervonnyy, “and I also understand that it comes with a responsibility – which I am more than happy to accept.”

Alexey Chervonnyy has carried out an MSc in Translational Neuroscience at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf and holds a Diploma in Clinical Psychology from Lomonosov Moscow State University. “Alexey is an exceptionally bright student, who has proven his skills and his commitment throughout his MSc studies,” says Katrin Amunts.

During his doctoral research, Chervonnyy will employ an advanced deep-learning mapping tool to analyse the cytoarchitecture of the hypothalamus – the distribution, density and morphology of cells. He will generate a high-resolution, 3D-reconstructed histological model of hypothalamic nuclei as well as probabilistic maps that reflect interindividual variability of brain areas.

The produced maps will be integrated into the Julich Brain Atlas and made publicly available via the Human Brain Project’s research infrastructure EBRAINS. The Julich Brain Atlas has become a modern-day reference map of the brain for the neuroimaging community and its high-precision data serves clinical researchers to improve medical interventions.

“I am very excited to start this important project and work together with Prof. Katrin Amunts – a leading expert in the field of neuroscience,” says Chervonnyy. “The Hector Fellow Academy creates a bridge between generations fostering exchange between young scientists and senior researchers,” he adds.

In addition to funding the doctoral research, the Hector Fellow Academy is offering young researchers various training programmes to improve communication and management skills, which Chervonnyy stresses will have a great impact on his future career.


New website launched presenting the Julich Brain Atlas

We are excited to announce the launch of the new Julich Brain Atlas website. The page presents the concept and research behind the human brain atlas developed by teams at the Institute of Neuroscience Medicine (INM-1) at Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Cécile and Oscar Vogt Institute for Brain Research in Düsseldorf.

The Julich Brain Atlas is the result of more than a quarter of a century of research and has become a modern-day reference of the brain for the neuroimaging community. The atlas contains cytoarchitectonic maps of the human brain in high resolution and comprises maps of more brain areas than ever identified before. It shows the brain’s cellular architecture in a three-dimensional space and reflects variability between individual brains. Various neuroscientific data from different levels can be systematically integrated and analyzed in the atlas – a kind of Google Earth for the brain.

“With the Julich Brain Atlas, we want to provide a tool for scientists around the world to better understand the brain and enable clinicians to plan medical intervention more precisely,” says Katrin Amunts, head of the Julich Brain Atlas and Director of the C. and O. Vogt Institute of Brain Research and the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at Forschungszentrum Jülich.

The new website provides deeper insights into the work that has gone into building the Julich Brain Atlas and the different types of data it comprises – from cytoarchitectonic maps over neurotransmitter receptor densities to fibre architecture. The data of the atlas is made openly available to the scientific community via the Human Brain Project’s research infrastructure EBRAINS.

Katrin Amunts receives Hector Science Award

Prof. Katrin Amunts has received the Hector Science Award 2021. The prestigious prize of 150,000 Euro honours professors from German universities and research institutions for outstanding research achievements, dedication to the education and support of young scientists and contributions to advancing their disciplines and institutions. The award was presented during a virtual award ceremony on 28 January.

You will find further information here.

A video of the award winner can be found here.

HBP scientists outline in Science how brain research makes new demands on supercomputing

In the latest issue of Science, Katrin Amunts and Thomas Lippert explain how advances in neuroscience demand high-performance computing technology and will ultimately need exascale computing power.

Please find here the press release.

Complete data package of Julich-Brain Atlas released

The full dataset of the Julich-Brain probabilistic maps has been published and can be freely downloaded. The data package comprises 148 probability maps in a three-dimensional reference space.


Join us online for the 8th Human Brain Project Summit!

The Human Brain Project and EBRAINS are excited to invite you to the first digital Summit of the Human Brain Project taking place 12-15 October 2021.

The Human Brain Project Summit 2021 will provide an open forum for hundreds of researchers, as well as policy makers, media and public, to discuss exciting scientific results, the latest developments in the project, and the cutting-edge services and tools available on EBRAINS.

The four-day event will kick off with the European Brain Summit taking place on-site in the heart of Brussels, followed by an internal day of HBP meetings carried out online, and finishes with the two-day online scientific conference of the HBP.

You can register here ➡ https://summit2021.humanbrainproject.eu/home/tickets

Find our programme here ➡ https://summit2021-humanbrainproject.eu/programme

We look forward to hosting you for a lively scientific discussion and exchange of ideas around groundbreaking brain science!

Further information can be found here.

Save the date - Fourth Vogt Brodmann Symposium on September 15 and 16, 2022

The Fourth Vogt Brodmann Symposium “The human brain and its variability”Dedicated to the memory of Karl Zilles will take place on September 15 and 16, 2022 in Düsseldorf.

A deeper understanding of the organization of the human brain and its variability is more relevant today than ever before. Modern methods of machine learning and high-performance computing in combination with neuroimaging open up unprecedented possibilities in the fields of brain mapping and medicine. The symposium will provide a forum for the latest research on the organizational principles of the human brain and its variability from different perspectives. The list of invited speakers includes Carmen Cavada, Alan Evans, Angela Friederici, Onur Güntürkün, Gitte Moos Knudsen, Aleksandar Maliković, Gottfried Schlaug, Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, Arthur Toga and Andreas Wree.

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