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uni'alumni 2013_ENG

Prof. Dr. Carola Haas Head of the Experimental Epilepsy Research Group at the Freiburg University Medical Center “I am interested in how epilepsy develops in the brain. Freiburg is a unique setting for this work, because we can conduct research on living human brain tissue from epilepsy patients. The tissue is surgically removed by neurosurgeons in order to heal the disease, and we can then use the tissue for our experiments. We studied this topic for almost ten years before discovering that epileptic seizures prevent the brain cells in an area of the brain that is very frequently affected from receiving particular signals. These signals tell the cells to stay where they are. As a conse- quence, mature nerve cells that were previously permanently connected suddenly begin to wander around. This migration process, one of the results of epilepsy, is what we are trying to understand. With the help of the high-resolution imaging techniques our colleagues in the cluster are cur- rently developing, we will hopefully soon be able to observe the course of the disease in detail and its conse- quences on living animals.” Dr. Oliver Müller Head of the Bioethics Junior Research Group at the Institute of Medical Ethics and Medical History “I am interested in the ethical and social aspects of neurotechnolo- gies. This is an area that raises excit- ing philosophical questions, because the act of violating the brain is con- nected to core beliefs concerning our personhood: We are reflective and re- sponsible beings because our brain is capable of higher cognitive functions. Accordingly, we need to ask the ques- tion of how violating the brain could change this self-concept. Linking technology and the brain directly opens up entirely different dimensions than simply using a pacemaker. I would thus like to study how this use of technology changes our self-perception as feeling, thinking, and acting beings and whether we need new categories to describe these changes. In order to understand what it means to have a technical device implanted in one’s body, I will also conduct interviews with patients. Learning more about what it means to live with such devices will hopefully enable us to improve our guidance and supervision of patients and their families.” Prof. Dr. Ulrike Wallrabe Head of the Laboratory for Microactuators at the Department of Microsystems Engineering “My research is concentrated in two areas. On the one hand, I combine optical components in microsystems, such as lenses and actuators, in order to create small, adaptable optics. On the other hand, this development has led to a particularly good production process for microcoils. Coil systems of this kind are also necessary for studying small groups of cells or perhaps even individual nerve cells in a magnetic resonance imaging machine. In addition, light and optical systems also have the potential to play an exciting new role in brain research, because it might be possible to use a technical system to give feedback to the nervous system by way of light. By stimulating the right areas of the brain, we might be able to transform information from sensors into sensations. My research can contribute to these developments. I find it great that I can use something from a completely different area of application here. That really only happens when you dare to venture into other areas. All of a sudden you think: What a great topic for new research!” VOICES Cover Story uni'alumni 20138