Neuropsychiatry and Psychology of Aging

- An Overview -

1. Introduction
2. Steering Committee
3. Central Themes
4. Structure of the Program


Members of the FU Graduiertenkolleg on the “Neuropsychiatry and Psychology of Aging” study the diversity of old age and processes of aging. This Graduiertenkolleg, funded by the DFG (429/1 and 429/2), was established in 1998 and is now in a second phase of 3-year funding (October 2001-2004). After the retirement of Prof. Hanfried Helmchen in April 2001, the Graduiertenkolleg is now led by Prof. Isabella Heuser (Psychiatry) and Prof. Paul B. Baltes (Psychology). Four research groups are involved in the program: Free University of Berlin – Psychology, Psychiatry, and University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, ENT, together with Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Lifespan Psychology. The Graduiertenkolleg is also associated with the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine (Berlin-Buch) and the Neurological Clinic of the Charité, Humboldt University Berlin. Together these groups seek to integrate medical, psychiatric, and psychological research on aging and very old age.
17 doctoral fellows belonged to the program in the period from 1998-2001. A new cohort of 8 began in October 2001 and a further cohort will commence in October 2002. Dissertation projects address questions about pathological, normal, and successful aging from multiple perspectives. Members of the Graduiertenkolleg have the opportunity to work on the extensive longitudinal data bank of the multidisciplinary Berlin Aging Study (www.base-berlin.mpg.de).  Projects planned in the Graduiertenkolleg during the next years will focus on topics of aging in the following areas:
-         Neuroimaging und Electrophysiology
-         Molecular mechanisms in neuro- and synaptogenesis
-         Sleep research
-         Health behavior and aging
-         Cognitive Aging
-         Life-management strategies in old age
-          Predictors of longevity and mortality

The Graduiertenkolleg strives for high quality innovative research that can be published in top international journals. Funding is available for members of the Graduiertenkolleg to attend international congresses to present their research. Furthermore, we hope that the Graduierten will successfully continue their careers in fields of aging research.

Free University of Berlin: University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, Psychiatry  
Free University of Berlin: Psychology  
Free University of Berlin: University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, ENT  
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Lifespan Psychology  
Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (Berlin-Buch)
Neurological Clinic of the Charité, Humboldt University Berlin


2. Steering Committee of the Doctoral Program (Graduiertenkolleg)  

Isabella Heuser (Chair), Department of Psychiatry, Free University of Berlin
Paul B. Baltes, Professor of Psychology (Co-Chair), Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Center for Lifespan Psychology
Heidi Danker-Hopfe, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Free University of Berlin 
Detlev Ganten, Professor of Medicine, Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (Berlin-Buch)
Gerd Kempermann, PD Dr. med., Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (Berlin-Buch)
Friedel M. Reischies, PD Dr. med., Free University of Berlin, University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, Psychiatric Clinic
Ralf Schwarzer, Professor of Psychology, Free University of Berlin, Department of Health Psychology
Jacqui Smith, Professor of Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Center for Lifespan Psychology
Arno Villringer, Professor of Neurology, Neurological Clinic, Charité, Humboldt University Berlin


 3. Central Themes of the Program  

It is generally agreed that, in order to understand the many aspects of old age and aging (e.g.boilogical, physical, psychological, and social), it is important to strive for a transdisciplinary perspective and systemic integration. To this end, two main goals of the doctoral program on the psychiatry and psychology of aging are:
1. To integrate medical and psychological questions in research on aging.
2. To focus on issues of very old age.
In addition, the program seeks to integrate gerontological research and themes with studies and theoretical frameworks from health psychology.
Several themes serve as a forum for these integrative efforts. These include: the heterogeneity of aging, pathological versus normal aging, the gain-loss dynamics of aging, the potential and limits of old age, strategies of coping with age-related losses, the nature of resilience in old age, issues and determinants of longevity. 

4. Structure of the Doctoral Program

As well as research colloquia at departments within the Free University and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the doctoral program also involves
  • academies and workshops with expert international and German consultants
  • workshops and seminars that focus specifically on dissertation projects and methods
  • seminar series on specific topics in gerontology and aging research
  • possibilities for external research and clinical internships
  • participation in international and national conferences
The program includes graduates financed by fellowships from the DFG together with a small group of invited graduates who are associated with projects located in the participating institutions and financed by external sources. In general, the graduates receive a 2-year fellowship with the possibility for a 1-year extension.
In order to foster peer-group contacts within Germany, the program also includes funding to attend the Fall Academy for graduates interested in gerontology who come from universities outside Berlin. It is hoped that follow-up discussions and joint symposium will evolve from contacts made during the academies. Opportunities for building European and international contacts are created through the Fall Academy and through meetings with researchers visiting the four participating institutions. To this end, the graduates are also encouraged to prepare presentations in English and to submit abstracts to international conferences.