Neuroscientists receive the Attempto Prize

Leonid Fedorov honored for outstanding research on the brain

October 09, 2018

This year's Attempto Prizes of the Tübingen Attempto Foundation go to Dr. Leonid Fedorov for his work on the representation of social actions in the brain and to Ann-Christin Wendeln for her publication on the influence of immune memory in the brain on neurological diseases. The prizes are endowed with 10,000 euros each.

Leonid Fedorov completed his doctoral thesis at the Centre for Integrative Neurosciences and the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research. He receives the Attempto Prize for his work that investigates the perception of social interactions in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. The experiment was conducted at the MPI, while Federov was still part of the CIN group as a PhD student.

In his experiments, he concentrated on pairs of actions such as giving and taking or throwing and catching. In a virtual environment, the test persons were presented with life-size, three-dimensional animated figures, some of which executed clearly recognizable, some of which mixed movements, for example between giving and throwing. The test persons had to categorize the perceived movements, i.e. assign whether they were giving or throwing, for example.

The experiments showed that the neural processes that are responsible for the recognition of individual actions, such as throwing, are also activated by the counterpart – in this case – catching. The brain therefore probably contains neurons that code both actions of an interaction together. The study results can be interesting for research into social disorders such as autism, but can also be used in robotics to teach machines the principles of social behavior.

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The Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics is studying signal and information processing in the brain. The scientists aim to determine which signals and processes are responsible for creating a coherent percept of our environment and for eliciting the appropriate behavior. Scientists of three departments and several research groups are working towards answering fundamental questions about processing in the brain, using different approaches and methods.
The Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics is one of 84 Max Planck Institutes and facilities that make up the Max Planck Society, Germany's most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. All Institutes conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

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