Birte Forstmann


Towards a mechanistic understanding of the human subcortex

Today only seven percent of the subcortical structures listed by the Federative Community on Anatomical Terminology (FCAT, 1998) are depicted in available standard MRI-atlases (Alkemade, Keuken, & Forstmann, 2013). As a consequence, the remaining 423 subcortical structures cannot be studied using automated analysis protocols available for MRI and therefore require trained anatomists for the study of subcortical brain areas: The human subcortex is notoriously difficult to visualize and analyze with functional magnetic resonance imaging. In this talk, exciting technical advances are presented that allow charting terra incognita; the human subcortex. Closing the knowledge-gap of the human subcortex has already resulted in the re-evaluation of prominent models in the cognitive neurosciences such as the functional role of cortico-basal ganglia loops. I will discuss emerging possibilities of probing cortico-subcortical dynamics in decision making.


Birte Forstmann is a Professor for Cognitive Neurosciences at the University of Amsterdam. She earned her PhD in 2006 at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. After completing her postdoc in 2008 at the University of Amsterdam, she became tenured Research Fellow at the Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam with the focus of model-based cognitive neurosciences. Since then she has contributed to a range of topics in cognitive neuroscience, experimental psychology, mathematical psychology, and lately also in quantitative neuroanatomy.