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Interdisciplinary Research Groups 2009-2013








ADOPT – Adaptive Optics for an MR-compatible patient motion tracking system (10/2009–7 /2010)

Patient motion during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations generates artefacts which often render the resulting images clinically unusable. This significant problem hampers diagnosis and patient throughput. Our project aims at the development of a fully MR-compatible optical motion tracking system in order to monitor uncontrolled spontaneous patient movements in the MR scanner. The parameters measured will be used for a real-time correction of the MR data in order to reconstruct undisturbed images. To ensure the visibility of the tracked body part, the tracking system has to be placed inside of the magnet bore. Since the free space inside the magnet bore is extremely limited, the entire tracking system has to be very compact, thus, warranting a high degree of integration and the need of using micro components.
Beside the pure functional aspects of ADOPT, we will also focus on the acceptance of the technology. This relies on an easy and safe handling for the clinic personal, and, even more important, on sufficient comfort for the patient.

Prof. Jürgen Hennig, Radiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Freiburg
Prof. Ulrike Wallrabe, Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Freiburg
Roland Bammer, Medical Physics and Biophysics, Radiology, Stanford University, USA

Information, Liquidity, and Trust in Incomplete Markets (10/2009–7/2010)

One of the defining characteristics of the ongoing financial crisis is the massive and steady deterioration of liquidity and trust. Even the largest financial institutions have essentially stopped lending to each other, so that central banks are currently obliged to manage the liquidity needs of the most developed economies. The general issues the project attempts to address are: How can markets be made functioning again? How can trust be restored? How can the financial system be repaired? What should be the pillars of a new financial order? Three specific themes will be pursued:
- How does market information affect market liquidity and the informational content of market prices? How can such prices be useful for regulatory policies? Which role should they play for accounting purposes?
- How should securities be priced, when arbitrage is impaired, e.g. for lack of liquidity?
- How do behavioural features such as ambiguity aversion and loss aversion affect market prices and market liquidity?

Prof. Ernst Eberlein, Mathematics, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Freiburg
Prof. Thomas Gehrig, Economics, Faculty of Economics and Behavioral Sciences, University of Freiburg

Security and Society (10/2009–7/2010)

Security has advanced to one of the hottest topics in modern societies. Innovative technologies while beneficial on the one hand, caused increasing concerns of privacy violations. Additionally, economic, social and political transformation processes bringing about societal change increases concern. The FRIAS project Security and Society, part of the competence center “Sicherheit und Gesellschaft” (Security and Society), explores an interdisciplinary approach designing new security architectures, accommodating the security requirements facing the future Internet. The project aims investigates how technology can help to establish a secure environment for society and how society and its respective set of norms affect current technologies in turn.
The project will address the first question area by designing smart information systems, so-called, emergency response systems, which improve on the ad-hoc coordination of rescue forces in case of emergencies (such as forest fires, natural disasters, terrorist acts etc.). The second, the effect of norms on technologic advances, will be served by exploring self-enforcing regulation mechanisms for the future Internet.

Prof. Dirk Neumann, Business Informatics, Faculty of Economics an Behavioral Sciences, University of Freiburg
Prof. Thomas Würtenberger, Law, Faculty of Law, University of Freiburg

Coping with Emergencies (10/2010–7/2011)

The necessity of appropriate coping strategies for emergency situations was pushed into corporate perception by catastrophes such as the ICE-accident in Enschede 1998, the terror attacks on the World-Trade-Center in 2001 or the tsunami caused floods in 2004. But this topic seems to be just as important concerning individual and daily occurring emergencies or traumatic experience such as car accidents or (human) violence. Relevant aspects of coping with these situations are emotion regulation as well as the possibility to train supportive emotion regulation and coping strategies of victims and aid-personnel in acute cases of emergency.
In reality, research on human reaction to real traumatic experience under experimental conditions is almost impossible to achieve, based on different reasons including ethical dubiety. Cooperation of experts of psychology and informatics permit the development of new methods to investigate realistic human behaviour in cases of emergency. From the specialists of informatics virtual scenarios of catastrophes (VR-scenarios) will be developed which allow the participants an interactive engagement in the scenarios and therefore partial experience of stress that would be felt by people suffering these situations (e.g. fire worker going out a forest fire, aid personnel or victim searching an exit out of a burning building). Simulated victims and helpers acting in these scenarios and the reactions, emotions and coping behaviour of healthy control participants will be investigated. Developing these VR-scenarios will need the knowledge coming from the Department of Psychology (Prof. Dr. Tuschen-Caffier) to model emotions in emergency situations appropriately and develop convincing agents. The Department of Computer Science (Prof. Dr. Nebel) will bring in their excellent research on the development of simulation environments, planning of actions and rescue robotics.
This interdisciplinary cooperation promises an innovative way of developing emergency scenarios, which allow the investigation and better understanding of experience and behaviour of humans while suffering a traumatic situation. The findings will help to improve training programs concerning coping behaviour and emotion regulation of people potentially exposed to emergency situations.

Prof. Brunna Tuschen-Caffier, Psychology, Faculty of Economics and Behavioral Sciences, University of Freiburg
Prof. Bernhard Nebel, Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering, University of Freiburg
Christian Becker-Asano, Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering, University of Freiburg

Mobility, Climate Change, Governance (10/2011–7/2012)

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. There is worldwide political consensus that the greenhouse effect is largely a result of human activities and that it is necessary to take action against this phenomenon over the next decades. In the transport sector, it will prove to be particularly difficult to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as the expected growth in transport volumes will outpace technological efficiency gains. Climate governance will thus become paramount in implementing low-carbon societies.
The interdisciplinary research group at the FRIAS has a focus on linkages between mobility, climate change and governance. The main aim consists in thinking through and re-structuring this emerging field of research. Involving external experts and several partners at the University of Freiburg, a series of workshops will be held at the FRIAS to lay the ground for publications, research proposals and future cooperation. The research initiative has the objective to strengthen the international networks of the University of Freiburg and contribute to its visibility as an excellent research institution.

Prof. Tim Freytag, Cultural Geography, Faculty of Forest and Environmental Sciences, University of Freiburg
Prof. Stefan Gössling, Human Ecology / Tourism, School of Business and Economics, Lund University / Linnaeus University Kalmar, Sweden
Prof. Michael Hall, Marketing, Department of Management, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Prof. Annica Kronsell, Peace and Conflict Studies, Department of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden
Prof. John Richard Urry, Sociology / Mobilities Research, Sociology Department, Lancaster University, UK

Narrative Coping with Threat, Trauma, and Loss (10/2011–7/2012)

The narration and verbalisation of experiences that are hard to cope with – namely threat, loss, and trauma – not only represent resources used in daily life, but also constitute diagnostic tools in clinical psychology and form the basis for therapeutic intervention strategies. The focus of the interdisciplinary project is to linguistically describe the individual strategies of narrative coping used in deep emotional experiences. Describing and analysing the methods and degrees of coping with these experiences is of great clinical and theoretical interest.  Although trauma, threats to self-integrity, and loss may lead to a full-blown psychological disorder in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an emotional disorder, the inability to cope can also manifest itself in other ways. In many cases, the experiences are either not fully or successfully dealt with. They can resurface following new distress at a later date and ultimately result in other disorders. In terms of secondary prevention, it is thus important to recognise when such distress has not been completely dealt with. Recognition of this also serves as a vital basis for psychotherapeutic concepts and interventions. By analysing narratives on threat, loss and trauma, the project aims to compile a descriptive typology of verbal practices; to compare this with clinical measures; and to integrate it into an interdisciplinary, theoretical framework that allows the level of coping in the narrated experiences to be analysed and also provides a basis for interdisciplinary research into the benefits and limitations of narration.

Prof. Carl Eduard Scheidt, Psychoanalytical Psychosomatics, Faculty of Medicine/University Medical Center, University of Freiburg
Prof. Gabriele Lucius-Hoene, Rehabilitation Psychology and Psychotherapy, Faculty of Economics and Behavioral Sciences, University of Freiburg
Anja Stukenbrock, German Linguistics, Faculty of Philology, University of Freiburg

Structure-based Epigenetic Drug Discovery (10/2011–7/2012)

After sequencing the human genome it was recognized that additional levels of information are required to govern the function of an organism and that these are not solely based on the information encoded in the base sequence of DNA. This additional layer of information beyond genetics has become known as epigenetics. It describes inheritable changes of gene expression and, hence, the alteration of the phenotype of a cell or an organism without a change in the genetic code. Environmental influences such as toxic chemicals, nutrition or even stress alter gene expression and may persist through epigenetic mechanisms. Knowledge of these underlying epigenetic mechanisms will allow to decipher the epigenetic code, to read it for advanced molecular diagnostics and to correct epigenetic malfunctions with new drugs. The applicants will establish the foundation for structure-based epigenetic drug discovery in Freiburg based upon their expertises in structural biochemistry (Prof. Oliver Einsle), medicinal chemistry (Prof. Manfred Jung) and cheminformatics (Prof. Wolfgang Sippl). Based on the close interaction of the individual research areas a number of lead structures for epigenetic targets will be developed and made available for further biological characterization. Thus, the interdisciplinary project will evolve into an effective drug discovery platform for epigenetic research clusters in Freiburg.

Prof. Oliver Einsle, Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Earth Sciences, University of Freiburg
Prof. Manfred Jung, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Earth Sciences, University of Freiburg
Prof. Wolfgang Sippl, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Biological Science, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

When the chemistry is not right for sleep – Investigating the biochemistry of primary insomnia using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (10/2012–7/2013)

Difficulties with initiating and maintaining sleep are very common in western industrialised countries and associated with a significant health and economic burden. However, the neurobiology of insomnia is poorly understood. Previous studies suggest that central nervous system hyperarousal plays an important role for the development and maintenance of the disorder. In the current project, we assume that this hyperarousal is caused by altered brain metabolism. More specifically, we hypothesise that insomnia patients have a reduced level of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. To test this hypothesis, 20 patients with primary insomnia and 20 healthy controls will be investigated in the morning and late evening using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Results from the proposed project should lead to a deeper understanding of the neurobiology of insomnia, which is crucial for the development of new treatment strategies for this highly prevalent and impairing disorder.

Dr. Thomas Lange, Physics, Faculty of Medicine, University Medical Center, University of Freiburg
Dr. Kai Spiegelhalder, Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Faculty of Medicine, University Medical Center, University of Freiburg

The support of psychosocial and spiritual needs and resources in medicine – To the benefit of chronic patients, their relatives and their medical carers (10/2012–07/2013)

The research project brings together theology and medicine in a particular, medically relevant context. The aim is to contribute to the understanding of psychosocial and spiritual needs and resources in health care – with particular focus on patients suffering from chronic diseases as well as their relatives and the health professionals that care for them – in order that they may gain the best assistance as they cope with their disease. Through the particular focus on the needs of patients the project seeks to support and value the way patients deal with chronic disease. Moreover, the project will also focus on patients´ relatives and health professionals, and their ways of coping with stress in their various attentions to the needs of patients. In its interdisciplinary work the research group will dedicate itself to basic research, translation into innovative research, evaluation of interventions, and recommendations for the implementation in the health care professions. It will actively work towards the enhancement of research networks in the secular, religiously pluralistic European context, beginning with Denmark and Germany, so that through interdisciplinary dialogue the quality of research in this field, so relevant for the quality of life and the health care system at large, may be advanced and stabilized.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Baumann, Caritas Science, Faculty of Theology, University of Freiburg
Prof. Dr. Arndt Büssing, Quality of Life, Spiritualty and Coping, Faculty of Health, University of Witten/Herdecke
Prof. Dr. Niels Christian Hvidt, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark