Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health

Freiburg, Germany

Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health

Freiburg, Germany
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Schmidt S.,Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg | Schmidt S.,European University Viadrina | Jo H.-G.,Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg | Wittmann M.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | Hinterberger T.,University of Regensburg
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews | Year: 2016

The readiness potential is an ongoing negativity in the EEG preceding a self-initiated movement by approximately 1.5 s. So far it has predominantly been interpreted as a preparatory signal with a causal link to the upcoming movement. Here a different hypothesis is suggested which we call the selective slow cortical potential sampling hypothesis. In this review of recent research results we argue that the initiation of a voluntary action is more likely during negative fluctuations of the slow cortical potential and that the sampling and averaging of many trials leads to the observed negativity. That is, empirical evidence indicates that the early readiness potential is not a neural correlate of preconscious motor preparation and thus a determinant of action. Our hypothesis thereafter challenges the classic interpretation of the Libet experiment which is often taken as proof that there is no free will. We furthermore suggest that slow cortical potentials are related to an urge to act but are not a neural indicator of the decision process of action initiation. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd


Meissner K.,Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich | Meissner K.,TU Munich | Wittmann M.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health
Biological Psychology | Year: 2011

Recent research suggests that our sense of time intervals in the range of seconds is directly related to activity in the insular cortex, which contains the primary sensory area for interoception. We therefore investigated whether performance in a duration reproduction task might correlate with individual interoceptive awareness and with measurable changes in autonomic activity during the task. Thirty-one healthy volunteers participated in an interoceptive (heartbeat) perception task and in repeated temporal reproduction trials using intervals of 8, 14, and 20. s duration while skin conductance levels and cardiac and respiratory periods were recorded. We observed progressive increases in cardiac periods and decreases in skin conductance level during the encoding and (less reliably) the reproduction of these intervals. Notably, individuals' duration reproduction accuracy correlated positively both with the slope of cardiac slowing during the encoding intervals and with individual heartbeat perception scores. These results support the view that autonomic function and interoceptive awareness underpin our perception of time intervals in the range of seconds. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.


Jo H.-G.,Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg | Jo H.-G.,European University Viadrina | Hinterberger T.,University of Regensburg | Wittmann M.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | And 2 more authors.
Cortex | Year: 2015

Intuitively, being aware of one's inner processes to move should be crucial for the control of voluntary movements. However, research findings suggest that we are not always aware of the processes leading to movement execution. The present study investigated induced first-person access to inner processes of movement initiation and the underlying brain activities which contribute to the emergence of voluntary movement. Moreover, we investigated differences in task performance between mindfulness meditators and non-meditators while assuming that meditators are more experienced in attending to their inner processes. Two Libet-type tasks were performed; one in which participants were asked to press a button at a moment of their own decision, and the other one in which participants' attention was directed towards their inner processes of decision making regarding the intended movement which lead them to press the button. Meditators revealed a consistent readiness potential (RP) between the two tasks with correlations between the subjective intention time to act and the slope of the early RP. However, non-meditators did not show this consistency. Instead, elicited introspection of inner processes of movement initiation changed early brain activity that is related to voluntary movement processes. Our findings suggest that compared to non-meditators, meditators are more able to access the emergence of negative deflections of slow cortical potentials (SCPs), which could have fundamental effects on initiating a voluntary movement with awareness. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Sysoeva O.V.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Tonevitsky A.G.,Russian Research Institute of Sport and Physical Education | Wackermann J.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

Background: The present study investigates neurobiological underpinnings of individual differences in time perception. Methodology: Forty-four right-handed Russian Caucasian males (18-35 years old) participated in the experiment. The polymorphism of the genes related to the activity of serotonin (5-HT) and dopamine (DA)-systems (such as 5-HTT, 5HT2a, MAOA, DAT, DRD2, COMT) was determined upon the basis of DNA analysis according to a standard procedure. Time perception in the supra-second range (mean duration 4.8 s) was studied, using the duration discrimination task and parametric fitting of psychometric functions, resulting in individual determination of the point of subjective equality (PSE). Assuming the 'dual klepsydra model' of internal duration representation, the PSE values were transformed into equivalent values of the parameter k (kappa), which is a measure of the 'loss rate' of the duration representation. An association between time representation parameters (PSE and k, respectively) and 5-HT-related genes was found, but not with DArelated genes. Higher 'loss rate' (k) of the cumulative duration representation were found for the carriers of genotypes characterized by higher 5-HT transmission, i.e., 1) lower 5-HT reuptake, known for the 5-HTTLPR SS polymorphism compared with LL, 2) lower 5-HT degradation, described for the 'low expression' variant of MAOA VNTR gene compared with 'high expression' variant, and 3) higher 5-HT2a receptor density, proposed for the TT polymorphism of 5-HT2a T102C gene compared with CC. Conclusion: Convergent findings of the present study and previous psychopharmacological studies suggest an action path from 5-HT-activity-related genes, via activity of 5-HT in the brain, to time perception. An involvement of the DA-system in the encoding of durations in the supra-second range is questioned. © 2010 Sysoeva et al.


Kornmeier J.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | Kornmeier J.,University Hospital Freiburg | Bach M.,University Hospital Freiburg
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience | Year: 2012

During observation of ambiguous figures our perception reverses spontaneously although the visual information stays unchanged. Research on this phenomenon so far suffered from the difficulty to determine the instant of the endogenous reversals with sufficient temporal precision. A novel experimental paradigm with discontinuous stimulus presentation improved on previous temporal estimates of the reversal event by a factor of three. It revealed that disambiguation of ambiguous visual information takes roughly 50 ms or two loops of recurrent neural activity. Further, the decision about the perceptual outcome has taken place at least 340 ms before the observer is able to indicate the consciously perceived reversal manually. We provide a short review about physiological studies on multistable perception with a focus on electrophysiological data. We further present a new perspective on multistable perception that can easily integrate previous apparently contradicting explanatory approaches. Finally we propose possible extensions toward other research fields where ambiguous figure perception may be useful as an investigative tool. © 2012 Kornmeier and Bach.


Kornmeier J.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | Kornmeier J.,University Hospital Freiburg | Sosic-Vasic Z.,University of Ulm
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience | Year: 2012

Repeated learning improves memory. Temporally distributed ("spaced") learning can be twice as efficient than massed learning. Importantly, learning success is a non-monotonic maximum function of the spacing interval between learning units. Further optimal spacing intervals seem to exist at different time scales from seconds to days. We briefly review the current state of knowledge about this "spacing effect" and then discuss very similar but so far little noticed spacing patterns during a form of synaptic plasticity at the cellular level, called long term potentiation (LTP). The optimization of learning is highly relevant for all of us. It may be realized easily with appropriate spacing. In our view, the generality of the spacing effect points to basic mechanisms worth for coordinated research on the different levels of complexity. © 2012 Kornmeier and Sosic-Vasic.


Kornmeier J.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | Kornmeier J.,University Hospital Freiburg | Sosic-Vasic Z.,University of Ulm
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience | Year: 2012

Repeated learning improves memory. Temporally distributed ("spaced") learning can be twice as efficient than massed learning. Importantly, learning success is a non-monotonic maximum function of the spacing interval between learning units. Further optimal spacing intervals seem to exist at different time scales from seconds to days. We briefly review the current state of knowledge about this "spacing effect" and then discuss very similar but so far little noticed spacing patterns during a form of synaptic plasticity at the cellular level, called long term potentiation (LTP). The optimization of learning is highly relevant for all of us. It may be realized easily with appropriate spacing. In our view, the generality of the spacing effect points to basic mechanisms worth for coordinated research on the different levels of complexity. © 2012 Kornmeier and Sosic-vasic.


Hofmann L.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | Walach H.,European University Viadrina
Psychotherapy Research | Year: 2011

We report a survey in a near-representative sample of 895 German psychotherapists. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents referred to themselves as either spiritual or religious. Psychotherapists estimated that on average 22% of their patients bring in topics around spirituality and religion during the course of therapy. Two-thirds thought that topics around spirituality and religion should be part of the postgraduate and/or graduate curriculum. There was a clear difference between therapeutic orientations regarding how they felt about such issues, with CBT and psychodynamically oriented therapists placing less emphasis on spiritual issues and integrative and humanistic therapists more. However, differences between schools were less important than commonalities. We conclude that spirituality and religiosity are important topics for training and further research. © 2011 Society for Psychotherapy Research.


Kornmeier J.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health
Journal of vision | Year: 2011

During observation of an ambiguous Necker cube, our percept changes spontaneously although the external stimulus does not. An EEG paradigm allowing time-resolved EEG measurement during endogenous perceptual reversals recently revealed a chain of ERP correlates beginning with an early occipital positivity at around 130 ms (Reversal Positivity, "RP"). In order to better understand the functional role of this RP, we investigated its relation to the P100, which is spatiotemporally close, typically occurring 100 ms after onset of a visual stimulus at occipital electrodes. We compared the relation of the ERP amplitudes to varying sizes of ambiguous Necker cubes. The main results are: (1) The P100 amplitude increases monotonically with stimulus size but is independent of the participants' percept. (2) The RP, in contrast, is percept-related and largely unaffected by stimulus size. (3) A similar pattern to RP was found for reaction times: They depend on the percept but not on stimulus size. We speculate that the P100 reflects processing of elementary visual features, while the RP is related to a processing conflict during 3D interpretation that precedes a reversal. The present results indicate that low-level visual processing (related to stimulus size) and (relative) high-level processing (related to perceptual reversal) occur in close spatial and temporal vicinity.


Ehm W.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | Bach M.,Universitats Augenklinik | Kornmeier J.,Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health | Kornmeier J.,Universitats Augenklinik
Psychophysiology | Year: 2011

Ambiguous figures induce sudden transitions between rivaling percepts. We investigated electroencephalogram frequency modulations of accompanying change-related de- and rebinding processes. Presenting the stimuli discontinously, we synchronized perceptual reversals with stimulus onset, which served as a time reference for averaging. The resultant gain in temporal resolution revealed a sequence of time-frequency correlates of the reversal process. Most conspicuous was a transient right-hemispheric gamma modulation preceding endogenous reversals by at least 200 ms. No such modulation occurred with exogenously induced reversals of unambiguous stimulus variants. Post-onset components were delayed for ambiguous compared to unambiguous stimuli. The time course of oscillatory activity differed in several respects from predictions based on binding-related hypotheses. The gamma modulation preceding endogenous reversals may indicate an unstable brain state, ready to switch. Copyright © 2010 Society for Psychophysiological Research.

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