Press releases

 

Dec 6 2021
17:00

Processing of written and spoken language are closely aligned

Reading and speaking follow a similar tact

When we read, our gaze moves over the text in a certain pattern. This pattern resembles – to a surprisingly high degree – the rhythm of spoken language, as a team of researchers, with the significant involvement of Goethe University, has discovered. Their research results were published on 6 December in the journal “Nature Human Behaviour".

FRANKFURT. When we read, we let our eyes wander over the text. In the process, our eye movements follow a characteristic temporal rhythm. In the framework of eye movement experiments and a meta-study with 14 different languages, an international team of researchers, with the significant involvement of Goethe University, has discovered that this temporal structure of reading is almost identical to the dominant rhythm of spoken language. It can be concluded from this, they say, that the processing of written language on the one hand and of spoken language on the other are far more similar than previously assumed. The research results have now been published in the scientific journal “Nature Human Behaviour". Other research institutions involved were the University of Vienna, the Ernst Strüngmann Institute in Frankfurt, New York University, the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, also in Frankfurt, and the University of Salzburg.

Languages and writing systems are central elements of human communication. For thousands of years, writing systems have enabled us not only to share information face to face but also to store it in a tangible form and make it permanently available. “Reading is one of humanity's most fascinating cultural achievements," says first author Dr Benjamin Gagl, who until recently was a research associate at the Institute of Psychology, Goethe University. “Spoken language also influences reading. Until now, however, little has been known about the common underlying mechanisms of reading and spoken language," explains Gagl, himself a psychologist.

Together with an international team led by Professor Christian Fiebach, Gagl explored these mechanisms by comparing the temporal structures of reading with those of spoken language. This revealed that the rhythmic sequences of eye movements when reading and the dominant rhythm in speech signals are almost identical. These findings shed new light on the interface between written and spoken language.

For their study, the team transferred frequency analysis methods, which are already widely used for examining phonetic speech signals, to the study of eye movements. This approach was applied in two studies at Goethe University and one at the University of Salzburg. Apart from a comparable rhythm in reading and speaking, a direct temporal coupling of reading and speech processes was detected in less experienced readers. More practiced readers, by contrast, read faster and were able to extract more information from the text between two eye movements. In addition, the authors documented in a meta-study all eye movement studies of reading published in scientific journals from 2006 to 2016 and estimated the temporal rhythm of reading for 14 languages and several writing systems. This revealed that reading rhythm is slower in logographic writing systems (such as Chinese), which can be explained by the greater effort required for the visual analysis of more complex characters.

“The results show correlations between spoken and written language in a novel and previously unknown way," says Christian Fiebach. “In the course of evolution, the language processing systems of the human brain have specialised in the temporal sequences of spoken language. On the basis of our current results, we assume that these language systems serve as a kind of 'clock' for our eyes when reading, so that they send the information they've read to the brain in an optimal temporal rhythm and in this way facilitate its further analysis. This hypothesis can now be investigated in greater depth with the methodological approach presented here."

Publication: Gagl, B., Gregorova, K., Golch, J., Hawelka, S., Sassenhagen, J., Tavano, A., Poeppel, D. & Fiebach, C. J. (accepted). Eye movements during text reading align with the rate of speech production. Nature Human Behaviour.
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/391896v3.full.pdf

Further information
Dr Benjamin Gagl
University of Vienna 
Cognitive Science Hub & Department of Linguistics 
Sensengasse 3a
1090 Vienna
benjamin.gagl@univie.ac.at 

Professor Christian Fiebach
Goethe University
Institute of Psychology
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 6
60323 Frankfurt am Main
fiebach@psych.uni-frankfurt.de


Editor: Dr. Anke Sauter, Science Editor, PR & Communication Department, Tel.: +49 69 798-13066, Fax +49 69 798-763-12531, sauter@pvw.uni-frankfurt.de  

 

Nov 25 2021
11:27

New publication on the proceedings of an important conference at the Institute for Law and Finance 

Green banking – the perspective of politics, banks and investors

Everyone is talking about green banking – and were too at the recent global climate conference in Glasgow. But to what extent are economic concepts really forward-looking and green? A book published by the Institute for Law and Finance at Goethe University looks at this question.

FRANKFURT. “Green Banking and Green Central Banking: What are the right concepts?" This is the title of a book in English that has now appeared as the ninth in the series Future of the Financial Sector – to coincide with the debates at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which ended last Friday. Green banking was a hot topic at the conference, known internationally as COP26.

The book, published by De Gruyter, Berlin, comprises papers presented at a conference held by the Institute for Law and Finance (ILF) of Goethe University in January 2021 that dealt with questions related to green banking and green central banking. Over 1,000 people took part online in this conference. The book, edited by Andreas Dombret and Patrick Kenadjian, contains the opening address on the topic of climate change and central banking by Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, and remarks by Jens Weidmann, President of the Deutsche Bundesbank, on the role central bankers should play in combating climate change. Further distinguished authors include senior policy makers, bankers and investors, among others Günther Bräunig, CEO of KfW Bankengruppe; Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB); Wiebe Draijer, Chairman of the Managing Board, Rabobank; Christian Sewing, CEO of Deutsche Bank; Jose Manuel Campa, Chairman of the European Banking Authority; John Berrigan, Director General, DG Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (FISMA), European Commission; and Jörg Kukies, State Secretary at Germany's Federal Ministry of Finance. They write about the tasks that their institutions could assume in the battle against climate change.

Publication: Green Banking and Green Central Banking: Andreas Dombret and Patrick S. Kenadjian (eds.), Vol. 24, Institute for Law and Finance Series, De Gruyter, English, 2021, PDF & EPUB ISBN: 9783110752892, €69.95, bound edition ISBN: 9783110752878, €69.95.

Picture to download: www.uni-frankfurt.de/108621280

Caption: The book on the proceedings of the conference in the ILF Series (Vol. 24) published by De Gruyter.

The ILF conference took place on 25 January 2021. Further details on the speakers and the contents of the conference can be found under the following link: https://www.ilf-frankfurt.de/ilf/news/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=1168&cHash=8754f182d3e3dc45d56e39e506448722 

Further information:
Dr Rolf Friedewald, Managing Director
Institute for Law and Finance
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 3
60323 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49(0)69-798-33626
Email: friedewald@ilf.uni-frankfurt.de


Editor: Dr. Anke Sauter, Science Editor, PR & Communication Department, Tel.: +49 69 798-13066, Fax +49 69 798-763-12531, sauter@pvw.uni-frankfurt.de  

 

Nov 12 2021
14:39

Goethe University and Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies agree on closer collaboration in new cooperation agreement

Joining Forces in the Theoretical Natural Sciences

Starting next year, Goethe University and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) will intensify and expand joint research projects and the exchange of scientific knowledge. A new cooperation agreement has laid the legal foundations for this. The contract was signed yesterday, on November 11th.

FRANKFURT. Interdisciplinary basic research in the natural sciences, life sciences, neurosciences, and computer sciences - in these areas Goethe University and FIAS have been collaborating since the research institutes foundation in 2003. The new contract will allow for easier coordination of existing projects and the start of new projects.

"The contract will give us the freedom to conduct even more interdisciplinary research and to design our projects complementary to the questions of the two partners," University President Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff said at the signing of the contract yesterday evening. "However, it is important for us that FIAS is now closely linked with the university's natural science departments. For example, a project at FIAS can now also be applied for through the university."

"Even though FIAS acts autonomously and independently, there have of course always been close ties between the two institutions. We are looking forward to strengthening and structurally anchoring this cooperation now," said Prof. Dr. Volker Lindenstruth, Chairman of the Board of FIAS. He signed the cooperation agreement together with his board colleague Dr. Rolf Bernhardt.

For example, it is planned to jointly develop technical and content-related topics of high-performance computing in the natural and life sciences within the framework of the Center for Scientific Computing (CSC); only recently, Goethe University was accepted into the national network for high-performance computing. Another goal is to intensify cooperation in the life sciences: for example, researchers are already cooperating on the LOEWE focus on multi-scale modeling (CMMS), which aims to quantify complex biological systems, and the cluster project ENABLE, which is investigating the internal balance of cells (homeostasis), to help develop novel drugs for inflammation and infection diseases. Thus, FIAS will be involved in preparing the future Excellence Initiative of the Federal Government.

In addition to funding ongoing projects, Goethe University has also developed a fellowship program to support its researchers in starting new projects with FIAS. In this way, researchers get the opportunity to devote themselves to new creative and interdisciplinary approaches to their research at FIAS during a sabbatical.

About 80 scientists work at FIAS, and several fellows also conduct research and teaching at Goethe University. The two institutions also work together to promote young researchers; at the Frankfurt Graduate School for Science (FIGSS) at FIAS and the program to support doctoral students at the GRADE Center iQbio at Goethe University. 

Goethe University established FIAS in 2003 as a foundation under civil law. Since then, FIAS has been promoting science in interdisciplinary, theoretical basic research in the natural and life sciences. In doing so, it operates as an ambitious, independent scientific institution. At the same time, FIAS is a hub for research activities at Goethe University and at various surrounding research institutions and thus will be essential for the preparation of the next Excellence Initiative.

Images to download: https://fias.institute/media/2021_11_11_kooperationsvertrag_presse.jpeg

Caption: Goethe University and Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies agree on closer collaboration in new cooperation agreement: Goethe University President Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff (2. from the left) and the chairmen of the board of FIAS, Prof. Dr. Volker Lindenstruth (left) and Dr. Rolf Bernhardt, after signing the contract (Picture: Sälzer/FIAS)

Further information
Prof. Dr. Volker Lindenstruth
Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies
Faculty of Computer Science and Mathematics
Goethe-University
069 798 47688
info@fias.uni-frankfurt.de
https://fias.institute


Editor: Pia Barth, PR & Communication Department, Tel: +49(0)69 798-12481, Fax  +49(0)69 798-761 12531, p.barth@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Nov 9 2021
13:57

International research team shows long-range effect of bacterial metabolites for the first time

By capsule through the bloodstream: How intestinal bacteria communicate with the body

Bacteria in the intestine pack a wide spectrum of their biomolecules into small capsules. These are transported via the bloodstream to various organs in the body and even absorbed and processed by nerve cells in the brain. This has now been shown for the first time by a team of researchers from Goethe University, FAU (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) and the University of California in San Francisco. The newly established research method will help to better understand the influence of intestinal bacteria on diseases and could support the development of innovative forms of drug or vaccine delivery.

FRANKFURT.  In the human body, bacteria are in the majority: According to estimates, there are 1.3 bacterial cells for each human cell. Our bacteria are correspondingly superior to us in their genetic diversity. All intestinal bacteria together – the intestine's microbiome – have 150 times as many genes as humans. The intestinal bacteria's metabolic products have a variety of effects on our body: For example, they train our immune cells and contribute to their maturation, they control metabolic processes in the body and how often intestinal mucosa cells renew themselves. It is highly probable that changes in the microbiome's composition contribute to the development and course of diseases, e.g. neurological disorders or cancer.

The bacterial metabolites act on the cells of the intestinal mucosa via direct contact. However, how such bacterial substances travel to peripheral organs, such as the liver, kidney or brain, had not yet been explained. It was assumed that small capsules (membrane vesicles), released by bacteria into their environment during normal growth or as a reaction to stress and filled with bacterial lipids, proteins or also hereditary RNA molecules, were the means of transport.

An international research team led by Dr Stefan Momma from the Neuroscience Centre of Goethe University, Professor Claudia Günther from FAU (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) and Professor Robert Raffai from the University of California has now investigated in mice how bacteria distribute their metabolic products in such vesicles. For this purpose, the researchers colonized the intestines of mice with E. coli bacteria, which produced a specific type of gene scissors (Cre) and released these into their environment via vesicles. The mice cells contained a gene for a red fluorescent protein, which could be activated by the Cre gene scissors (Cre/LoxP system).

The result: In the subsequent examination of the mouse tissue, the bacterial vesicles had been absorbed by individual cells in the intestine, liver, spleen, heart and kidneys as well as by immune cells. Consequently, functional Cre contained in the vesicles could enter the cells and lead to the expression of the red marker protein. Even individual nerve cells in the brain glowed red. Stefan Momma: “Particularly impressive is the fact that the bacteria's vesicles can also overcome the blood-brain barrier and in this way enter the brain – which is otherwise more or less hermetically sealed. And that the bioactive bacterial substances were absorbed by stem cells in the intestinal mucosa shows us that intestinal bacteria can possibly even permanently change its properties."

The fluorescence images indicate, says Momma, that the vesicles were probably distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. “The further study of these communication pathways from the bacterial kingdom to individual mammalian cells will not only improve our understanding of conditions such as autoimmune diseases or cancer, in which the microbiome quite obviously plays a significant role. Such vesicles are also extremely interesting as a new method to deliver drugs or develop vaccines, or as biomarkers that point to a pathological change in the microbiome."

Publication: Miriam Bittel, Patrick Reichert, Ilann Sarfati, Anja Dressel, Stefanie Leikam, Stefan Uderhardt, Iris Stolzer, Tuan Anh Phu, Martin Ng, Ngan K. Vu, Stefan Tenzer, Ute Distler, Stefan Wirtz, Veit Rothhammer, Markus F. Neurath, Robert L. Raffai, Claudia Günther, Stefan Momma: Visualizing transfer of microbial biomolecules by outer membrane vesicles in microbe-host-communication in vivo. J Extracell Vesicles 2021 Oct;10(12):e12159 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jev2.12159?af=R

Pictures to download: https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/108079209  

Caption: In the brain of the transgenic mouse, two nerve cells glow red because they have absorbed membrane vesicles containing functional protein from intestinal bacteria. Blue: nuclei of the other cells in the brain tissue. (Photo: Stefan Momma)

Further information:
Dr Stefan Momma
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Institute of Neurology (Edinger Institute)
Neuroscience Centre
Tel.: +49 (0) 69 6301-84158
stefan.momma@kgu.de


Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Department, Tel: -49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531, E-Mail: bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Researchers have identified a potential new treatment that suppresses the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. In order to multiply, all viruses, including coronaviruses, infect cells and reprogramme them to produce novel viruses. The research revealed that cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 can only produce novel coronaviruses when their metabolic pentose phosphate pathway is activated.

When applying the drug benfooxythiamine, an inhibitor of this pathway, SARS-CoV-2 replication was suppressed and infected cells did not produce coronaviruses.

The research from the University of Kent's School of Biosciences and the Institute of Medical Virology at Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, found the drug also increased the antiviral activity of '2-deoxy-D-glucose'; a drug which modifies the host cell's metabolism to reduce virus multiplication.

This shows that pentose phosphate pathway inhibitors like benfooxythiamine are a potential new treatment option for COVID-19, both on their own and in combination with other treatments.

Additionally, Benfooxythiamin's antiviral mechanism differs from that of other COVID-19 drugs such as remdesivir and molnupiravir. Therefore, viruses resistant to these may be sensitive to benfooxythiamin.

Professor Martin Michaelis, University of Kent, said: 'This is a breakthrough in the research of COVID-19 treatment. Since resistance development is a big problem in the treatment of viral diseases, having therapies that use different targets is very important and provides further hope for developing the most effective treatments for COVID-19.'

Professor Jindrich Cinatl, Goethe-University Frankfurt, said: 'Targeting virus-induced changes in the host cell metabolism is an attractive way to interfere specifically with the virus replication process.'


Publication: Denisa Bojkova, Rui Costa, Philipp Reus, Marco Bechtel, Mark-Christian Jaboreck, Ruth Olmer, Ulrich Martin, Sandra Ciesek, Martin Michaelis, Jindrich Cinatl, Jr.: Targeting the pentose phosphate pathway for SARS-CoV-2 therapy. In: Metabolites 2021, 11(10), 699; https://doi.org/10.3390/metabo11100699

Background information: Cell culture model: several compounds stop SARS-CoV-2 virus. Frankfurt researchers discover potential targets for COVID-19 therapy
https://www.goethe-university-frankfurt.de/88382885/Frankfurt_researchers_discover_potential_targets_for_COVID_19_therapy?locale=en


Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Department, Tel: -49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531, E-Mail: bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de