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Scientists have long debated the extent to which nature and nurture shape who we are. In this video, SOFIE VALK seeks to cast light on this debate. Employing methods including neuroimaging techniques, twin and genotype samples, comparison with primate brains and machine learning, Valk argues that both genetic and environmental factors shape the human brain, impacting human thoughts and feelings. Her research helps to identify biological rules describing how the structure of the human brain can support human cognition. Such rules have important applications to understand mental health and disease, and may help understand how brain and behaviour interact.


Sofie Valk is the Otto Hahn Research Group leader for Cognitive Neurogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. She is also the Research Group leader for Cognitive Neurogenetics in the Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-7) at the Jülich Forschungszentrum. Valk’s research focuses on the interplay between structure and function in the human brain. An associate editor for Brain Structure and Function, Valk won the 2022 early career award from the DGPA e.V.


Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

The studies look into the perception, planning, and generation of human cognitive abilities and cerebral processes, and analyse the interaction and common functional bases of their production and perception. Other research focuses on plastic changes in the human brain and the influence this has on various cognitive abilities, and also the neuronal and hormonal basis of modern diseases such as high blood pressure and obesity. In addition, the further development of imaging methods for the neurosciences is a focal point of research at the Institute.

The MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences provides an exciting framework for these topical and alluring theoretical domains, with the full gamut of cognitive and neuroscientific methodology available under one roof.

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Original publication

Genetic and phylogenetic uncoupling of structure and function in human transmodal cortex.

Valk S. L., Xu T., Paquola C., Park B.-y., Bethlehem R. A. I., Vos de Wael R., Royer J., Masouleh S. K., Bayrak S. and Kochunov P.
Nature Communications
Published in 2022

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