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Priority Programme Computational Connectomics (SPP 2041)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
In March 2016 the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme Computational Connectomics (SPP 2041). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

The field of connectomics aims to comprehensively describe the physical and functional coupling among the neural elements of the brain. Understanding brain networks across different scales is an important step towards understanding brain function. However, further progress will hinge on a close interplay of experiment, theory, and computational analysis. Connectomics data sets will be huge, representing prototypical big data that cannot be easily visualised and intuitively grasped by the human brain. These data sets will be highly structured and far from random, however. The goal of the Priority Programme is to uncover this structure, understand the principles governing the organisation of the connectome, and understand how it forms through development and learning, how it gives rise to normal function, how it changes when we age or acquire a disease, and how such changes affect its function.

Along these lines, we invite research proposals to facilitate the automated reconstruction of connectivity from different types of data sets and support the curation and open-access distribution of large-scale connectomics data sets (Theme A), undertake systematic analyses of complex connectivity networks (Theme B), develop theories and models of their structure and development and explain how this structure gives rise to neural activity and cognitive functions (Theme C). Each project should take the form of a collaboration between two or more investigators with complementary expertise. Projects that combine at least two of the above research themes are particularly welcome.

We encourage applications for projects which: 1) study brain connectivity in different species from microscopic to macroscopic levels with the goal of obtaining comprehensive connectivity maps, 2) have a clear and innovative computational component, 3) have a clear plan for sharing data, analysis software and models, 4) study the dynamics of brain connectivity across different time scales, 5) study changes in brain connectivity during development and learning, 6) foster close interaction of experimental and theoretical research.

We discourage applications for projects which: 1) are not focused on the topic of connectomics as described above, 2) do not involve multiple principle investigators (PI) with complementary backgrounds and expertise, 3) aim mostly at data collection without an innovative data analysis or modelling component, 4) have no clear plan for sharing any data, analysis software, and models, 5) focus on functional connectivity without advancing our understanding of the underlying structural connectivity, 6) focus on altered connectivity in knock-out animals.

The present call opens up the opportunity to collaborate with PI in Japan on the basis of partnership project applications. PI in Japan can apply for their own funding through the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED). Joint proposals will be individually and separately reviewed by DFG and AMED following the review processes of the respective funding authority. The results of the review process will be shared between the agencies. Support will be granted for those proposals where both DFG and AMED recommend funding. Please note that AMED sets a limit for the funding of joint projects to a maximum of three proposals. Within the scope of this Priority Programme, AMED defines the following research areas of interest for collaborative Japan-Germany partnership project applications:
- macroscale neuronal connectivity for psychiatric disorders
- clinical Connectomics for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)
- multi-scale mechanisms in stroke and epilepsy

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