Max Planck Sabbatical Award

Established by the Max Planck Society, the Max Planck Sabbatical Award offers renowned scientists a research stay at one of the Max Planck Institutes as well as flexible research funding over a 2-year period.

Current Awardee at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The psychologist Amrisha Vaish, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, received the Max Planck Sabbatical Award in 2021. She is one of the internationally leading psychologists investigating the early ontogeny of prosocial and moral behaviors and their underlying psychological mechanisms. She discovered that, as early as the second year of life, children feel concern for victims of harm, and that this concern motivates them to help. She recognized that young children’s helping is motivated by genuine concern for the other’s welfare rather than by alternative motives such as receiving credit for helping. She also found that children show concern for and help a victim of harm even if the victim displays no overt distress, and that they show less concern and less helping towards individuals who are unjustifiably distressed. More recently, Amrisha Vaish has further broadened her research program to the emergence of forgiveness, and reciprocity. She has also worked on comparative studies examining chimpanzees’ social behavior. A recent line of her research deals with the emergence of children’s pro-environmental behavior. She is collaborating with MPIB researchers at the Center for Lifespan Psychology and other groups over the two years of her award.

Previous Awardee

The gerontologist Mara Mather, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, received the Max Planck Sabbatical Award in 2018. Her research is on the affective/cognitive neuroscience of aging, examining how age-related changes in brain function and structure impact cognition and emotion. In particular, her research has elucidated the brain mechanisms of how arousal makes attention more selective and how these processes change in aging. A small brainstem region called the locus coeruleus plays a key role in focusing attention under arousal. The locus coeruleus is one of the earliest targets of Alzheimer's related pathology in the brain, but because of its small size it has been challenging to study in living humans. During her sabbatical, Mather collaborated with MPIB researchers at the Center for Lifespan Psychology, mainly on projects to examine the role of age-related changes in the locus coeruleus arousal system in age-related change in cognition.

Selected Collaborative Publications

Bachman, S. L., Dahl, M. J., Werkle-Bergner, M., Düzel, S., Garcia Forlim, C., Lindenberger, U., Kühn, S., & Mather, M. (2021). Locus coeruleus MRI contrast is associated with cortical thickness in older adults. Neurobiology of Aging, 100, 72–82.
Dahl, M. J., Mather, M., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2022). Noradrenergic modulation of rhythmic neural activity shapes selective attention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 26(1), 38–52.
Dahl, M. J., Mather, M., Düzel, S., Bodammer, N. C., Lindenberger, U., Kühn, S., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2019). Rostral locus coeruleus integrity is associated with better memory performance in older adults. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 1203–1214.
Dahl, M. J., Mather, M., Sander, M. C., & Werkle-Bergner, M. (2020). Noradrenergic responsiveness supports selective attention across the adult lifespan. The Journal of Neuroscience, 40(22), 4372–4390.
Raffington, L., Falck, J., Heim, C., Mather, M., & Shing, Y. L. (2020). Effects of stress on 6- and 7-year-old children's emotional memory differs by gender. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 199, Article 104924.

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