Leonhard Schilbach and social interaction

We are welcoming the psychiatrist and neuroscientist Leonhard Schilbach

March 02, 2015

Starting in March 2015, Leonhard Schilbach will establish his independent Max Planck Research Group “Social Neuroscience” and the “Outpatient Clinic for Disorders of Social Interactions” at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. In the clinic, he will treat patients having difficulties in interacting with others due to depression, high-functioning autism or social anxiety disorder. In his research group, he will investigate the neural mechanisms of real-time social interaction.

Leonhard Schilbach, born in Bremen, in a “typical northern German habitat”.

Leonhard Schilbach studied medicine at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, the University of Technology Dresden, the University College London (GB) and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore (USA). Afterwards, he qualified as a professor in the field of experimental psychiatry and social neurosciences at the University of Cologne. For his scientific achievements, he received several awards, including the Hans Heimann Award from the German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (DGPPN) in 2009 and the Barbara Wengeler Award from the Barbara-Wengeler-Stiftung in 2013.

Besides working as psychiatrist and head physician at the University Hospital Cologne, Leonhard Schilbach led a research group focusing on neurological processes underlying cognition and social interaction. “My scientific interest in the brain emerged from working as a psychiatrist and caring for patients. Additionally, I am interested in how human beings understand and make sense of each other,” states Leonhard Schilbach. “Psychiatric diseases, such as autism, depression and social anxiety disorders, may disturb the patients’ ability to interact with others. On the contrary, difficulties with interpersonal interactions might favor the development of psychiatric disorders.”

In the new outpatient clinic at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Leonhard Schilbach will offer detailed diagnostics and individual therapies for adults suffering from disorders of social interactions. Using a novel research approach called “second-person neuroscience”, grounded in current philosophical and psychological considerations on the roles of social interaction for interpersonal understanding, he seeks to shed new light on social perception “from an interactor’s point of view”. “As psychiatric disorders are characterized by impairments of social interaction, we want to study commonalities and differences of disorder-associated neurofunctional alterations in the brain,” explains Leonhard Schilbach. “Furthermore, our findings might contribute to the assessment and prediction of treatment effects.”

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