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Innovative Neuroimaging


Who we are
What we do
Our research group focuses on the investigation of affective reactions examining behavioral as well as neural responses. We are particularly interested in the role gender, hormones and psychological health/illness play during affective reactions.

Below you will find more information about the group members and our research.


News / Recent Publications

Ann-Christin Kimmig won a poster award for her poster “Sexual responsivity in women with different hormone levels” at DGPPN 2019 in Berlin. Congratulations!


Lewis, C. A., Kimmig, A.-C. S., Zsido, R. G., Derntl, B., & Sacher, J. (2019). Effects of hormonal contraceptives on mood: A focus on emotion recognition and reactivity, reward processing, and stress response. Current Psychiatry Reports, 21(11),115. doi:10.1007/s11920-019-1095-z


Hornung, J., Noack, H., Kogler, L., & Derntl, B. (2019). Exploring the fMRI based neural correlates of the dot probe task and its modulation by sex and body odor. Psychoneurondocrinology, 99, 87-96.


Ehlis, A.-C., Barth, B., Hudak, J., Storchak, H., Weber, L., Kimmig, A.-C. S., Kreifelts, B., Dresler, T. & Fallgatter, A. J. (2018), Near‐Infrared Spectroscopy as a New Tool for Neurofeedback Training: Applications in Psychiatry and Methodological Considerations. Jpn Psychol Res, 60: 225-241. doi:10.1111/jpr.12225


Fink, J., Krämer, L., Lüttke, S., Richter, J., von Dawans, B., Kogler, L. (2018). Der wissenschaftliche Nachwuchs in der Klinischen Psychologie und Psychotherapie. Vorteile und Barrieren einer DGPs-Mitgliedschaft. Zeitschrift für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie. 47, 126-136. https://doi.org/10.1026/1616-3443/a000466.

Kimmig, A.-C.S., Andringa, G., & Derntl, B. (2018). Potential Adverse Effects of Violent Video Gaming: Interpersonal- Affective Traits Are Rather Impaired Than Disinhibition in Young Adults. Front. Psychol. 9:736. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00736

Lydia Kogler was granted the following project by the intramural research programme Fortüne::
"Yes I can" - Positive Selbstintruktion im Umgang mit sozialer Bewertung: neuronale Korrelate und subjektive Reaktionen.

Members of Research Group

Prof. Dr. Birgit Derntl, Dipl.-Psych. (Head of research group, Floor 1, Room 201)
Tel. +49 7071 29-85437
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
publications (pubmed)
Curriculum Vitae

Secretary: Diana Thoma (Tel. 07071 29-86119, Floor 1, Room 202)



Lydia Kogler, Dr. rer. medic., Mag. rer. nat.
Postdoctoral Researcher (Floor 1, Room 300)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87030
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Publikationen (pubmed)
Curriculum Vitae




Jonas Hornung, Dr. rer. nat., M.Sc.
Postdoctoral Researcher (Floor 1, Room 301)
Tel. 07071 29-87736
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae




Hannes Noack, Dr. rer. nat., Dipl.-Psych.
Postdoctoral Researcher (Floor 1, Room 300)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87030
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae




Aiste Ambrase, M.Sc.
Scientific Coordinator (Floor 1, Room 301)
Tel. 07071 29-87736
Fax 07071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae



Zoe 1_quadr_60x60

Zoé Bürger, M.Sc.
PhD student (Floor 1, 303)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87736
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae




Ann-Christin Kimmig, M.Sc.
PhD student (Floor 1, Room 336)
Tel. +49 7071 29-86563
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae



Carolin 3_quadr60x60

Carolin Lewis, M.Sc.
PhD student (Floor 1, 303)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87736
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae




Elisa Rehbein, M.Sc.
PhD student (Floor 1, Room 336)
Tel. +49 7071 29-86563
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae



Ferdinand 2_quadr_60x60

Ferdinand Sörensen, Mag. rer. nat.
PhD student in collaboration with the Children's Hospital (Floor 1, 303)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87736
Fax +49 7071 29-5904
Curriculum Vitae



M.D. Students
  • Julia Auer
  • Sophie Berger
  • Annika Buchheit
  • Sina-Maria Bucksch
  • Tabea Dannheim
  • Sana Eisenkolb
  • Hannah Fandel
  • Anna Gärtner
  • Julia Hug
  • Leonie Matkei
  • Julia Mattfeld
  • Janina Noll
  • Jill Rena Ramroth
  • Anna Sattler
  • Christina-Maria Schulte
  • David Selemann
  • Franziska Stern
  • Madeleine Voigt
Student Assistants
  • Sabrina Eutebach
  • Melina Grahlow
  • Bela Kittelberger
  • Daniel Ohms
  • Theresa Schell
  • Matthias Viteritti
Guest Researchers
Joana 2_quadr_60x60

Joana Grave, M.Sc.
PhD student in collaboration with the University of Aveiro, Portugal




Sandra Stojic, M.Sc.
PhD student in collaboration with the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary (DAAD Stipend)



  • Dr. Raviteja Kotikalapudi (Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Bern)
  • Dr. Nadine Skoluda (Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Vienna)


Research Interests

Gender and sex-hormones do not only influence our health and behavior, but they also affect our brain. Therefore, our research group focuses on the investigation of these effects on multiple levels (behavior, brain and psychophysiology) during various processes – ranging from emotional competencies and empathy to stress and to motivation. On the neural level, the task-related activation of certain brain regions as well as the resting-state functional connectivity is of great interest to us.

Many patients with mental illnesses show deficits in affective processes. Therefore, we also examine the interactions of gender, hormone concentrations and symptomatology in different patient groups. In addition, the testing and development of therapeutic interventions targeting behavioral as well as neural processes is a central subject of investigation in this research group.


If you are interested in writing your bachelor’s or master’s thesis in this research group, please contact Prof. Dr. Birgit Derntl.

Methodological Focus

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • EEG neurofeedback
  • Neuropsychology
  • Experimental-psychological and psychophysiological measures


Collaboration Partners
  • Prof. Dr. Simon Eickhoff, Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • Prof. Dr. Jessica Freiherr, Klinik für Diagnostische und Interventionelle Neuroradiologie, RWTH Aachen
  • Prof. Ruben und Raquel Gur, Brain Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Prof. Dr. Ute Habel, Klinik für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik, RWTH Aachen
  • Prof. Dr. Alex Hofer, Department für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik, Medizinische Universität Innsbruck, Österreich
  • Dr. Carmen Morawetz, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Dr. Dr. Belina Pletzer, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, Salzburg
  • Prof. Dr. Inger Sundström Poromaa, Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics, University of Uppsala, Sweden
  • PD Dr. Julia Sacher, Max Planck Institute für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften, Leipzig


Recent and Current Research Projects


  • Subjective reactions to social evaluation (fortüne-project)
    Funding Period 4/2018 – 4/2020) (Contact: Lydia Kogler)

Wir sind täglich mit zahlreichen Situationen konfrontiert, in denen wir  durch andere bewertet werden. Unangemessener Umgang mit Bewertungen durch andere (bspw. mit Sätzen wie Das hast du schlecht gemacht) sind ein zentrales Problem vieler Patient/innen mit psychischen Störungen.
Das Ziel der Studie ist es, individuelle subjektive, peripherphysiologische und neuronale Reaktionen auf soziale Videos zu erfassen, um diese Videos im Weiteren so anzupassen, dass sie im klinischen Kontext eingesetzt werden können. Zusätzlich werden Effekte auf die funktionelle Konnektivität im Hirn mittels funktioneller Kernspintomografie (fMRT) erfasst. Die Daten sollen weiterführend dazu dienen, Interventionen zum Umgang mit sozialer Bewertung für Patient/innen zu verbessern.


  • Mini-RTG ‘Pregnancy and the Brain’ (CIN EXC 307 Project with Prof. Dr. Martin Walter, Prof. Dr. Hubert Preissl, Prof. Dr. Ingeborg Krägeloh-Mann, Prof. Dr. Inger Sundström Poromaa  (University of Uppsala), Prof. Dr. Lisa Ekselius (University of Uppsala), Prof. Dr. Fotis Papadopozlos and Prof. Dr. Alkistis Skalkidou)
    Funding Period 07/2017-07/2020 (Contact: Elisa Rehbein, Ferdinand Sörensen)

The proposed Research Training Group „Pregnancy and the brain“ brings together researchers from neuropsychology, informatics and medical sciences in order to establish substantial scientific exchange and to promote young doctoral researchers within the framework of a clearly defined and well-structured research and training program. This program will provide an integrated and interdisciplinary investigation of the effect of pregnancy on socio-cognitive processes, brain structure and function, post-partum mood and mental health as well as its impact on fetal and child development. The first aim is to better characterize how pregnancy, a period of massive hormonal adaptation, changes women’s brains, cognition and associated behavior. The second aim then focuses on mechanisms of transgenerational transmission explaining how differential pregnancy course affects fetal and early childhood development on the level of brain function, mother-child interaction and mental well-being of both. This ambitious aim can be approached by using different methodologies on different levels, i.e. the neural, behavioral, representational, procedural, and the phenomenal level. To integrate these various levels and areas into a comprehensive theoretical framework is a major challenge and requires cooperation between psychology, neurosciences, gynecology and obstetrics, physics and informatics.


We assume that an appropriate understanding of the impact of pregnancy on brain structure, function and associated behavioral aspects is of great importance for future research in neurobiology, psychiatry, cognitive psychology, philosophy as well as for medical and ethical practice.

  • Emotional hormones: the impact of endogenous and synthetic sex steroids on female’s sexual responsiveness (DFG-Project)
    Funding Period 07/2017 – 07/2020 (Contact: Ann-Christin Kimmig)


Oral contraceptives (OCs) are taken by millions of women worldwide every day. No other “pill” has had such a tremendous effect on society, primarily by enabling women to control and prevent pregnancy, thereby challenging societal conventions and gender stereotypes. While evidence has accumulated that endogenous sex steroids affect a broad spectrum of human behaviour, little is known about the psychological and neurobiological effects of OC-intake. The few existing studies however point to significant changes in social behaviour, which may have far reaching individual and societal consequences: mating preferences shift across the menstrual cycle and are affected by OC-intake. Further, sex steroids affect sexual desire and arousal and alter reward processing. Therefore, concentration of sex steroids has critical impact on a very important facet of a woman’s life: mate choice and mating preferences. Consequently, it may affect sexual appetence and thus the actual behavioural tendencies i.e. approach and avoidance behaviour, however, this has not been assessed up to now.


The main objective of this proposal is to investigate the impact of endogenous and synthetic sex steroids on sexual appetence and brain response. To do so, 3 groups of women will be studied: 1) naturally cycling women, 2) women starting OC-intake after the first measurement and 3) women with OC-intake longer than 12 months. All women will undergo an approach-avoidance task targeting sexual appetence using functional neuroimaging techniques. Additionally, we will assess brain volume and resting-state functional connectivity. To assess changes due to OC-intake, all women will be measured twice to highlight short-term impact of OC-intake after 3 months. Moreover, effects of cycle- and OC-intake dependent hormonal fluctuations on performance and neuroimaging parameters (neural activation, resting state functional connectivity and grey matter morphometry) will also be analysed.


The present project focuses on the combination and subsequent integration of behavioural, subjective, endocrinological and neural data on female social behaviour. This will be the first study to address the impact of OC-intake on several levels combing different neuroimaging parameters (functional activation, resting-state functional connectivity and brain volume) as well as behavioural performance. By doing so, the psychological and neurobiological implications of OC-intake will be characterised.

  • The impact of sex and genetic as well as epigenetic parameters on stress reactions and cognitive performance (DFG project with Prof. Dr. Vanessa Nieratschker & Prof. Dr. Ute Habel, RWTH Aachen)
    Funding period 02/2017-01/2020 (Contact: Hannes Noack)

Stress has originally been defined as a non-specific bodily response to any demands that exceed the individual’s resources. Several influencing factors on the stress response have been identified, thus one major challenge for contemporary stress research is to explain and model individual differences in stress vulnerability. A common observation is that reactions to stress are different in females and males. Whereas men indeed report enhanced physiological reactivity towards stress, women report more subjective distress and negative affect. Despite the fact that animal studies indicate a significant impact of sex and stressor type on cognition, it is currently unclear how this effect is modulated in humans.  


One promising approach to address these differences is the investigation of the impact of genetic and epigenetic parameters. A polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has repeatedly been demonstrated to confer a vulnerability to stress. However, several attempts failed to replicate these results, presumably because the effect of 5-HTTLPR may also be moderated by complex interactions of sex, sex hormones, and other genetic variants. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that early-life environmental influences can induce permanent structural and regulatory alterations e.g. disturbed programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The underlying biological mechanisms are still poorly understood, but evidence is emerging that they involve stable changes in epigenetic mechanisms that regulate gene expression and ultimately complex neural functions. One such mechanism is DNA methylation.


Therefore, in the proposed project we want to investigate the subjective, psychophysiological and neural stress reaction of 165 female and 165 male participants genotyped for 5-HTTLPR during a psychosocial stress task. The study will be carried out at two sites, Aachen and Tübingen. Methylation levels of the serotonin-transporter gene (SCL6A4) will also be analyzed in all participants. Stress often has negative consequences on cognitive processes, thus the sex-specific impact on cognitive abilities and their neural correlates will also be investigated within this project. Moreover, neuropsychological, psychophysiological and self-report data will be collected and associated with stress reactions and cognitive abilities.


Investigating the specificity of the stress response and its consequences on cognitive abilities by taking into account sex, genetic as well as epigenetic parameters will essentially contribute to our understanding of individual differences in stress vulnerability and stress regulation processes. As many psychiatric disorders are associated with stress, our findings will have relevant implications for clinical research.

  • Emotional attention, sex und olfaction (fortüne project DE2319)
    Funding period 01/2016-12/2017

Processes of visual attention play a crucial role for interpersonal interaction. These processes are influenced by various factors including gender and more specifically the menstrual cycle in females. Androstadienone - a socially-relevant, human scent - influences attentional processes by causing attentional biases towards emotional stimuli. The exact role of socially-relevant scents in human interaction has not been well investigated. Furthermore, gender-specific neurobiological underpinnings of scent-induced attention modulation are entirely unknown. Therefore, the overall aim of this project is to investigate the effect of androstadienone on selective attention processing as well as attention biases and their neural underpinnings, taking into account the participants’ gender and phase of menstrual cycle. All participants will take part in two fMRI measurements (androstadienone vs. placebo). A significant modulation of both attentional processes by androstadienone was previously shown. This modulation is expected to be moderated by gender and phase of menstrual cycle.


The modulation of emotional-cognitive processes by gender, phase of menstrual cycle or socially-relevant scents like androstadienone has not yet been studied sufficiently. A thorough investigation of these effects is crucial to be able to infer their influences on gender-specific behavior and prevalence rates (for example: depression in women), as well as, to possibly derive new therapeutic interventions based on this gained knowledge.

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Research Interests
- Stress
- Empathy
- Emotion Detection
- Emotion Regulation
- Sex Differences
- Hormones (e.g. Cortisol, Testosteron, Estrogen, Progesteron, etc.)
- Affective Neurosciences
- Olfactory
Innovative Neuroimaging
Calwerstraße 14
Tübingen 72076
Prof. Birgit Derntl
Tel. +49 7071 29-85437

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