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European training network successfully acquired

The neuroscientists Richard Apps from the University of Bristol, Philip Tovote from the University Hospital Würzburg and Dagmar Timmann from the University Hospital Essen have successfully acquired a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network funded by the European Research Council. The award for over 4.5 million euros creates a virtual institute of 7 European universities and 7 industry/charity partners. Starting in fall of 2021, the funds will support 15 early stage researchers working across the consortium over the next 4 years. The training network adresses a hitherto little known role of an important part of the brain, the cerebellum, namely its involvement in the control of emotions.

The so called little brain (Latin: cerebellum) is a part of the central nervous system which, despite its name, contains more nerve cells than all other brain regions put together. It developed very early in the course of evolution and takes on important control functions in humans and animals, such as controlling fine motor movements. Damage to the cerebellum leads to serious clinical symptoms in humans, which in addition to movement disorders can also include cognitive and emotional impairments. The mechanisms underlying non-motor functions of the cerebellum are not very well understood.

The newly established consortium, called CEN (for cerebellum & emotional networks), brings together researchers from five countries and over the next four years will address the contribution of the cerebellum to the control of emotions, in particular of fear and anxiety. One focus will be on the mechanistic elucidation of the interplay between the cerebellum and other parts of the brain, i.e. the network connections and associated brain activity.

For this purpose, two to three doctoral students will work on specific aspects of the scientific question at each location. About half of the projects deal with fundamental studies on rodent models, which enable a detailed description of the network processes on the level of individual and selected groups of neurons. The other half of the projects look at cerebellar functions in humans, in healthy volunteers and in patients with diseases of the cerebellum on the one hand and emotional problems such as anxiety disorders on the other. In order to enable the translation of results from both research fields, they are then compared and linked with one another and analyzed using mathematical models.

In addition to generating excellent research results, the focus of CEN is on training a new generation of scientists with expert knowledge in both basic and clinical research. This will be achieved within CEN through intensive exchange via digital media and virtual research environments, as well as in joint conferences and laboratory internships. In addition, the doctoral students will come into contact with private companies, NGOs, rehabilitation clinics and national and international patient self-help groups and can thus gain a comprehensive insight into non-academic job profiles.

The aim of CEN is to better understand the previously underestimated role of the cerebellum in the regulation of emotions and to implement the knowledge gained in patient-oriented applications. At the same time, the interdisciplinary and international training and research structure creates excellent academic and non-academic career opportunities for young scientists.


Participating institutions:

University of Bristol, United Kingdom

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

University Hospital Würzburg

University Hospital Essen

École Normale Supérieure Paris, France

Università Pavia, Italy

Universitet Uppsala, Sweden

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