On the Importance of the Cerebellum: DFG Funds Interdisciplinary Project of ELH-PIs

  • 04/19/2024

Interdisciplinary work has always been a top priority at the Erwin L. Hahn Institute for MRI (ELH). Now three ELH PIs have joined forces for a new DFG-funded research project.

Together, Prof Dr Ulrike Bingel (pain research), Prof Dr Matthias Brand (behavioral addiction research) and Prof Dr Dagmar Timmann (cerebellar research) want to find out to what extent the cerebellum contributes to reinforcement learning through its connection to the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The project "Involvement of the human cerebellum in reinforcement learning via its connection to the ventral tegmental area (VTA)" is being funded by the DFG with 300,000 euros.

The VTA is an accumulation of neurons in the human midbrain that contribute to the release of dopamine, among other things. It is therefore assumed that the VTA plays a significant role in addiction, associative learning and various psychiatric disorders.

"Our study will provide the first answers as to how exactly the cerebellum supports non-motor functions and how cerebellar dysfunction could contribute to common mental disorders," says Prof Dr Dagmar Timmann from the Department of Neurology at the UK Essen.

Among other things, the 7Tesla MRI scanner at the ELH will be used in their research: The high-resolution images gained during functional MRI (fMRI) scans can help to visualise the interactions between the cerebellum and the VTA.

Source: UDE