Understanding the brain with artificial intelligence: Dominik Bach is a new Hertz Professor at the University of Bonn
The University of Bonn has once again received excellent reinforcement: Dominik Bach now fills a so-called Hertz Chair, which is designed to combine disciplines in a unique way. The internationally renowned psychologist, physician and mathematician will establish a new focus at the interface between neuroscience, psychiatry and computer science in the Transdisciplinary Research Area „Life and Health“. He and his team want to use mathematical methods to decipher how the brain works. To this end, they analyze human behavior in extreme situations.
Major societal challenges and the complex questions they raise cannot be answered by any one scientific discipline alone. Dominik Bach’s interdisciplinary approach therefore fits perfectly into the concept of the six Transdisciplinary Research Areas (TRA), which the University of Bonn established more than two years ago in the course of the Excellence Strategy funding program.
At the heart of the concept are the Hertz Professorships named after the Bonn physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894). They are filled with renowned researchers who are leaders in their respective fields and raise the profile of the Transdisciplinary Research Areas. The professors will receive 4.2 million euros over seven years to establish new research fields, link disciplines and provide important impetus.
„Establishing and filling top-class professorships of excellence is an essential pillar of our excellence strategy,“ emphasizes Rector Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Hoch. „With Dominik Bach, we have once again succeeded in recruiting an outstanding and globally renowned researcher for a Hertz Chair. I am convinced that with his research at the interface between neuroscience, psychiatry and computer science, he will decisively further develop not least the Transdisciplinary Research Area ‚Life and Health‘.“
How do people behave in extreme situations?
Dominik Bach uses models and methods from theoretical neuroscience and artificial intelligence to decipher the function of the human brain. The brain uses mathematical operations to control actions. Bach’s research aim is to characterize these operations. He and his team analyze human behavior in extreme situations to investigate the limitations – and thus the functioning – of these mechanisms. The research team simulates such situations and uses virtual realities in which the players move freely, allowing them to record and reconstruct the players‘ behavior. The results can help to better understand mental illnesses and also enable new therapeutic approaches in the future.
Combining different disciplines in the best possible way is particularly close to Bach’s heart. „The University of Bonn promotes excellent research in neurobiology, computer science and mathematics. I am looking forward to strengthening theoretical neuroscience in such an outstanding environment and to bridge the gap between these disciplines,“ says the new Hertz professor.
„Dominik Bach is a key recruitment for transdisciplinary neuroscientific research in Bonn,“ says Prof. Dr. Heinz Beck, spokesperson of the Transdisciplinary Research Area „Life and Health“. For an understanding of complex behavior and the underlying brain operations, approaches such as those pursued by Dominik Bach are highly innovative and timely, he said. „His research complements recent developments in the neuroscience research area at the University of Bonn exceptionally well, and will lead to new interactions with mathematics, computer science, and beyond.“
About the person:
Dominik Bach studied psychology, medicine and mathematics in Berlin, Milton Keynes (UK) and Hagen. He received his doctorate in both medicine and psychology and completed his training in psychiatry and psychotherapy at the Charité Hospital in Berlin. A specialist in computational and clinical neuroscience, Bach has been a professor at University College London and the University of Zurich before joining the University of Bonn. He is currently the recipient of a multi-million European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant and a prestigious ESRC Research Grant from the national funding agency UK Research and Innovation. His work has received international recognition through various awards and high-level scientific publications.