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Bernstein Network for Computational Neuroscience

The "National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience" (NNCN) is a funding initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) that fosters the research discipline of Computational Neuroscience. By establishing regional centers and nation-wide interconnections, the network aims at establishing the scientific concept of Computational Neuroscience in a sustainable fashion in Germany, and in making it internationally visible. The combination of experimental and theoretical approaches, the integration of neuroinformatics as well as the training of young researchers are central structural principles. The innovative potential of the neurosciences is stimulated by links to biomedical and technological application fields.

In the human brain, a billion nerve cells process enormous amounts of information in recurrent, complex networks. These neuronal processes are not yet sufficiently understood. The field of computational neuroscience takes a new approach to investigating these processes. It combines experiment and theory in order to decipher the neuronal processes in the brain and to reproduce and simulate them in computer models. This approach can be expected to significantly speed up scientific progress.

New Prospects for Medicine and Technology

The results of this research open a multitude of applications. In medicine, for example, they allow the development of prostheses and technical aids, such as for the paraplegic or for stroke patients, as well as new therapies for neurological diseases like Alzheimer's disease. In computer science and modern communication technology, new approaches to the control of robots, for technical assistance systems like driver's assistance systems and for the development of high performance computers can be derived. In the field of education, the cognitive processes during learning can be better understood.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) wants to unlock this innovative potential in Germany through targeted funding. With the National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience, it has created new structures to bundle, strengthen and interconnect Germany's outstanding existing expertise in the experimental and theoretical neurosciences while increasing international visibility. The network is named after the German physiologist Julius Bernstein (1839 - 1917), whose 'membrane theory' provided the first biophysical explanation for the neuronal transmission of excitation.

The Bernstein Network was initiated in 2004 with four Bernstein Centres for Computational Neuroscience, which constitute the central structural elements of the network. Since 2007, the funding initiative Bernstein Partners has enabled further experimental and theoretical expertise to be integrated into the Bernstein Network.

Two new Bernstein Centres for Computational Neuroscience in Heidelberg/Mannheim and Tübingen are exploring the influence of genetic factors on psychiatric diseases, or how the brain manages to combine current information gathered by the senses and previous knowledge into a coherent perception of an environment. The BMBF is funding these two new Bernstein Centres, along with the three existing and successful centres in Berlin, Göttingen and Munich with a total of 47.5 million euros over the next years until 2015.

Annual Young Researcher Award

Starting in 2006, the BMBF annually confers the Bernstein Award for Computational Neuroscience to an excellent young researcher. The prize money of up to 1.25 million euros allows an awardee to set up his or her own research group at a German university or research institution.

From Theory to Practice: Paths to Concrete Application

Since 2008 and 2009, respectively, the Bernstein Focus: Neurotechnology and the Bernstein Focus: Neuronal Basis of Learning have been building bridges between research and application. The participation of industry partners ensures that research results can be translated into concrete, marketable, products.

Networking Internationally

The national neuroinformatics node (G-Node) integrates the Bernstein Network into the international neuroinformatics network 'International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility', whose formation has been recommended the OECD.

German-USA cooperative projects in the field of computational neuroscience have received funding from the BMBF together with the American funding organizations NSF (National Science Foundation) and NIH (National Institutes of Health) since 2010.

In addition, German-Japanese cooperative projects have been funded through cooperation between the BMBF, the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and the JST (Japan Science Technology Agency) since 2012.

The Bernstein Coordination Site supports the activities of the Bernstein Network, represents it nationally and internationally and disseminates the Network's research to the press and the general public.

Currently, more than 200 academic research groups and 22 companies from all over Germany take part in the Bernstein Network.

More detailed information can be found on the Bernstein Network website.

  • Cover image of the BCCN Newsletter


    Bernstein Newsletter

    Ear muscles can be selectively activated-but may they control wheel chairs and prostheses? Read the answer in the December issue of the Bernstein newsletter! There, you will also learn about human echolocation and a natural anti-dementia substance. We further explain how a "brake" in the brain helps to synchronize the rhythm of nerve cells. In our portrait, you will meet Hermann Cuntz, Bernstein awardee 2013. We also inform you about the Bernstein Conference 2013, Germany-Japan collaborations, a new call for proposals, and other news and events.
     read more: Bernstein Newsletter
  • Research

    Bernstein Newsletter - Colloborations with Industry Partners

    Why should scientists take up such a Herculean task to simulate the brain-with all its billions of nerve cells and constantly changing connections? And why should companies from diverse areas such as telecommunication or automobile industry take part in these projects? To link neuroscience research with technological applications and enjoy an economic use already at an early stage, the Bernstein Network maintains partnerships with more than 20 industrial partners. Twelve of these projects are presented in a special issue of the Bernstein newsletter.
     read more: Bernstein Newsletter - Colloborations with Industry Partners
  • a doctor looks at an X-ray

    Hightech Strategy

    Support of Young Researchers in Computational Neuroscience

    The new discipline of computational neuroscience investigates the questions of how our brain works. Since 2004, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports this new research field in the neurosciences with the funding initiative 'National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience'. The National Bernstein Network links the theoretical and experimental neurosciences and investigates the neuronal basis of the capacities of the brain. This research will allow a better understanding of brain functions and will thereby contribute to promoting applications in the areas of information technologies, health and education.
     read more: Support of Young Researchers in Computational Neuroscience

Additional information

Deutsche Version dieser Seite


  • Julius Bernstein (1839-1917) formuliert seine "Membrantheorie"

    [PDF - 586.9 kB]

    Eine kurze Darstellung über die Entwicklung der "Bernsteinchen Membrahntheorie" und die wissenschaftliche Laufbahn von Julius Bernstein können Sie aus diesem Artikel entnehmen. Dieser Artikel erschien in der NEUROforum 4/02. (URL:

Contact Persons

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  • Bernstein Zentrum München

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© 04/17/2014 04:36 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung