19 June 2012

Mind & Brain succeeds in national Excellence Initiative II

Graduate School will be funded until October 2017!

Higher cognitive functions are among the most distinctive and most complex human abilities, yet they are still comparatively poorly understood. Recent progress in neuroscientific methods has brought some of the related problems within the focus of empirical approaches. Among these are problems like decision-making and free will, consciousness and perception, mental dysfunction, and the development of our cognitive capacities; more recently, our social cognitive abilities have come to the fore of neuroscientific research.

Even if neuroscientific studies have made significant contributions to our understanding of the relevant neural mechanisms, it seems obvious that any serious investigation of these abilities requires insight from numerous other disciplines. In fact, many of the most interesting questions regarding higher cognitive and social abilities of humans require interdisciplinary cooperation be-tween traditional “brain sciences” like neurobiology or neurology, and traditional “mind sciences” like psychology, linguistics, psychiatry, or philosophy.

Interdisciplinary cooperation, in turn, can be successful only if the cooperating scientists are not only experts in their own field of research but also have sufficient interdisciplinary training. This need is exactly where the graduate program of M&B and its academic aims come in. Connecting cutting-edge research and excellent doctoral training at the interface between mind sciences and brain sciences is our primary aim.

Since 2006, the doctoral program of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain has prepared junior scientist for this challenging interdisciplinary work and has received national and internal recognition for its achievements. Based at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the graduate school also plays an essential role in the close integration of university-based (participation from Freie Universität Berlin and Technische Universität Berlin), clinical (Charité Medical School) and non-university (Max Planck Institutes in Berlin and Leipzig; Max Delbrück Center) research. 

Research topics

Building on the thriving research environment in Berlin, the school focuses on six research topics covering important cognitive abilities, their development, and their disorders:

  • Perception, attention, and consciousness
  • Decision-making
  • Language
  • Brain plasticity and lifespan ontogeny
  • Brain disorders and mental dysfunction
  • Human sociality and the brain

The Berlin School of Mind and Brain’s faculty consists of outstanding scholars in the fields of consciousness, decision-making, language, brain plasticity, mental disorders and brain dysfunction and social cognition and includes four Leibniz Prize winners, three European Research Council grant recipients and 5 Max Planck directors.

In addition to the continuing education and training for doctoral candidates, the School’s plans for the next five years include an interdisciplinary Mind and Brain Masters’s program, an innovative structured postdoctoral program and the introduction of a new research topic, “human sociality and the brain”.


Speaker university: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Partner institutions:

  • Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Freie Universität Berlin
  • Technische Universität Berlin
  • Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin
  • Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften, Leipzig
  • Max Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin, Berlin-Buch
  • University College London, GB
  • Bar-Ilan Universität, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Duke University, Durham, USA

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin is one of Germany’s 11 “Universities of Excellence”. It was successful in all three funding lines in the third round of the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. The Expert Commission from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities approved the University’s proposals for its Institutional Strategy, Bildung durch Wissenschaft: Persönlichkeit – Offenheit – Orientierung, Educating Enquiring Minds: Individuality – Openness – Guidance, for 3 clusters of excellence and 5 graduate schools. Humboldt-Universität collaborates with Freie Universität Berlin in one successful cluster of excellence and two graduate schools at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Overview of the successful projects at Humboldt-Universität:

Institutional Strategy

“Education through Learning and Research: Individuality, Openness and Guidance”

Graduate Schools

Successful renewal proposals:

  • Berlin-Brandenburg Schule für Regenerative Therapien
  • Berlin School of Mind and Brain
  • Berlin Mathematical School
  • Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies
  • Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule für literaturwissenschaftliche Studien 

Successful initial proposals:

  • School of Analytical Sciences Adlershof
  • Berlin School of Integrative Oncology

Clusters of Excellence

Successful renewal proposals:

  • NeuroCure - Towards a better outcome of neurological disorders
  • Topoi - The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations
  • Unifying Concepts in Catalysis (UniCat)

Successful initial proposals:

  • Image - Knowledge - Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory