Forum Scientiarum

Tübingen International Summer School 2019

Computational psychiatry and neurology

September 16-19, 2019 at Cloister Heiligkreuztal

Tübingen International Summer School 2019 is a joint venture of FORUM SCIENTIARUM and the TNC (Tübingen Neuro-Campus) and HIH (Hertie-Institut für Hirnforschung)


DEADLINE: July 20th, 2019

As a consequence of our limited understanding of how neural circuits represent information, it is widely acknowledged that current psychiatric diagnostic schemata and the treatments for psychiatric disorders lack a firm biological foundation.

One challenge facing psychiatry is its reliance on a diagnostic system exemplified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Groups of symptoms entail the diagnosis and diagnostic categorizations are based on phenomenological similarity, often expressed at the level of perception, belief and emotion. Thus, there is a danger that superficially similar, but fundamentally different dysfunctions may be grouped together under one category while some categorical distinctions might be based upon superficial differences that do not actually reflect underlying differences in pathology. In Neurology, clearly distinct clinical phenotypes of degenerative diseases have been linked through common genetic causes using recent next-generation genome and exome sequencing techniques. Yet, the answer to the question how similar genetic causes lead to fundamentally different clinical symptoms remains elusive.

By formalising mathematically the relationship between symptoms, environments and neurobiology, the relatively young discipline of computational Psychiatry (CP) hopes to provide mechanistic explanations for mental symptoms based on pathophysiology. It applies computational models – which have become an integral part of neuroscience for some time already – to psychiatric and neurological disorders. By identifying mechanistic explanations, CP may help to distinguish between conditions that, despite superficial similarity, are actually fundamentally different. However, a successful use of computational models to approach clinical neuroscience requires a detailed appreciation of their strengths and limitations.

From a philosophical point of view, it is interesting to ask how the explanatory power of these models can be justified. Furthermore, when we explore and develop computational ideas in terms of their neural mechanisms, the challenge is not to overburden a (computational) model with interpretations that it cannot unambiguously support.

The Summer School will bring together researchers of different disciplines like psychiatry, computational neurosciences, sciences studies, and philosophy to discuss the prospects of CP as well as limitations of a model based approach in general. What are we modelling, how do our model components relate to the target system and, crucially, what are we leaving out? What in general is the impact of the computational approach on the idea of man?

Board and lodging (in double rooms) will be provided. There are no participation fees to be paid, although traveling costs and beverages have to be covered by the participants.

For your application please do submit:

Applications should be sent to infospam or to our postal addres

FORUM SCIENTIARUM, Doblerstr. 33, 72074 Tübingen, Germany

Application deadline: July 20st, 2019


During the four days of School, there are going to be held six lectures with discussion of the different topics. From natural science to literature and theology, the students will receive input from the lecturers and will be encourage to actively participating in the discussion.

Social activities to incentive the further interaction among lecturer and students are organized during the whole Summer School.

Preliminary Program


Dr. Anna Ciaunica (Institute of Philosophy, University of Porto)

Dr. Anna Ciaunica is researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, Porto and the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, the UK. She is also the Principal Investigator (PI) of an interdisciplinary project looking at the effects of disrupted self-consciousness on self-other mirroring in depersonalisation. Before that she was research associate at the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London; and postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Her research is highly interdisciplinary focuses primarily on the relationship between atypical forms of bodily self-consciousness and social interactions in various conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Möbius Syndrome (MS) and Depersonalisation Disorder (DPD).

In her work Dr. Anna Ciaunica combines interdisciplinary resources from philosophy, experimental psychology and computational neuroscience in order to gain a better understanding of the bodily foundation of phenomenal selfhood, both in health and disease. She published a monograph on consciousness (in French) and several influential single- and co-authored articles in leading philosophy and interdisciplinary journals (in English).

Although research into atypical forms of self-consciousness and social interactions is her overriding intellectual interest, she also recognizes the need for academia to break out of its milieu whenever possible and build connections both within and outside the university. She is the main coordinator of the interdisciplinary Network for Embodied Consciousness and the Arts (NECTArs) which involves close collaboration with artists, clinical psychologists and peer support groups in order to create immersive experiences and empathy through narratives, light and sound.


Junior Prof. Dr. Lena Kästner (Institute of Philosophy, Saarland University)

Lena Kästner is a junior professor in philosophy of mind and cognitive systems at Saarland University, Germany since 2019. Kästner has a  background in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience. She graduated from University College London (UCL) in cognitive neuroscience and received her PhD in philosophy from Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany in 2014. From spring 2014 she was assistant professor at Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin before she briefly returned to Bochum in fall 2017. Kästner's primary research areas are philosophy of mind and philosophy of science, especially philosophy of cognitive science and neuroscience. She specializes in scientific explanations (particularly explanations of cognitive phenomena), cognitive architectures, experiments, and causation.

Prof. Dr. Peter Dayan (Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, University of Tübingen)

Peter Dayan studied mathematics at Cambridge University and received his doctorate in Edinburgh. After postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute and the University of Toronto, he moved to MIT in Boston in 1995. In 1998, he moved to London to co-found the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, and was its Director from 2002-2017. Since 2018, he has been the Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. Peter Dayan's research focuses on normal and dysfunctional decision-making processes in the brain, including the role of neuromodulators. Dayan has long worked at the interface between natural and engineered systems for learning and choice.

Prof. Dr. Caleb Webber (Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford)

Caleb Webber obtained his PhD in 2003 from the European Bioinformatics Institute, The Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton Cambridge and from the Department of Genetics, Cambridge University. Afterwards he returned to Oxford to work on most of the major large-scale genome projects of the last decade eventually becoming a full Professor of Bioinformatics. His interest in synteny breaks from those projects led to an interest in copy number variation, and in turn to the role of genetic variation, in the spectrum of neurological disease. Caleb Webber collaborates with many European and International partners, especially through the IMI IM2PACT and StemBANCC consortia. In 2018, Caleb Webber joined the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University working on the identification of predisposing genetic and dysfunctional networks through cellular models of Parkinson’s disease.

Prof. Dr. Martin Butz (Computer Science & Psychology, Cognitive Modeling, University of Tübingen)

Martin Butz studied Computer Science and Psychology at the University of Würzburg, He completed his PhD in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), IL, USA in 2004. During his Post-Doc years, he worked on computational models of generative encodings of the own body and the surrounding environment at the University of Würzburg. In 2011, Martin Butz was appointed full professor in Cognitive Modeling at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Tübingen. While Martin Butz has completed all degrees in computer science, he has a long track record of collaborations with psychologists, cognitive roboticists, linguists, and neuroscientists as well computational cognitive modelers. His current main research focus lies in Event-Predictive Cognition, as a tool and mechanism to learn conceptual abstractions. His recent book on “How the Mind Comes into Being” provides an integrative introduction to cognitive science and his approach from a computational perspective.



Dr. Marc Himmelbach (Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen)

Dr. Niels Weidtmann (FORUM SCIENTIARUM, University of Tübingen)

Michael Hermann (FORUM SCIENTIARUM, University of Tübingen)

Anika Schmitt (FORUM SCIENTIARUM, University of Tübingen)

Dr. Carlos N. Oyanedel (Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen)