Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - NOVOBRAIN (Innovative graduate training and research in cognition, learning and memory research)

The scientific focus of NOVOBRAIN was the understanding of the mechanisms underlying cognition, learning and memory formation in the mammalian brain. This focus, together with the broad expertise of our participating scientists, had the advantage that the NOVOBRAIN programme offered an extensive array of neuroscience topics allowing early stage researchers to develop their personal areas of interest and research focus.

The topics ranged from receptor and cellular mechanisms underlying memory encoding, to neuronal mechanisms of learning in networks and neuropsychological mechanisms of memory formation. The involved fellows started with very different educational backgrounds and knowledge about neuroscience, ranging from medicine through biophysics, neurobiology, psychology etc. To create a real spirit of collegiality and positive group dynamics, the neuroscience lecture course 'From molecules to cognition' was a first step in creating common knowledge base upon which constructive discussions about one's own research could develop. In this lecture course, the fellows were exposed to all aspects of cognitive, learning and memory neuroscience ranging from developmental aspects through systems, cognitive, clinical and computational neuroscience.

Methodological training through the entire spectrum of state of the art methods such as cognitive and systems analysis of multiple animal models, e.g. rodents, cats, primates and pigeons, electrophysiology in humans and lower mammals, brain imaging and cognitive neurosciences offered a unique and broad education of neuroscientists in the early stages of their career.

The outcome of this excellent education was that two fellows had already achieved PhD degrees based on their NOVOBRAIN research by the time of the project completion, four has already submitted their PhD theses, three were expected to qualify in 2011 and one in 2012. Numerous publications were published by the fellows or were under preparation and those fellows that had left the programme were able to continue their careers in attractive positions. The two internships for practical training as well as the three internships for methodological training were organised to be more flexible than originally planned from the second reporting period onwards to avoid conflicts of the students between their internships and their own goals to acquire data for their PhD work. Moreover, this flexibility gave the fellows the opportunity to choose the internship with respect to new implementations of methods in the own project.

A total of 360 full-time person months was successfully implemented. Of the initially recruited early stage researchers, three used the programme for initial training for PhD studies elsewhere and were succeeded by subsequently recruited fellows. One concluded her training within NOVOBRAIN to work at the Columbia University in New York, but maintained her connections with the NOVOBRAIN programme and continued to travel to Bochum to attend different symposia and workshops. As a result of this she opted to submit her PhD thesis at the Ruhr University Bochum. The main work of the thesis was done during her NOVOBRAIN fellowship.

The fellows benefitted considerably by having the opportunity to work in such a broad scientific environment, which allowed intense scientific cooperation. The regular complementary skills training and career coaching derived from individual mentoring was very much appreciated by the fellows. One of the NOVOBRAIN highlights comprised the NOVOBRAIN congresses in 2009 and 2010. Each was a bottom-up event, driven by the NOVOBRAIN fellows themselves. Thus, the NOVOBRAIN fellows were intrinsically involved in the organisation of the events and selected the international speakers. Therefore, the events offered the fellows the opportunity to meet and swap ideas with some of the most renowned and influential neuroscientists in the field of research of our fellows. Another memorable highlight for the NOVOBRAIN students was the very special visit of Dalai Lama to speak to students, during a special event co-organised by the International Graduate School of Neurosciense (IGSN) and six other graduate schools in the state of Northrhine Westphalia (NRW).The event culminated in a closed audience with Dalai Lama.

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