Prof. Arno Villringer

Foto_Villringer_2013Director, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Department of Neurology

Arno Villringer studied medicine at Freiburg University (1977-1984). He performed experimental work for his thesis on the regulation of protein synthesis by small RNAs in the Biochemistry Department of Freiburg University (summa cum laude). In 1985 he joined the NMR group at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School where he worked on basic contrast mechanisms for magnetic resonance imaging and established susceptibility based contrast in animal studies. He trained in Neurology at University of Munich (1986-1992). From 1996 to 2003 he was consultant neurologist at Charité University Hospital Berlin. From 2004 to 2007 he was head of the Dept. of Neurology at Benjamin Franklin Hospital, Charité. Since 2007 he is a director at the MPI for human cognitive and brain sciences and director of the clinic for cognitive neurology at University Hospital, Leipzig. Since 1999 he is coordinator of the German competence net stroke and since 2006 speaker of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain.

His research focusses on stroke. Specifically he is interested in identifying pathophysiological mechanisms in the brain (i) leading to arteriosclerosis and stroke (pathological brain plasticity in hypertension, obesity), and those occurring (ii) in acute (blood flow disturbance, spreading depression), and chronic stroke (mechanisms underlying brain plasticity). These research studies are performed in humans employing noninvasive techniques such as structural and functional MRI, PET, EEG, EEG/fMRI, fNIRS, TMS, and TDCS

Neuroplasticity: Effects of learning, brain stimulation and BCI

Structure and function of the human brain are constantly changing in order to accomplish learning and adapt to environmental changes inside and outside the body. ”We never use the same brain twice”. Brain plasticity can be beneficial, e.g. associated with acquiring a new skill or for the recovery of function after a stroke, but it can also be harmful, e.g., changes that go along with the development of addiction or certain forms of chronic pain. Our group aims at understanding basic mechanisms of brain plasticity during procedural learning and in the context of focal brain lesions. Studies will be reported which employ different MR methods to assess changes in gray and white matter structure as well as functional brain connectivity associated with neuroplasticity during learning and following brain lesions. Based on our findings – a “multiphase model of brain plasticity” is forwarded as a conceptual framework. Furthermore, going beyond a “mere assessment” of brain plasticity, studies will be reported in which peripheral or transcranial electrical & magnetic stimulation approaches and brain computer interfaces are employed in order to enhance & modulate neuroplasticity. Finally, current problems will be discussed and avenues for future research & technical developments will be suggested.