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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

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.


Hornung, J., Kogler, L., Erb, M., Freiherr, J., & Derntl, B. (2018). The human body odor compound androstadienone increases neural conflict coupled to higher behavioral costs during an emotional Stroop task. Neuroimage 171, 364-375. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.01.027.

Hornung, J., Noack, H., Thomas, M., Farger, G., Nieratschker, V., Freiherr, J., & Derntl, B. (2018). Bayesian informed evidence against modulation of androstadienone-effects by genotypic receptor variants and participant sex: A study assessing Stroop interference control, mood and olfaction. Hormones and behavior, 98, 45-5.


Members of Research Group

Prof. Dr. Birgit Derntl, Dipl.-Psych. (Head of research group)
Tel. +49 7071 29-85437
Fax +49 7071 29-5379
publications (pubmed)
Curriculum Vitae



Gizem Altan, M.Sc.
PhD student at Vision and Cognition RG (Floor 1, Room 300)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87030
Fax +49 7071 29-5379
Curriculum Vitae




Jonas Hornung, M.Sc.
PhD student (Floor 1, Room 301)
Tel. 07071 29-87037
Fax +49 7071 29-5379
Curriculum Vitae




Ann-Christin Kimmig, M.Sc.
PhD student (Floor 1, Room 336)
Tel. +49 7071 29-86563
Fax +49 7071 29-5379
Curriculum Vitae




Lydia Kogler, Dr. rer. medic., Mag. rer. nat.
Post-Doc (Floor 1, Room 300)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87030
Fax +49 7071 29-5379
Publikationen (pubmed)
Curriculum Vitae




Hannes Noack, Dr. rer. nat., Dipl.-Psych.
Post-Doc (Floor 1, Room 300)
Tel. +49 7071 29-87030
Fax +49 7071 29-5379
Curriculum Vitae




Elisa Rehbein, M.Sc.
PhD student (Floor 1, Room 336)
Tel. +49 7071 29-86563
Fax +49 7071 29-5379
Curriculum Vitae




Aiste Seibokaite, M.Sc.
Scientific Coordinator (Floor 1, Room 301)
Tel. 07071 29-87037
Fax 07071 29-5379
Curriculum Vitae



Doktoral Students / Research Assistants
  • Julia Auer, cand. med.
  • Maxi Bürkle, M. Sc.
  • Mark Byrne (B. Sc., Praktikant)
  • Sana Eisenkolb, cand. med.
  • Hannah Fandel, cand.med.
  • Sara-Lena Frick, cand. med.
  • Franziska von Helmholtz, B. Sc.
  • Carolin Maier, M. Sc.
  • Maria Mayer, M. Sc.
  • Christina-Maria Schulte, can. med.
  • Franziska Stern, cand. med.



Nadine Skoluda, Dr. rer. nat., Dipl.-Psych.
now Post-Doc at the University of Vienna
Tel. +43-1-4277-47239
Fax +43-1-4277-847239
Curriculum Vitae



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 at 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. Ute Habel, Clinic of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic, RWTH Aachen
  • Prof. Dr. Ewald Moser, Center of Excellence for MR Research, Medical University Wien
  • Prof. Dr. Jessica Freiherr, Clinic for diagnostic and interventional Neuroradiology, RWTH Aachen
  • Prof. Ruben und Raquel Gur, Brain Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Prof. Dr. Simon Eickhoff, Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • Dr. Carmen Morawetz, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Prof. Matthew Smith, Department of Psychiatry, Northwestern University, Chicago
  • Prof. Dr. Veronika Schöpf, University of Graz
  • Prof. Dr. Rupert Lanzenberger, Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical University Wien
  • Prof. Dr. Vanessa Nieratschker, RG Molecular Psychiatry, Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen
  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Hallschmid, Institute for Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Bartels, Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience, Tübingen
  • OA Dr. Stephan Wolpert, Clinic of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Univerisity Hospital TübingenOA Dr. Stephan Wolpert, Hals-Nasen-Ohren-Klinik, Universitätsklinikum Tübingen


Recent and Current Research Projects


  • 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

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


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

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.


  • Neural correlates of cognitive-affective indicators during processing of gender-stereotypes in transgender individuals (DFG project with Prof. Dr. Ute Habel, RWTH Aachen)
    Funding Period 2014-2016

The influence of voice-related gender-characteristics and social gender-stereotypes on gender-specific behavior and perception, as well as their neural correlates, are in need of further investigation. This is especially the case when considering gender identity disorders. Therefore, this project aims to investigate a) the neural correlates of the processing and discrimination of female and male voices, b) self- vs other-attribution of gender-stereotypic adjectives and c) the influence of the later on memory, by using fMRI on 16 female, 16 male and 16 male-to-female (MtF) transgender participants.

This project will help to uncover the cerebral networks underlying the processing of biological sex-characteristics (i.e. voice) on the one hand, but also the social gender-characterization (i.e. stereotypes) on the other hand. Furthermore, it allows determining differences in neural activity of participants with MtF gender identity disorder – which consequently could lead to the identification of potential endophenotypes. The findings of this project could potentially provide important diagnostic and therapeutic implications for the treatment of MtF transgender patients.


  • The influence of gender on behavioral and neural correlates of stress  (FWF-project with Prof. Dr. Ewald Moser & Prof. Dr. Christian Windischberger, MUW Wien, Prof. Dr. Ute Habel, RWTH Aachen, Prof. Dr. Ruben Gur, UPENN und Prof. Dr. Ilse Kryspin-Exner, UNI WIEN)
    Funding Period 2011-2015

Female or male – our sex is one of the most important biological factors in humans. It has a wide range of consequences on various aspects, ranging from socio-emotional abilities to the general health status. Physiological as well as the psychological responses to stress have a great impact on human health. Considering stress reactions, former studies suggest that gender differences can most likely be found in subjective, physiological as well as neural correlates.


When confronted with social stress, women show a reduced cortisol response, but report a strong subjective feeling of stress and show a heightened neural activation of the limbic system. Men, interestingly, show a reduced subjective feeling of stress during performance-induced stress, but react more strongly on a physiological level. The stronger neural activation of prefrontal regions in men compared to women suggests a regulatory response. Even though gender-differences in stress reactions (dependent on the type of stressor) have been established on a behavioral level, no neuroimaging studies have tried to directly compare the subjective, physiological and neural responses to performance-induced and social stress in women and men. The aim of this study is to investigate gender-specific differences in the stress response to different types of stressors (performance-induced vs. social stress) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

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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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