Felicitas Horn, PhD Student
Hometown: Nusplingen, Germany
Affiliation: Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN)/MPI for Biological Cybernetics
What are you working on?
I’m examining the anatomy and cytoarchitecture of the insula cortex. The insula is a brain region that integrates all bodily feelings (pain, hunger, thirst, itch, satiety, temperature, etc.) and generates an “image” that reflects the status of the entire body within one moment. Based on that “image”, the insula cortex modulates the autonomic nervous system to establish and optimize the well-being of the body, and simultaneously, this brain region forms the basis for all emotions and the self-awareness of subjective feelings in humans.
How are you going to find out?
To investigate the anatomy of the human insula I use MRI on postmortem human brains to obtain data sets documenting the brain size and shape. Afterwards, I cut the insula into very thin slices (~50µm) and stain them with different dyes (e.g. for the cell body, fibers, or other typical markers for neuronal cells), then I eventually analyze the stained sections microscopically. With the help of the MRI data I finally can generate an anatomical and cytoarchitectonical 3D model of the human brain.
Why is it interesting?
Since we have to deal with our interoceptive feelings and emotions in our daily life, I am highly interested to figure out how these perceptions are processed and how they influence our mood, behavior and well-being.
What motivates you?
There are many neuropsychological diseases that are associated with the insular cortex. If we’re able to understand the exact function of that brain area, that could contribute to the understanding of the development of these diseases.