Brains belong to the most complex systems in nature. They control perception, cognition and eventually the behaviour of animals and humans. Understanding the mechanisms that allow animals and humans to behave adaptively in complex environments is one of the most fascinating, but also most challenging tasks in science.
The graduate programme "Behaviour: From Neural Mechanisms to Evolution" provides the relevant interdisciplinary scientific training for a comprehensive education. It introduces concepts, fundamental experimental techniques, and the theoretical approaches that are required to perform research at the frontiers of this ambitious scientific field.
The graduate programme will comprise both a Master's programme and a PhD programme. Excellent students may change directly to the doctoral programme after the successful completion of their first year of studies.
Our study programme bridges the gap from neurophysiology to behavioral ecology. It includes courses on the production of behaviour by neuronal circuits as well as courses on the evolution of behaviour.
As a distinguishing characteristic, this study programme integrates computational and experimental approaches and focuses on the neuronal as well as on the evolutionary aspects of behaviour.
The courses are organised in semesters, starting Oct. 1st and April 1st. 30 credit points (ECTS) have to be earned in each semester.
Throughout the first year, basic concepts and current topics of mechanisms and evolution of brain and behaviour are taught in a comprehensive study programme. This combines in all modules both seminars and lectures with lab courses and small scientific projects. Emphasis during the first year is put on individual tutoring and intensive training in small groups.
Master modules (A - F)
The Master modules combine both seminars and lectures with lab courses and scientific projects. Current topics of the six master modules are:
A - Probing Behaviour
B - Neural Mechanisms of Behaviour
C - Control of Behaviour
D - Perception and Action
E - Evolution of Behaviour
F - Function of Behaviour
In the second year students select a supplementary module and will carry out - in research modules - independent projects in two of the participating research groups. These projects will eventually lead to the six- month Master's thesis project. Students are encouraged to use the supplementary module (and potentially one of the research modules) to do a project in a cooperative international research institution. All students of the study programme participate in a weekly seminar series where the results of the various research projects are presented and discussed. Special emphasis is also given to scientific writing and oral presentation skills. Seminar talks by internationally renowned scientists from other institutions further extend the scope of the study programme.
Research modules A+B
The Master's thesis project comprises original and independent research in the field of current research of one of the groups participating in the MSc programme. The research projects are accompanied by training in scientific writing and oral presentation skills. The Master's thesis will be written in the format of international scientific journals. (30 ECTS)
The complexity of behaviour and the underlying neuronal processes is enchantingly rich. This richness is reflected in the broad range of analytical methodologies applied to biological data in our endeavor of elucidating this complexity. With respect of our Master program, the topics cover ranges from the theoretical modeling of evolutionary processes to quantitative behavioral analysis in various model systems and the studies of neuronal networks.
The first module within the Master program aims at providing students with an overview to this variety, with a special focus on learning and mastering the broad range of skills and techniques needed to successfully approach this complexity. Using theoretical and practical examples of topics fundamental to the research of the faculty involved in the master program, students are introduced to programming in Matlab®. In doing so, we introduce fundamental concepts of signal analysis (e.g., filtering signals, Fourier transforms, convolution, spike-train analysis, trajectory analysis, ROC analysis and statistical foundations) and approaches to experimental designs and data acquisition (extracellular recordings, psychophysical experiments). In addition to these analytical skills, problems in designing experiments, bibliographic research and the art of scientific-writing and presentation of scientific data are covered and practiced in this module.
Biewener, A. A. (2003) Animal Locomotion. Oxford University Press.
Cruse, H (2008) Neural networks as cybernetic systems. 3rd ed., Brains, Minds & Media; ebook: http://www.brains-minds-media.org/archive/1841
For your online application the following documents are required:
International students: Working knowledge of German is necessary for daily private activities; German courses are strongly recommended.
Furthermore, international students from countries not belonging to the European Union or the European Economic Area are requested to take the following entry requirements into consideration: DAAD - Visa / Entry into the country
Students may apply before receiving their Bachelor degree. In this case, they are required to submit certified copies of certificates and a transcript of records of their previous studies; admission may be granted subject to the successful completion of the first degree before the beginning of the MSc programme.
Candidates are selected based on their academic qualification, the evaluation of the letter of motivation, and a personal interview (if applicable).
Online application (German version):
Prof. Dr. Martin Egelhaaf
Fakultät für Biologie
Postfach 10 01 31
Alphabetical listing of faculty in biology
Böddeker, Norbert, Dr. (Cognitive Neuroscience)
Dürr, Volker, Prof. Dr. (Biological Cybernetics)
Egelhaaf, Martin, Prof. Dr. (Neurobiology)
Engelmann, Jacob, Jun.Prof. Dr. (Active Sensing)
Kayser, Christoph, Prof. Dr. (Cognitive Neuroscience)
Kern, Roland, Dr. (Neurobiology)
Krüger, Oliver, Prof. Dr. (Animal Behaviour)
Lindemann, Jens Peter, Dr. (Neurobiology)
Reinhold, Klaus, Prof. Dr. (Evolutionary Biology)
Schmitz, Josef, Prof. Dr. (Biological Cybernetics)
"Behaviour: From Neural Mechanisms to Evolution (MA/PhD)"
Information about the programme on the "German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)" website
Prof. Dr. Martin Egelhaaf