Johanna Wanka Visited JARA Section on Brain Research

Four men and a woman looking to the camera Copyright: © Peter Winandy

During her summer tour the Minister learned about research in Aachen and Jülich on the development of brain structure in old age.


The future of life in old age – this is the topic of Minister Johanna Wanka' summer tour. On July 28, 2016, she visited the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance – JARA. Researchers in basic and clinical research are conducting interdisciplinary work to learn how how healthy aging is linked to the functions of the brain.

Professor Frank Schneider, director of JARA-BRAIN and director of the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics at University Hospital Aachen, and the young scientists offered vivid information using exhibits from interdisciplinary projects. In order to better understand the aging process, the JARA-BRAIN section concentrates on the brain as the most important control center of the body.

External Factors Change the Brain

At University Hospital Aachen they discussed with the Minister how the organ changes with age. They spoke about how, for example, external factors such as stress or an unhealthy lifestyle effect its ability to perform. A current project is focusing on the functional reorganization of the older brain, which searches for ways to remain young. In this study the brain structure and function in 1,000 people 45 years of age and older are observed over a long period of time. Every two years, magnetic resononance tomography and psychological tests are conducted to investiage how advanced the organ's aging process is. The researchers hope the results will give them new insight into how degenerative diseases can be discovered early on.

In another project the so called olfactometer is implemented. This is an gadget used to represent unpleasant and pleasant smells. Efforts are currently being made to develop therapy approaches to alcoholism through conditioning with smells. According to the JARA scientists, the method is significant for many other questions in neuroscience. After a total of twelve research projects were presented, the Minister was shown a research MRT, where investigations into emotion regulation are also conducted.

The Jülich Aachen Research Alliance – JARA is a joint research initiative of RWTH Aachen and Forschungszentrum Jülich. JARA and RWTH Aachen have been funded since 2006 through the Excellence Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Photo Caption

Professor Stefan Uhlig, dean of the Faculty of Medicine; Professor Frank Schneider, director of JARA-BRAIN; Professor Wolfgang Marquardt, chair of Forschungszentrum Jülich; and MdB Rudolf Henke with Ministr Johanna Wanka in front of a research MRI – from left.