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Director of the Institute of Anatomy I

Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. pol. Svenja Caspers
Institute of Anatomy I
40225 Düsseldorf
Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-1),
Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH
52425 Jülich

Research Interest

My research focuses on the connectivity of the human brain. To enable such complex cognitive functions as action planning and control, decision making, language processing or social interactions, different regions of the cerebral cortex, particularly of association cortices such as the parietal lobe, interact with each other and with subcortical structures. This is enabled via dense fiber connections between these regions, from large long-range fiber bundles to the single axons. Decoding this connectional architecture provides the structural prerequisite for understanding the functional interactions.

The aim of my research is therefore to understand where and how such connections exist and how these physically existing fibers relate to the functional network interactions in the human brain. This is done via a spectrum of methodical approaches from postmortem to in-vivo techniques. Using 3D-Polarized Light Imaging, an ultra-high resolution microscopy approach to study the course of single nerve fibers in postmortem brain sections, I analyze how these fibers run through the brain’s white matter and spread within the cortex where they reveal a specific fiber architecture in different brain areas. This approach is complemented by in-vivo investigations in large epidemiological cohorts of healthy subjects (e.g. 1000BRAINS study, German National Cohort) using state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging of the structure, function and connectivity of the brain, with a specific focus on the effects in the aging brain. Via modern diffusion imaging protocols, large fiber bundles and their variability across subjects are studied.

A particular focus lies on the understanding of advanced microstructural parameters of these fiber tracts such as fiber spread or fiber density and their variability in relation to genetic and environmental factors. Combining such data with structural and resting-state functional imaging data of the same subjects allows understanding of the complex interactions between brain structure, function and connectivity in the course of aging and in relation to relevant influences. This includes the understanding of the complex interplay of these factors for brain folding.

Selected Publications
  1. Jockwitz C, Caspers S, Lux S, Eickhoff SB, Jütten K, Lenzen S, Moebus S, Pundt N, Reid A, Hoffstaedter F, Jöckel KH, Erbel R, Cichon S, Nöthen MM, Shah NJ, Zilles K, Amunts K. The influence of age and cognitive performance on variability of resting-state networks of older adults in a population-based cohort. Cortex 89: 28-44 (2017). PubMed
  2. Jockwitz C, Caspers S, Lux S, Jütten K, Schleicher A, Eickhoff SB, Amunts K, Zilles K. Age- and function-related regional changes in cortical folding of the Default Mode Network in older adults. Brain Structure and Function 222, 83-99 (2017). PubMed
  3. Genon S, Li H, Fan L, Müller VI, Cieslik EC, Hoffstaedter F, Reid AT, Langner R, Grefkes C, Fox PT, Moebus S, Caspers S, Amunts K, Jiang T, Eickhoff SB. The right dorsal premotor mosaic: organization, functions, and connectivity. Cerebral Cortex, in press (2017). PubMed
  4. Caspers S, Axer M, Caspers J, Jockwitz C, Jütten K, Reckfort J, Grässel D, Amunts K, Zilles K. Target sites for transcallosal fibres in human visual cortex – a combined diffusion and polarized light imaging study. Cortex 72, 40-53 (2015). PubMed
  5. Bamberg F, Kauczor HU, Weckbach S, Schlett CL, Forsting M, Ladd S, Greiser KH, Weber MA, Schulz-Menger J, Niendorf T, Pischon T, Caspers S, Amunts K, Berger K, Bülow R, Hosten N, Hegenscheid K, Kröncke T, Linseisen J, Günther M, Hirsch JG, Köhn A, Hendel T, Wichmann E, Schmidt B, Jöckel KH, Hoffmann W, Kaaks R, Reiser MF, Völzke H, for the German National Cohort MRI Study Investigators. Whole-body magnetic resonance imaging in the German National Cohort: Rationale, design and technical background. Radiology 277 (1), 206-220 (2015). PubMed
  6. Caspers S, Moebus S, Lux S, Pundt N, Schütz H, Mühleisen TW, Gras V, Eickhoff SB, Romanzetti S, Stöcker T, Stirnberg R, Kirlangic ME, Minnerop M, Pieperhoff P, Mödder U, Das S, Evans AC, Jöckel KH, Erbel R, Cichon S, Nöthen MM, Sturma D, Bauer A, Shah NJ, Zilles K, Amunts K. Studying variability of human brain aging in a population-based German cohort – Rationale and study concept of 1000BRAINS. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 6: 149 (2014). PubMed
  7. Caspers S, Eickhoff SB, Zilles K, Amunts K. Microstructural grey matter parcellation and its relevance for connectome analyses. NeuroImage 80: 18-26 (2013). PubMed
  8. Caspers S, Schleicher A, Bacha-Trams M, Palomero-Gallagher N, Amunts K, Zilles K. Organization of the human inferior parietal lobule based on receptor architectonics. Cerebral Cortex 23 (3): 615-628 (2013). PubMed
  9. Caspers S, Eickhoff SB, Rick T, von Kapri A, Kuhlen T, Huang R, Shah NJ, Zilles K. Probabilistic fibre tract analysis of cytoarchitectonically defined human inferior parietal lobule areas reveals similarities to macaques. NeuroImage 58: 362-380 (2011). PubMed
  10. Caspers S, Zilles K, Laird AR, Eickhoff SB. ALE meta-analysis of action observation and imitation in the human brain. NeuroImage 50: 1148-1167 (2010). PubMed
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