Using various brain imaging techniques, e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and spectroscopy, our research explores neural correlates of perception (including pain perception and chronic pain), cognitive processes, and learning (i.e., the brain's ability to adapt to new challenges, develop new skills, and recover from damage).
Practicing and learning are thought to both induce and result from neuroplasticity, which can occur at multiple levels of neural organization, ranging from synaptic plasticity to changes in complex neural circuitry. Modern brain imaging techniques are capable of detecting macro-changes in brain function, connectivity, and regional morphology. Our research explores neural mechanisms that underlie various types of learning, such as perceptual and associative learning. We are currently investigating how cortical plasticity enables new levels of processing, specifically the transition from perceptual to lexico-semantic analysis (SFB 874, TP A8: Investigation of cortical plasticity that underlies the transition between perceptual and semantic learning in the human brain).
Neuroplasticity helps to recover brain functions that were diminished or lost after brain injury or within the course of neurodegenerative disease. Each year at our neurorehabilitation facility, the St. Mauritius Therapie Klinik, we treat approximately 1400 patients following stroke, traumatic brain injury, or hypoxic brain damage. Using brain imaging, we work to identify biomarkers that predict adverse clinical outcomes in patients with hypoxic brain damage and we evaluate potentialchanges in brain function that may be associated with clinical recovery.
Although chronic pain states are highly prevalent, the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of pain becoming chronic remain poorly understood. Increasing evidence to date indicates that chronic pain is associated with maladaptive neuroplastic changes in the brain. In the past ten years alterations in brain function, structure, and chemistry could be demonstrated in various chronic pain states. Further, these neuroplastic changes are likely to contribute to other clinical complaints and symptoms, such as increased levels of depression, anxiety and dyscognition. We are currently investigating dyscognition in chronic pain states (DFG Project SCHM 2665/4-1: Dyscognition in chronic pain – a systematic approach to cognitive complaints, cognitive performance, meta-memory and malingering in patients suffering from chronic pain).
1. Heba S, Lenz M, Dinse H, Edden R, Tegenthoff M, Schmidt-Wilcke T. Local GABA concentration predicts perceptual improvement after repetitive sensory stimulation. Cerebral Cortex. 2015; 26(3): 1295-301
2. From perceptual to lexico-semantic analysis-cortical plasticity enabling new levels of processing. Schlaffke L, Rüther NN, Heba S, Haag LM, Schultz T, Rosengarth K, Tegenthoff M, Bellebaum C, Schmidt-Wilcke T. Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Nov;36(11):4512-28.
3. Haag LM, Heba S, Lenz M, Glaubitz B, Höffken O, Kalisch T, Puts NA, Edden RA, Tegenthoff M, Dinse H, Schmidt-Wilcke T. Resting BOLD fluctuations in the primary somatosensory cortex correlate with tactile acuity. Cortex. 2014 Oct 7;64C:20-28.
4. Kühnle E, Unterberg M, Köditz R., Tegenthoff M, Schwenkreis P, Kitzrow M, Schmidt-Wilcke T. Ein erstaunlich guter Verlauf bei einer Patientin nach kadiopulmonaler Reanimation trotz Burst Suppression Muster und NSE Werten über 100 mg/l. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Neurorehabilitation. 2017; 23(1): 99-102.
5. Zunhammer M, Schweizer LM, Witte V, Harris RE, Bingel U, Schmidt-Wilcke T. Combined glutamate and glutamine levels in pain-processing brain regions are associated with individual pain sensitivity. Pain. 2016 Oct;157(10):2248-56.
6. Glass J, Williams DA, Fernandez-Sanchez M, Kairys A, Barjola P, Heitzeg M, Clauw DJ, Schmidt-Wilcke T. Executive function in chronic pain patients and healthy controls: Different cortical activation during response inhibition in fibromyalgia. Journal of Pain. 2011 Dec; 12(12):1219-29.
7. Luerding R, Weigand T, Bogdahn U, Schmidt-Wilcke T. Working memory performance is correlated with local brain morphology in the medial frontal and anterior cingulate cortex in fibromyalgia patients. Structural correlates of pain-cognition interaction. Brain. 2008 Dec; 131 (Pt 12):3222-31.