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 a day unit. 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 30622-1
Fax: +49 89 30622-605

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):
IMPRS for Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences: From Biology to Medicine
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 Translatinal Research in Psychiatry more
Department Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics more
Genes and environmental factors together can affect mental health more
A balanced diet can prevent eating disorders more
Researchers identify pathways in neural brain cells which are decisive in treatment response with antidepressant paroxetine more
Molecular messenger helps mice find new friends more

Stress affects performance

News June 01, 2016
Hormone causes decline in cognition after social stress more
The President of the Max Planck Society is launching a complete review of all those Max Planck Institutes that still own collections of human specimens. Initial investigations at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry had shown that the Institute still possesses brain sections which actually should have been interred in Munich's Waldfriedhof in 1990. The Max Planck Society will also appoint a project with a view to establishing the identities of the victims based on the available files and records. more
New molecular insights link environmental challenges, such as stress or trauma, to increased susceptibility to anxiety more
Cumulative exposure to stress hormones affects the regulation of genes associated with aging and age-related diseases more
Understanding social impairments in autism

Scientists explain social impairments across the autistic spectrum using computational modelling

Mitochondria, an exciting new target for the treatment of anxiety disorders
An antioxidant that works on mitochondria is shown to alleviate anxiety more
Understanding a missing link in how antidepressants work
Scientists discover a new way in which antidepressants work via the well-known stress protein FKBP51 more
Pre-conception trauma results in transmission of epigenetic changes from the exposed parents to their children more
Memory does not require permanent synapses in the hippocampus
Scientists study how new impressions are transferred in long-term memory more
One gene hampers learning

One gene hampers learning

News April 01, 2015
Learning disabilities commonly found in Wiedemann-Steiner Syndrome can now be investigated in the lab more
Plant extract fights brain tumour

Plant extract fights brain tumour

News February 10, 2015
Silibinin from milk thistle seeds as novel, non-invasive treatment strategy for Cushing Disease more
Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking – awareness of dreaming
Brain researchers discover similarities between dreaming and wakefulness more
Tailor-made pharmaceuticals as basis for novel antidepressants
SAFit-ligands provide the foundation for a mechanistically novel treatment of stress-related psychiatric disorders more
Ketamine impacts major energy metabolism pathways in brain cells with several metabolites qualifying as biomarkers for the Ketamine drug response more
A stress protein is essential for antidepressant action
Scientists discover an unexpected link between the well-known stress protein FKBP51, autophagy and the effectiveness of antidepressants more
Coping with stress

Coping with stress

News November 05, 2014
MicroRNA molecule modulates behavioural response to stress more
A glimpse into the genetic basis of schizophrenia
Novel genetic associations might enlighten underlying molecular mechanisms of schizophrenia and provide biomarkers for future diagnosis more
Tiny molecules boost mood

Tiny molecules boost mood

News June 23, 2014
Small molecules may lead to the development of more effective treatments and/or biomarkers in mood disorders more
Does the moon affect our sleep?

Does the moon affect our sleep?

News June 16, 2014
Max Planck scientists find no correlation between moon phases and human sleep more
Biomarkers for early detection of postpartum depression
On the basis of molecule levels in the blood, researchers can predict the risk of developing postpartum depression at an early stage more
Suicidality test being brought to market
U.S. company Sundance Diagnostics has licensed genetic markers that predict suicide risk when antidepressant drugs are prescribed more
Homer prevents stress-induced cognitive deficits
A lack of Homer-1 in the brain causes learning problems in mice more
Childhood trauma leaves mark on DNA of some victims
Gene-environment interaction causes lifelong dysregulation of stress hormones more
Learning requires rhythmical activity of neurons
Memory-forming signal transmission in the hippocampus elucidated more
The seat of meta-consciousness in the brain
Studies of lucid dreamers visualise which centres of the brain become active when we become aware of ourselves more
Nose spray for panic attacks?

Nose spray for panic attacks?

News March 02, 2012
Current study on mice documents the anxiety-reducing effect of intranasally administered neuropeptide S more
Pictures of food create feelings of hunger
External stimuli control the hormonal regulation of our eating behaviour more
Scientists measure dream content for the first time
Dreams activate the brain in a similar way to real actions more
Control of fear in the brain decoded

Control of fear in the brain decoded

News September 06, 2011
Emotional balance is regulated by molecular factors behind stress response more
Personalised depression therapy approach developed by the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry wins m4 Award 2011
Federal State of Bavaria supports the development of a new class of potential antidepressants with a 500,000 € funding award more
Stress hormones lead to Alzheimer-like protein modifications more
New target structure for antidepressants on the horizon?
Max Planck scientists uncover surprising genetic links more
When does stress cause illness?

When does stress cause illness?

News December 22, 2010
The molecular composition of a glutamate-binding site in the brain determines vulnerability to stress more
New mechanisms of action found for drugs used to treat anxiety disorders
An anti-anxiety agent which causes no fatigue nor displays any dependence potential more
Cannabinoids spell relief in colon inflammation
Max Planck researchers and collaborators from the University in Munich identify the body’s own cannabinoid receptor as a protective system against colon inflammation more
Keeping the brain's activity under control
Max Planck Researcher team identifies an important self-defence mechanism in the brain on the basis of cannabinoid receptors more
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.

The Terror of Trauma

MPR 3 /2011 Biology & Medicine
Years after their occurrence, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and accidents continue to trigger anxiety and panic attacks in many people. Those afflicted find themselves reliving the event in nightmares or flashbacks.
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Human-derived cerebral organoids for investigating human cortical malformations

2017 Cappello, Silvia
Developmental Biology Genetics Neurosciences
Malformations of the cerebral cortex are often associated with intellectual disability and epilepsy. These disorders arise in the course of cortical development as a consequence of disturbance of neuronal development, migration and connection. In order to develop therapeutic strategies, it is essential to understand the genetic causes and to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying these malformations. The MPI research group uses cerebral organoids derived from induced stem cells for this purpose. more

Psychiatric disorders as disorders of social interaction

2016 Schilbach, Leonhard
Medicine Neurosciences
Psychiatric disorders can affect our ability to successfully and enjoyably interact with others. The neural mechanisms of social interaction and transdiagnostic social impairments are only now beginning to be studied thanks to methodological developments. In the future, interaction-based functional neuroimaging, used by scientists at the MPI of Psychiatry, may help in the selection and refinement of treatment options for psychiatric disorders. more

MicroRNAs – small but remarkable!

2015 Chen, Alon
Behavioural Biology Cell Biology Genetics Medicine Neurosciences
MicroRNAs regulate the activity of genes in our cells. Thus, in nerve cells of the brain, they influence our behavior or our reaction to the environment – two processes that are disturbed in psychiatric diseases. Now microRNAs have been discovered, which for instance act as our body’s own antidepressant or allow an adequate reaction to stressful situations. Better understanding of the role of microRNAs in psychiatric disorders will help to develop new diagnostics or treatment approaches. more

Childhood maltreatment leaves long-lasting modifications on genes

2014 Binder, Elisabeth
Genetics Immunobiology Medicine Neurosciences
Childhood maltreatment not only harms mind and body but leaves long-lasting modifications on genes. Patients suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder who have or have not experienced childhood maltreatment, displayed distinct epigenetic profiles in immune cells. Thus identical psychiatric diagnosis can be accompanied by distinct biological signatures and possibly differential response to treatment. This highlights the importance of the patient’s individual biography in defining disease subtypes. more

Gene by environment interaction as basis of depression

2013 Schmidt, Mathias V.
Medicine Neurosciences
Depression is a complex psychiatric disorder that is thought to develop due to a combination of genetic risk factors with exposure to aversive environments. FKBP5, a co-chaperone of stress hormone receptors, seems to be a key mediator of depression, as polymorphisms in the gene encoding FKBP5 can increase the likelihood to develop this disease. By investigating the molecular, structural, physiological and behavioral function of FKBP5 we can support the central role of this co-chaperone in stress and depression, and pave the way for the development of novel antidepressant treatment strategies. more
An impaired stress-hormone regulation plays an important role for the development of depression. Genetic variations in the FKBP5 gene expressing a modulator of the stress hormone axis contribute in interaction with environmental stress factors to increased depression susceptibility. Successful antidepressant treatment is closely related to the recovery of the stress hormone regulation, which in turn is modulated by FKBP5 activity. Thus, FKBP5 is a promising target for future antidepressant drugs, which should be particularly effective in patients with impaired stress-hormone regulation. more
Behaviour and emotions result from the electrical activity of neuronal networks in the brain. Disturbances of this activity of brain circuits will thus play a causal role in the pathogenesis and pathology of psychiatric disorders. The exploration of such dysfunctions in the electrical activity will expedite the development of more effective treatments of these disorders. A modern imaging approach is now used to visualize changes in the propagation of electrical nerve cell activity through brain circuits.

Genes learn from stress

2010 Dietmar Spengler
Behavioural Biology Genetics Medicine
Early-life stress causes attachment of elementary chemical markings – so-called methyl groups – to our genetic material, resulting in persistent alteration of the activity of genes. This discovery was possible by help of mice which were separated from their mothers shortly after birth and, as a consequence of this, showed elevated stress hormones and reduced stress tolerance all their life. In case of corresponding disposition both are precursors to major depression. more

FKBP51 – a new target for the treatment of depression

2009 Hausch, Felix
Medicine Neurosciences Structural Biology
The FK506-binding protein 51 (FKBP51) regulates the signal transduction of steroid hormone receptors and is genetically associated with a variety of affective disorders. Two key steps for a better understanding of this protein in mammalian behaviour are the characterization of transgenic mice and the development of specific inhibitors. The latter further have the potential to study the role of FKBP51 in clinical studies. more
The restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common neurological disorder. Since the first description a large genetic contribution in the aetiology was suspected. For the first time genetic risk variants for RLS have been identified performing a genome wide association study by genotyping 500 000 common genetic variants. More than 1600 patients with RLS and 2600 controls of the general population have participated in this study. The identified genes MEIS1, BTBD9, and LBXCOR1 are know as control factors in embryonic development. Their role in the adult brain is still unknown. more

Pathogenesis and possibilities of an individulized MS therapy

2007 Weber, Frank
Medicine Neurosciences
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a heterogenous, chronic inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Despite of many research efforts the cause of MS is unknown. Today new techniques allow the investigation of nearly the whole genome, transcriptome and proteome. The Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry uses these techniques to explore the pathogenesis of MS and to open the possibility for an individualized therapy. more

The genetic basis of different response to anti-depressants

2006 Müller-Myhsok, Bertram
Genetics Medicine
Modern high-throughput and ultra high-throughput genetic approaches allow the identification of predictors of individual response to treatment with anti-depressants. The herein drafted studies exemplify that large cohorts of well phenotyped individuals are vital to the success of genetic analyses. more
Functional neuroimaging techniques provide an excellent opportunity to investigate dynamic aspects of information processing during sleep in humans. At the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, a method for simultaneous recordings of the electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during sleep has been established. Subject to the respective sleep stage, acoustic stimuli led to different regional activation or deactivation patterns in cortical and subcortical brain regions, allowing conclusions on stimuli processing during sleep. Future studies and further developments of this technique will lead to a substantial progress regarding the functional neuroanatomy of sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation and psychopharmacological drugs on cognitive functioning. more

Protein marker for psychiatric and neurological diseases

2004 Turck, Christoph W.
Cell Biology Medicine
Over the past years the approach to understand complex cellular mechanisms in the life and medical sciences has shifted from a hypothesis-driven to a discovery-driven science. Instead of focussing on a selected number of genes or proteins the discovery-driven approach seeks a comprehensive analysis and global description of cellular mechanisms. The trend to a discovery-driven science has also occurred at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry where basic and clinical scientists are trying to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of affective and neurological disorders. Proteomics, the comprehensive analysis of the protein complement of the genome of an organism, represents such a global bioanalytical effort that has been established at the institute. Our efforts using proteomics to gain a better understanding and to search for targets for depression, anxiety and multiple sclerosis are described. more
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