Scientific Mission

The Institute of Translational Neuroscience is an independent research institution at the Medical Faculty of the Westfälische Wilhelms-University Münster embedded in the Department of Mental Health at the Münster University Medical Center (UKM, Director: Prof. Dr. med. Bernhard Baune). It is dedicated to provide new options for diagnostic and/or therapeutic strategies for human diseases of the nervous system. This “bench to bedside” approach builds on molecular research pursued during the last 30 years which paved the avenue for novel therapeutic strategies to be assessed in man. It follows the idea that neuroscience is a discipline providing understanding of human disease and eventually its cure, rather than to explain man itself. Translation defines the goal of basic research, the patient. While experimental studies are pursued in close collaboration with the Institute of Anatomy, University of Cologne (Director: Prof. Dr. med. Johannes Vogt), clinical studies are performed in close collaboration with the Institute of Translational Psychiatry, WWU Münster (Director: Prof. Dr. med. Dr. phil. Udo Dannlowski).

In addition to translational research, philosophical aspects of the mind-body debate are addressed and a focus of the Institute’s teaching activities. The ever-recurring attempts of the neurosciences to explain all mental phenomena in physical terms alone are revised by critical reappraisal of classical concepts, e.g. Wilder Penfield’s “storehouse of memories”. Our analyzes question the idea of a realization of memory in solely naturalistic terms. These studies are performed in part at the Montreal Neurological Institute (Prof. Dr. Richard Leblanc, Prof. Dr. Jack Antel), Quebec, Canada, and in close collaboration with Prof. Dr. med. Frank Stahnisch at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Latest publications

Knierim E, Vogt J, Kintscher M, Ponomarenko A, Baumgart J, Beed P, Korotkova T, Trimbuch T, Panzer A, Steinlein OK, Stephani U, Escayg A, Koko M, Liu Y, Lerche H, Schmitz D, Nitsch R, Schuelke M (in press). Mutations in plasticity-related-gene-1 (PRG-1) protein contribute to hippocampal seizure susceptibility and modify epileptic phenotype. Cereb Cortex.


The Phospholipid Phosphatase Related 4 gene (PLPPR4,  *607813) encodes the Plasticity-Related-Gene-1 (PRG-1) protein. This cerebral synaptic transmembrane-protein modulates cortical excitatory transmission on glutamatergic neurons. In mice, homozygous Prg-1 deficiency causes juvenile epilepsy. Its epileptogenic potential in humans was unknown. Thus, we screened 18 patients with infantile epileptic spasms syndrome (IESS) and 98 patients with benign familial neonatal/infantile seizures (BFNS/BFIS) for the presence of PLPPR4 variants. A girl with IESS had inherited a PLPPR4-mutation (c.896C > G, NM_014839; p.T299S) from her father and an SCN1A-mutation from her mother (c.1622A > G, NM_006920; p.N541S). The PLPPR4-mutation was located in the third extracellular lysophosphatidic acid-interacting domain and in-utero electroporation (IUE) of the Prg-1p.T300S construct into neurons of Prg-1 knockout embryos demonstrated its inability to rescue the electrophysiological knockout phenotype. Electrophysiology on the recombinant SCN1Ap.N541S channel revealed partial loss-of-function. Another PLPPR4 variant (c.1034C > G, NM_014839; p.R345T) that was shown to result in a loss-of-function aggravated a BFNS/BFIS phenotype and also failed to suppress glutamatergic neurotransmission after IUE.

The aggravating effect of Plppr4-haploinsufficiency on epileptogenesis was further verified using the kainate-model of epilepsy: double heterozygous Plppr4/+|Scn1awt|p.R1648H mice exhibited higher seizure susceptibility than either wild-type, Plppr4-/+, or Scn1awt|p.R1648H littermates. Our study shows that a heterozygous PLPPR4 loss-of-function mutation may have a modifying effect on BFNS/BFIS and on SCN1A-related epilepsy in mice and humans.

Chalas N, Daube C, Kluger DS, Abbasi O, Nitsch R, Gross J (in press). Speech onsets and sustained speech contribute differentially to delta and theta speech tracking in auditory cortex. Cereb Cortex 
doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhac502.


When we attentively listen to an individual's speech, our brain activity dynamically aligns to the incoming acoustic input at multiple timescales. Although this systematic alignment between ongoing brain activity and speech in auditory brain areas is well established, the acoustic events that drive this phase-locking are not fully understood. Here, we use magnetoencephalographic recordings of 24 human participants (12 females) while they were listening to a 1 h story. We show that whereas speech-brain coupling is associated with sustained acoustic fluctuations in the speech envelope in the theta-frequency range (4-7 Hz), speech tracking in the low-frequency delta (below 1 Hz) was strongest around onsets of speech, like the beginning of a sentence. Crucially, delta tracking in bilateral auditory areas was not sustained after onsets, proposing a delta tracking during continuous speech perception that is driven by speech onsets. We conclude that both onsets and sustained components of speech contribute differentially to speech tracking in delta- and theta-frequency bands, orchestrating sampling of continuous speech. Thus, our results suggest a temporal dissociation of acoustically driven oscillatory activity in auditory areas during speech tracking, providing valuable implications for orchestration of speech tracking at multiple time scales.