University of Hamburg gets EUR 4.5 million for new research unit

13 July 2023
German Research Foundation funding research into learning processes and psychological health

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is putting EUR 4.5 million in funds towards four-year research at the University of Hamburg into how learning processes can fail and the consequences,  a press release said Monday (July 7, 2023). The interdisciplinary research unit, headed by Prof. Dr. Tania Lincoln, is co-operating with researchers at other universities.

Making development of mental illness comprehensible

One important factor is if patients have a distorted view of reality. “They are not in a position to actively process new situations or information and thus they are often less able to adapt to external changes,” said Lincoln, who is a professor of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at the University of Hamburg. Patients' beliefs may no longer correspond to real experiences and that can lead to greater uncertainty.

The new research unit, "Contextual Influences on Dynamic Belief Updating in Volatile Environments: Basic Mechanisms and Clinical Implications" will analyse the mechanisms in the brain when processing new information and changes and above all why they do not work in some people. “We also want to study the influence of developmental phases such as childhood and adolescence and external factors such as stress on this type of dynamic learning,” said Lincoln. The findings should make it easier to grasp the development of various psychological conditions.

Understanding how people learn and adapt

The group will pool expertise in psychopathology, development, learning mechanisms, neuronal processing, and cognitive modelling. The unit also involves researchers at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Humboldt University of Berlin, Free University of Berlin, and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. The researchers want to measure and study dynamic learning processes with a playful computer task to identify the neuronal processes involved. "The group’s research will significantly expand our understanding of how people learn and adapt. This will help us identify clinically relevant deviations and it is promising for innovative and optimized developmental interventions," said Prof. Dr. Hauke Heekeren, President of the University of Hamburg. "The grant attests to top performance in research at the University of Hamburg and shows that our work has the potential to revolutionize our understanding and treatment of psychological disorders,” he added. The research unit is also receiving a flat sum bringing total funding to EUR 5.4 million.


Sources and further information

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