Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry

Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry

The Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, which focuses primarily on research into depression and anxiety disorders, is one of the world's leading institutes in this field. Here, basic research is closely interlinked with clinical research: the Institute incorporates a 120-bed hospital, numerous specialist outpatient departments and three day units. Within these facilities, the modern research branches of genetics and proteomics are combined with the clinical analysis techniques of imaging and the measurement of brain function. The aim is to identify biomarkers of psychiatric and neurological disorders in a bid to better understand the molecular basis of these diseases. The knowledge obtained goes into the development of new therapies and drugs for the personalised medicine of tomorrow.


Kraepelinstr. 2 - 10
80804 München
Phone: +49 89 30622-1000

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Translational Psychiatry

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Translational Research in Psychiatry


Study could provide basis for individual prognoses

Human brain organoid, showing different cell types by colour: nuclei (magenta), progenitor cells (yellow), newborn neurons (blue).

Study proves connection between stress hormones and altered brain structure

model of DNA

Epigenetic changes on stress gene are similar in mice and humans


Scientists prove the clinical benefit of schema therapy for severe depression


Lack of activation of the locus coeruleus in the brain inhibits the inner drive

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When the human body is exposed to stress, it goes into the very same emergency mode that it used in the Stone Age. However, that reaction is not nearly as well suited to our way of life today. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences are studying what happens in the body during stress, who is particularly susceptible to stress, as well as when it is an especially bad time to have to deal with a large amount of stress.

People who run away screaming from tiny spiders are often ridiculed by their peers. But a pronounced fear of spiders is anything but funny if you’re the person affected. Florian Binder, a member of Victor Spoormaker’s research group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, is using virtual reality to gain a better understanding of anxiety disorders and to develop a standard therapy. The author tried it out on herself to find out how it works.

Just tired? Or depressed? Introverted or autistic? Imaginative or schizophrenic? The symptoms of psychiatric illnesses are not always clear. Therefore, Nikolaos Koutsouleris, a fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, also relies on artificial intelligence for early detection. Algorithms are designed to supplement the doctor’s expertise by detecting patterns in patients’ genetic and physiological data.

Silvia Cappello’s life is all about movement: at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, she performs research into the way in which different types of neurons migrate to the correct position in the cerebral cortex, during embryonic development of the brain. In her free time, the passionate athlete rarely stands still either.

People who haven’t gotten enough sleep often see the world as a fairly sad place. If their tiredness lasts for weeks or even months, their dark mood may become chronic and develop into depression. Conversely, depression is frequently also associated with severe sleep disorders. Axel Steiger and his team at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich are studying the connection between disturbed sleep and depression. To do this, they measure human brain activity in the sleep lab.

CRH-dependent neural circuits modulate the stress response

2022 Chang, Simon; Du, Ying; Ries, Clemens; Zhao, Chen; Deussing, Jan M.

Genetics Neurosciences Physiology

The neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is a central regulator of the stress response. Alterations in the CRH system have repeatedly been observed in depressed patients. Our group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry identified CRH-related circuits shaping anxiety, arousal and locomotion. The detailed comprehension of CRH-dependent neural circuits is a prerequisite to establish the CRH system as a potential alternative therapeutic target beyond classical antidepressants.


Biomarkers to predict the antidepressant response

2020 1Turck, Christoph W.; 1Park, Dongik; 2Ditzen-Janotta, Claudia

Genetics Medicine Neurosciences

The World Health Organization estimates that around 300 million people worldwide are affected by depression. Affective disorders represent one of the most significant causes for the loss of healthy life years and result in a reduced life expectancy compared to the general population. Psychotropic drugs approved for the treatment of depression do not result in disease improvement or even remission in all affected patients. The identification of specific biomarkers that provide each patient with the optimal drug would be an important milestone in personalized psychiatric medicine.


Body and mind: Two sides of the same coin

2019 Schmidt, Mathias V.

Cognitive Science Medicine Neurosciences Physiology

Stress-induced diseases are among the most common health problems worldwide and include both mental disorders such as depression and physical conditions such as diabetes. These diseases are causally related to each other and the mechanisms of stress regulation could be a common cause of both physical and mental disorders. We have identified a central mechanism that is decisively involved in the development of stress-induced diseases and represents a novel treatment option.


The uncharted territory of epitranscriptomics – mRNA modifications in psychiatric disorders

2018 Stamp, Fabian; Binder, Elisabeth; Chen, Alon

Developmental Biology Genetics Neurosciences Physiology

Stress can affect gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA-methylation. New research suggests a similar regulation at the level of messenger molecules (mRNA) which are responsible for the transmission of genetic information. The most common mRNA modification N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is regulated by stress in the brain and shows a changed signature in the blood of patients suffering from depression. Future research investigating the involvement of m6A in the stress response can provide a better understanding of the origin of stress-related psychiatric disorders.


Strategies to decode the molecular basis of psychiatric diseases

2017 Ziller, Michael J.

Cognitive Science Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Neurosciences Physiology

Psychiatric diseases represent one of the major public health burdens in western societies. The scientists at the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry are developing a new system medicine approach in order to address these challenges. In this approach, pluripotent stem cell based personalized disease models are used to generate various human brain cells in the laboratory. By combining these models with sophisticated computational analysis strategies, the scientists aim at decoding the patient specific molecular genetic basis of these diseases.

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