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Der Europäische Forschungsrat (ERC) fördert innovative Grundlagenforschungs-/Pionierforschungsprojekte in einem weltweiten Wettbewerb. Alleiniges Auswahlkriterium ist die wissenschaftliche Exzellenz.


SHAPE: Shape Understanding: On the Perception of Growth, Form and Process

Whenever we look at an object, we can effortlessly infer many of its physical and functional properties from its shape and our previous experience with other objects. We can judge whether it is flexible or fragile; stable or likely to tumble; what might have happened to it in the past (e.g. a crushed can or bitten apple); and can even imagine how other members of the same object class might look. These high-level inferences are evidence of sophisticated visual and cognitive processes that derive behaviorally significant information about objects from their 3D shape—a process we call 'Shape Understanding'. Despite its obvious importance to everyday life, practically nothing is known about how the brain uses shape to infer the properties, origin or behavior of objects. The goal of this project is to develop a radically new interdisciplinary field to uncover how the brain 'makes sense of shape'. We suggest that when we view novel objects, the brain uses perceptual organization mechanisms to infer a primitive 'generative model' describing the processes that gave the shape its key characteristics. We seek to identify the psychological and computational processes that enable the brain to parse and interpret shape this way.
To achieve this, we unite ideas and methods from surface perception, morphogenesis, geometry, computer graphics, naïve physics and concept learning. We will simulate physical processes that create and modify 3D forms (e.g. biological growth, fluid flow, ductile fracture). We will use the resulting shapes as stimuli in experiments in which observers must identify key shape features, recognize transformations that have been applied to shapes, or predict the likely shape of other exemplars from the same object class. We will then model subjects' performance by geometrically analyzing shapes to find cues to the underlying shape-forming processes. These cues will be combined to infer generative models using inference techniques from machine learning.

Förderlinie: ERC Consolidator Grant

Laufzeit: 05/2016 - 04/2021

Koordinator: , Fb06


PERFORM: Calibration and integration of peripheral and foveal information in human vision

Human visual perception is one of the best-studied areas of research on the human mind. However, 99% of that research is concentrated on the central region making up less than 1% of our visual field. This is the region that gets mapped onto the fovea, where vision is best. However, information from the peripheral parts of a scene is highly important. Mediated by attention and eye movements, it is essential for guiding us through our environment. In the brain, the foveal and peripheral parts of the visual field undergo vastly different processing regimes. Since objects normally do not change their appearance, whether we view them foveally or peripherally, our visual system must integrate and calibrate peripheral information before an eye movement with foveal information after an eye movement.
We are planning to address these processes in four series of experiments. First, we will study the perception of basic visual features, such as orientation, numerosity and colour across the visual field and their integration in peripheral and foveal vision across eye movements. Second, we will investigate how this integration is supported by attention and memory resources. Third, since the integration requires learning and plasticity, we will track changes across the life span and study how healthy subjects can learn to compensate for artificial changes of peripheral and foveal vision. And fourth, we will explore whether we can manipulate the integration process for the optimal guidance of eye movements in complex natural
search tasks.
The project will provide insights how the brain achieves a stable and homogeneous representation of the visual environment despite the ever changing sensory input and the inhomogeneity of processing across the visual field. We will reveal the basic learning mechanisms that allow a continuous calibration of peripheral and foveal vision, and that could be used in the long run for behavioural training of patients suffering from vision impairments.

Förderlinie: ERC Starting Grant

Laufzeit: 04/2016 - 03/2021 (an der Philipps Universität Marburg)

Koordinator: , Fb06


REGAIN: Retinal Gene Alteration in XLRP

In this project the applicant proposes to develop a treatment strategy for a devastating blinding disorder affecting photoreceptor function within the first decade of life, X-linked Retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP). No treatment option exists to date. The proposed treatment strategy is based on the idea of inducing homology directed repair (HDR) of the mutation by promoting the exchange between the endogenous mutated chromosomal sequence and an exogenous repair DNA template at a double strand break (DSB) site in vivo. The treatment will be realized by co-delivery of endonucleases and the template DNA via adeno-associated virus (AAV) based gene transfer. However, This strategy has never been applied in the retina in vivo and therefore, several parameters are unknown, i.e. the average frequency of HDR in photoreceptors, whether DNA repair will take place through HDR or not, and the average length of the DNA conversion tract during HDR. The project includes the following parts: 1. Establishing the HDR frequency in photoreceptors in vivo: it is planned to optimize the frequency by co-delivery of trophic factors for the stimulation of the cellular repair machinery. 2. Inducing a bias of repair events towards HDR: it is planned to use nickases that only cut one DNA strand or will edit the expression profile of sensor proteins in the repair pathway in vitro and in vivo. 3. Optimization of the DNA conversion tract length: the expression profiles of helicases and other repair proteins are edited in vitro and in vivo. 4. Treatment of the PRGR2793delA mouse model: The optimized treatment settings are identified in order to test them for functional and morphological rescue effects. Results from this study will significantly advance the state of the art in targeted gene correction strategies in vivo and patients with XLRP and other hereditary disorders will potentially benefit from it through extrapolating the results for a broader application.

Förderlinie: ERC Starting Grant

Laufzeit: 01/2013 - 12/2017

Koordinator: , Fb11


DESI_JeDI-Imaging: Development of mass spectrometric techniques for 3D imaging and in-vivo analysis of biological tissues

Recent development of atmospheric pressure desorption ionization methods has opened a unique area of application for analytical mass spectrometry. Most of these methods do not require any modification of samples, and this feature, together with the minimal invasiveness of these methods allows direct analytical interrogation of biological tissues, even the real-time, in-vivo observation of biochemical processes. The proposed research focuses on the development of atmospheric pressure desorption ionization mass spectrometric methods for the characterization of biological tissues. The first question to answer is aimed at the nature of information which can be obtained, using a variety of desorption ionization methods including desorption electrospray ionization and jet desorption ionization methods. Preliminary results show, that APDI-MS methods provide information on lipids, metabolic compounds, drugs and certain proteins. First task of the proposed research is to implement a chemical imaging system, which is capable of producing 3D concentration distribution functions for various constituents of tissue samples. The developed methodology will be used to tackle fundamental pathophysiological problems including development of various malignant tumors. A database will be created for the unequivocal identification of various tissues including healthy and malignant tissue samples. In-vivo applications of MS will also be developed. JeDI-MS,similarly to water jet surgery, also utilizes high velocity water jet can directly be used as an intelligent scalpel. Real-time in-situ tissue identification has the potential of revolutionizing cancer surgery, since this way the amount of removed tissue can be minimized, while the tumor removal efficiency is maximized. The identical experimental platform can also be used to gather real-time in-situ metabolic information, which can help to understand pathophysiological changes.

Förderlinie: ERC Starting Grant

Laufzeit: 09/2008 - 02/2012

Koordinator: , Fb08