The institute's first director was Prof. Dr. Wolfgang M. Pfeiffer from 1976 to 1984. Teaching was centered on medical psychology and conversational therapy, pre-operation discussions and encouter groups, while research mainly concerned ethnic medicine and transcultural psychology.
Prof. Dr. Dr. Frido Mann and Prof. Dr. H.-J. Hannich were provisional heads of department from 1984 to 1992, before Prof. Dr. med. Dr. phil. Fritz A. Muthny was appointed regular director in 1992. Main research topics were coping, quality of life, evaluation of rehabilitation programs, advanced training in medical psychological and intercultural comparative research.
In March 2012, Prof. Dr. Thomas Straube was appointed head of department. The institute was renamed as "Institute of Medical Psychology and Systems Neuroscience", and research is now focused on basic and clinical neuroscience.