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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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: http://www.bmbf.de/pubRD/neuroforum4-02.pdf)