Universität Bonn

Hertz-Chair for Artificial Intelligence and Neurosciene

Our Research Mission

Algorithms for survival:

Our goal is to understand the computing architecture of the mind and brain. We bring the mind to its computational limits by putting it in its natural environment, where it needs to cope with survival threats. This requires rapid actions with utmost precision and continuous updating. On the other hand, avoidance actions in the absence of real threat are a hallmark of several psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. We seek to unpack the underlying mechanisms and develop novel treatments. Experimentally, our approach is based on virtual reality, serious games, and associative learning.

Current Research Projects

Key Publications

Sporrer, J. K., Brookes, J., Hall, S., Zabbah, S., Hernandez, U. D. S., & Bach, D. R. (2022). Computational characteristics of human escape decisions. Pre-print.

Bach DR, Sporrer J, Abend R, Beckers T, Dunsmoor JE, Fullana, MA, Gamer M, Gee DG, Hamm A, Hartley CA, Herringa RJ, Jovanovic T, Kalisch R, Knight DC, Lissek S, Lonsdorf TB, Merz CJ, Milad M, Morriss J, Phelps, EA, Pine DS, Olsson A, van Reekum CM, Schiller D (2023). Consensus design of a calibration experiment for human fear conditioning. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 105146.

Ojala KE*, Staib M*, Gerster S, Ruff CC, Bach DR (2022). Inhibiting human aversive memory by transcranial theta-burst stimulation to primary sensory cortex. Biological Psychiatry, 92, 149-157.

 Bach DR (2021). Cross-species anxiety tests in psychiatry – pitfalls and promises. Molecular Psychiatry, 27, 154-163.

 Bach DR, Melinščak F, Fleming SM, Voelkle M (2020). Calibrating the experimental measurement of psychological attributes. Nature Human Behaviour, 4, 1229-1235.

Castegnetti G, Tzovara A, Khemka S, Melinščak F, Barnes GR, Dolan RJ, Bach DR (2020). Representations of probabilistic outcomes during risky decision-making. Nature Communications, 11, 2419. 

 Korn CW & Bach DR (2019). Minimizing threat via heuristic and optimal policies recruits hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex. Nature Human Behavior, 3, 733-745. 

Korn CW & Bach DR (2018). Heuristic and optimal policy computations in the human brain during sequential decision-making. Nature Communications, 9, 325. 

 Tzovara A, Korn CW & Bach DR (2018). Human Pavlovian fear conditioning conforms to probabilistic learning. PLOS Computational Biology,14, e1006243.

 Bach DR, & Dayan, P (2017). Algorithms for survival: a comparative perspective on emotions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 18, 311-319.

Past Research Projects

In order to facilitate translation of our basic neuroscience research into clinical practice, we tested a range of candidate treatments in laboratory models of psychiatric disorders, for example with synaptic plasticity-inhibiting drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and by optimised psychotherapy. 

Find more information on the project page of the University of Zurich.

Read more: 

  • Bach DR, Tzovara A, Vunder J (2018). Blocking human fear memory with the matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor doxycycline. Molecular Psychiatry, 23, 1584–1589.
  • Bach DR, Brown SA, Kleim B, Tyagarajan SK (2019). Extracellular matrix: a new player in memory maintenance and psychiatric disorder. Swiss Medical Weekly, 149:w20060. [DOI]

Volunteer to become a Participant

Hear Professor Bach explain the lab's research in this brief, German video clip, while our other lab members show the VR game to a volunteer. 

Unser Gehirn in Extremsituationen beobachten

We are currently recruiting participants for the following studies: 

  • ActionContraThreat - learn more about this VR study here.

To join the waiting list, please send an e-mail to caian.research@uni-bonn.de

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