The focus of research within the School is on the interface between the humanities and behavioral sciences (philosophy, social sciences, linguistics, behavioral and cognitive psychology) with the neurosciences (neurophysiology, neurology, psychiatry, computational neuroscience, neurobiology).
Research concentrates on three cognitive topics: ‘perception, attention and consciousness’, ‘decision-making’, ‘language’; on the two key determinants of any mental function: ‘brain plasticity and lifespan ontogeny’ and ‘mental disorders and brain dysfunction’; and on social cognition (‘human sociality and the brain’).
These six topics will be closely interrelated by joint projects and embedded in basic and clinical research. All empirical research will be carried out in close connection with conceptual (philosophical) analysis of key terms such as “decision”, “free will” and “consciousness” and with an evaluation of the ethical and anthropological consequences of this research. Furthermore, the rapidly evolving and tightly knit fields of cognitive modeling and computational neuroscience as well as basic and clinical research will play a key role in the Mind and Brain research community.
Technological and scientific progress in the ‘brain sciences’ now makes it possible to address empirically fundamental questions of the ‘mind sciences’.
Research on language, human decision-making, consciousness, and game theory – to name just a few areas – can benefit from experimental approaches originally developed within the life sciences in general, and neurosciences in particular. Conversely, support from the ‘mind sciences’ is essential for this research both on the conceptual and the methodological level.
It is difficult to see how the implications of brain research on, for example, “free will” and “consciousness”, can be evaluated in the absence of a coherent philosophical concept of consciousness or free will, respectively. It is therefore essential to create an institutional setting for an intense cooperation between researchers from the different fields involved. Consequently, in recent years a plentitude of new research areas have been termed neuro-x, such as neurophilosophy, neuroecology, neuroethology, and neuroeconomics. While these new areas have created much excitement, they are still in their infancy and await rigorous scientific and conceptual scrutiny.