From memory formation during sleep to novel components for physics


DFG approves 16 new Collaborative Research Centres

This release is also available in German

Eight of the 16 new Collaborative Research Centres established by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) as of 1 July 2005 are primarily focussed on the life sciences. As well as studying memory formation during sleep, the projects also focus on impaired development of the nervous system and immune system therapy. Two Collaborative Research Centres working in engineering aim to develop components with new physical properties, including components made from a single, solid piece. The Collaborative Research Centres that deal primarily with the natural sciences will deal with aspects such as molecular switching, spectral structures in mathematics and studies of quantum matter. Following the decision taken by the Grants Committee responsible for Collaborative Research Centres at its session on 23 and 24 May 2005 the DFG will now fund a total of 269 Collaborative Research Centres at 59 universities, including 23 Transregional Collaborative Research Centres, which are Collaborative Research Centres located at more than one site, as well as 16 Transfer Units, which convert the findings of basic research into practical applications through cooperation between scientists and end users. Additionally, funding for 26 Collaborative Research Centres was extended for a further funding period, including 4 from the humanities and social sciences and engineering, 8 from the natural sciences and 10 from life sciences. The funding for 2005 amounts to approximately €370 million.

Life Sciences

Humans spend approximately a third of the time asleep. Studies to date have shown that sleep plays an important role in memory formation. The new Collaborative Research Centre "Plasticity and sleep" aims to investigate the plastic processes of memory formation during sleep which not only play a role for our cognitive memory, but also for our metabolism and immune system's memory. The researchers at the universities of Lübeck and Kiel, together with the Research Centre Borstel, assume that the memory-forming processes in these three distinct regions are controlled by a single higher-level control system during sleep and are – at least partially – based on the same mechanisms. The findings will also be used to study selected groups of patients directly in a clinical setting.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Jan Born, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein)

The main question addressed by the Collaborative Research Centre "Cells into Tissues: Stem Cell and Progenitor Commitment and Interactions during Tissue Formation" is how cells form tissue and how this tissue can be maintained. The researchers aim to combine the traditionally disparate disciplines of cell and developmental biology, bioengineering and clinical medicine in order to develop new therapeutic approaches for regenerative medicine in the long term.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Gerhard Ehninger, Technical University of Dresden)

The most frequent cause of death in industrialised countries remains cardiovascular disease, especially heart attacks, which are caused by complex deformation of the arteries in the heart. Studies have shown that genetic factors have a significant impact on an individual's risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. It is therefore important to implement this finding not only therapeutically, but also diagnostically in the form of molecular functional imaging. The Collaborative Research Centre "Molecular cardiovascular imaging – from mouse to man" will focus primarily on the development and validation of molecular methods for new imaging methods and their application for characteristic models of cardiovascular disease.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Otmar Schober, University of Münster)

Progress in genetics and molecular biology over the past two decades have made it possible to study development of the nervous system and impairment of this development at a new level – the molecular level. The Collaborative Research Centre "Impaired development of the nervous system" will bring researchers conducting basic research and paediatricians together to investigate the cellular, biochemical and neurophysiological mechanisms that are fundamental to the formation of a highly developed nervous system by means of genetic analysis in animals, defects in which can lead to severe mental disability. In so doing, the Collaborative Research Centre is both taking on a very current topic of interest and simultaneously building a bridge between molecular and clinical research.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Robert Nitsch, the Free University of Berlin)

Controlling the human immune system, on the one hand for treating cancer and on the other for treating auto immune diseases, is one of the greatest challenges facing modern medicine. The first palpable results in this area have given the Collaborative Research Centre "Immune therapy: from the molecular fundamentals to clinical practice" the impetus to study the molecular mechanisms which take place between the cells involved in these processes. The aim is to develop strategies for effective therapeutic methods. The research priorities include treatment of the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as a number of cancers such as leukaemia, skin cancer and various gynaecological and urological tumours.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Hans-Georg Rammensee, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen)

Allergies have become a national disease in Germany, first and foremost the chronic lung disease asthma. Despite it being so widespread in the population, preventative measures and therapeutic methods for allergic lung inflammation are scarce and inadequate. In the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Allergic immune responses from the lungs" researchers at the universities of Marburg and Lübeck and the Technical University and Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich as well as from the Research Centre Borstel aim to reach a scientific understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms, which will in turn lead to novel preventative and therapeutic strategies. Based on the observation that children who grow up in a rural setting and are subjected to harmless bacteria and dust are less susceptible to allergies and asthma, the group aims to study how susceptibility to allergies arises and what role is played by the key mechanisms of congenital immunity.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Harald Renz, Philipps University of Marburg)

Vascular diseases account, directly or indirectly, for approximately 70 percent of all deaths. These diseases include illnesses such as diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and tumours. So far, little has been know about the cellular and molecular changes which occur in the diseased arterial walls. This is the problem addressed by researchers from the universities of Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Freiburg as well as from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg in the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Vascular Differentiation and Remodelling". The emphasis is on studies of the complex organotypical interaction between the cells in the vascular walls – a paradigm change in vascular medicine, since the focus is placed upon the role played by the vascular walls in the progress of disease.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Karl Plate, Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main)

The understanding of hearing in situations of complex stimuli is the topic of the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "The active ear". Medics, psychologists, biologists and physicists will design and verify models to represent the way in which acoustic signals are processed, in order to then explain the mechanisms which are responsible for the exceptional abilities of the human auditory system, such as recognising individuals and understanding what they are saying in a general mass of voices. The objective of the researchers from the universities of Oldenburg and Magdeburg as well as from the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg is to develop a robust and optimised signal processing model for a variety of acoustic situations.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Georg M. Klump, University of Oldenburg)

Natural Sciences

The focal point of the Collaborative Research Centre "Strong correlation and collective phenomena in the radiation field: Coulombic systems, clusters and particles" is the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter. When light hits matter things happen that play an important role not only in quantum physics, but also in our everyday lives, for example in microwave ovens and CD players. The researchers plan to study new phenomena of this interaction using the possibilities afforded by the latest technical and physical developments and the behaviour of different materials when exposed to electromagnetic radiation. The new free electron laser (FEL) at DESY in Hamburg, which will be used as a light source for some of the planned experiments, will play an important part in these studies and provide new experimental possibilities.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Karl-Heinz Meiwes-Broer, University of Rostock)

In the Collaborative Research Centre "Elementary processes in molecular switches on surfaces" the fundamentals of switching mechanisms will be studied and models for nanoswitches developed. As a result of the continuing miniaturisation of microelectronics and sensors it will become necessary, in the medium term, to understand and be able to use controlled switching processes at the molecular level. Nature provides us with good examples. The researchers involved in the centre will therefore investigate the structural and electronic properties of molecular nanosystems which exhibit such switching functions. The long term aim is to develop novel functionalities such as cooperative switching between molecules at interfaces.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Martin Wolf, the Free University of Berlin)

Photoinduced processes in complex systems, which take place following the irradiation of molecules with light, are the main area of investigation for the Collaborative Research Centre "The molecular answer to electronic excitement". The main aim is to elucidate the intra and intermolecular interactions occurring on the microscopic level in response to bombardment by photons, and thus identify in particular the excited states and reaction mechanisms of the atoms involved, which are of wide-ranging importance for research in biochemistry, material science and medicine, for instance in the development of photostable dyes or for endogenic sun screens.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Christel Marian, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

Many significant developments in modern mathematics are connected to the study of spectral structures and the use of topological methods. Spectral structures are found in many areas of mathematics and in a wide variety of practical applications. For example, light occurs as infra red, visible and ultraviolet light in a variety of spectral manifestations and can only be understood as a unified phenomenon by looking at these various forms as a whole. The Collaborative Research Centre "Spectral structures and topological methods in mathematics" will focus on topological methods, which can be used to analyse the internal structure of mathematical objects. It is hoped that this approach will help to explain and improve the understanding of the relationship between different forms of light. To achieve this, the researchers from the university of Bielefeld are combining various mathematical areas such as algebra, representation, group and number theory, stochastics, the theory of dynamic systems and mathematic crystallography.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Friedrich Götze, University of Bielefeld)

The focus of the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Quantum control of customised materials: Joint perspectives from mesoscopic systems and quantum gases" is the investigation of fundamental questions on quantum matter. The main representatives of quantum matter are quantum gases and mesoscopic systems, since these can be controlled in a defined region and geometry. In addition to developing new states of matter and dynamic quantum states, the researchers from the universities of Stuttgart, Tübingen and Ulm as well as from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart also hope to study new phase transitions. Their studies will combine aspects of quantum optics and solid state physics.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Tilman Pfau, University of Stuttgart)

Plasma is a traditional subject of research in many-particle physics. Physicists define plasma as a gas which consists, to a significant degree, of mobile charge carriers (such as ions or electrons). This state is described as the fourth state of matter. Complex plasma is distinguished by additional constituents and interactions, which have a significant effect on the behaviour of the plasma system. The Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Basics of complex plasmas" which is located at the universities of Greifswald and Kiel as well as at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics and the Leibniz Institute for Low Temperature Plasma Physics in Greifswald is, on the one hand, looking into the ordering phenomena and phase changes in complex plasmas and on the other will study the chemical processes on the surfaces of particles and solids interacting with reactive plasmas.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Jürgen Meichsner, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald)

Engineering Sciences

The project "Gentelligent building blocks in the life cycle – the use of hereditary component-inherent information in manufacturing" aims to develop components with novel properties as well as concepts, processes and technologies for their manufacture and use in manufacturing. These components are "gentelligent" (gen-in-telligent) because they save basic data on the forces, acceleration and temperatures exerted on them during the manufacturing process and this data can be "inherited" when they are replaced. Such components could be used for unique product identification, for example, or for copy protection, selective production and assembly control or for determining the causes of machinery malfunctions.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Berend Denkena, University of Hannover)

Bridges, cranes and aeroplanes are made of complex space frames, which consist of elements that are either welded, riveted, glued or screwed together at nodes. The Collaborative Research Centre "Integral metal construction methods for higher branching levels – development, production, evaluation" aims to replace these fallible methods of connection with a new method of linkage – fission. At the end of the research and development process, which will range right from the technical concept, include mathematically sound material science theory, and conclude in realisation in a specially developed fission rolling mill, complex products and constructions will be made from a single, solid piece.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Peter Groche, Technical University of Darmstadt)

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.