Jutta Kretzberg

Jutta Kretzberg studied computer science and biology at University of Bielefeld, Germany. In her PhD in Biology she modelled neuronal responses in the fly visual system. As a postdoc in San Diego, California, she started to work also experimentally on the leech tactile system. In 2004, Jutta Kretzberg became a Junior Professor at University of Oldenburg, Germany, where she is now professor for computational neuroscience and head of the master’s program neuroscience. As a member of the cluster of excellence Hearing4all and having worked also on the vertebrate retina, her main research interest is neural coding and flexibility in different sensory systems of vertebrates (including humans) and invertebrates. While juggling her family, teaching, research and administration duties, her favorite task is mentoring.

Prof. Jutta Kretzberg
Prof. Jutta Kretzberg

Flexibility is not only Jutta’s research topic in computational neuroscience, but also her personal philosophy for teaching, mentoring and communication. Together with her PhD student Jens-Steffen Scherer she developed the concept of the hybrid IK 2022 with the goal of fostering flexible interactions of participants and lecturers. As one of the chairs, she feels responsible for the fields ‘the nervous system’ and ‘communication’, as well as for the links between the virtual and the physical IK community.

Homepage: https://uol.de/en/neurosciences/compneuro

Practical Course 1 – Science Communication

Lecturers: Jens-Steffen Scherer, Valerie Vaquet & Kayson Fakhar
Time slots: tba
Fields: Science Communication



As scientists, we are used to communicating our research to colleges, especially via journal articles. However, living in times of fake news, alternative facts, and conspiracy theories, it is more and more expected from researchers to also engage in public debates and to explain their science to laypersons – the current pandemic, the role of AI, climate change, or genetic engineering just being some examples. Therefore, this practical course tries to cover the essentials of science communication, ideally serving as a starting point for you to engage in SciComm yourself.

Session 1: In the first session we will introduce you to an online workshop on Science Communication, running in Stud.IP, the learning environment of the University of Oldenburg. Guest accounts for Stud.IP will be provided. What exactly is science communication? Who are the key actors? Should we as scientists bother? And, if yes, how do we communicate successfully? While answering these questions, we will find our core message, think about our audience, and encounter different formats of SciComm. You can work on the workshop asynchronously and at your own pace during IK. We will then discuss the concepts and ideas in session 4.

Session 2: One easy way to start engaging in science communication without a huge time commitment is giving a science slam. In this session, we will take a closer look at this fun format. We will share some tips on how to prepare a good science slam which will be also useful to you when preparing presentations for your university seminars or conferences.

Session 3: This session is all about visuals and design. We will discuss how we can design “processes” using common flowcharts first, then how to make them more visually appealing and informative by restraining colors and visual elements. In the end, you will have a better idea about how to provide a better understanding of your research project itself by communicating it visually.

Session 4: Time to reflect! You got a first impression of SciComm and learned about science slams and visual design in particular. In the last session, we will discuss questions, ideas, and feedback that came up during the online workshop.


Photo credit: Robert Mitschke

Jens-Steffen Scherer studied Psychology (B. Sc.) at Mannheim University and Neuroscience (M. Sc.) at the University of Oldenburg where he is currently pursuing his Ph.D. Besides, he works as a freelance moderator and science communicator, having experience with science slams, podcasting, blogging, and educational TV.

Affiliation: University of Oldenburg

Photo credit: Bielefeld Marketing – Sarah Jonek

Valerie Vaquet is a PhD-student in the machine learning group at Bielefeld University. Her research is focusing on transfer learning and finding invariant representations for hyperspectral imaging data. Besides, she took part in the international science communication competition “FameLab – Talking Science” in 2019. Since then, she has joined multiple science slams across Germany.

Affiliation: Bielefeld University

Kayson Fakhar studied Clinical Psychology (B. Sc.) at the University of Tehran and Neuroscience (M. Sc.) at the University of Oldenburg. Since 2018 he is doing his Ph.D. at the Institute of Computational Neuroscience, UKE,
Hamburg. Before his career in Neuroscience, he worked as a graphic designer.

Affiliation: UKE, Hamburg
Homepage: kaysonfakhar.com

Practical Course 2 – Flexibility in human connection

Lecturer: Floris van Vugt
Fields: Interpersonal psychology / Cognitive Science / Neuroscience / Clinical psychology



Think of your last conversation – how flexible or rigid did you feel you were, and how flexible was your interlocutor? How did that affect the interaction? In this series of workshops we will explore a range of approaches to interpersonal communication and see how they vary on a spectrum from rigidity to flexibility and why. We will try these approaches out on ourselves (first-person experiential learning), and then put on our cognitive science hats to look at what happened and how that can be conceptualized through an investigator’s lens (third-person theoretical approach). In our journey we will borrow promiscuously from work on psychotherapy, where directive vs. non-directive styles have been studied extensively (e.g. the work of Carl Rogers and subsequent adaptations of his approach and more modern optimal responsiveness concepts), active listening, as well as dialogue studies, communication theory, neuroscience and social psychology. The hope is that we will come home with some direct experience of all this and some new ideas about how to theorize about flexibility in human communication. In an ideal case we’ll come up with a series of rigorous cognitive experiments we may do in the future to elucidate these questions. We may also come up with ideas about how computer algorithms may morph the “humanness” in interaction. Warning: participating in this series of workshops may irreparably damage any rigidity you may have in conversation and who knows, it might dramatically increase your empathy too.


  • Rogers CR. On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1995.
  • Miller WR. Motivational interviewing with problem drinkers. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 1983 Apr;11(2):147-72.
  • Harrison MT. Person-centered encounter and its facilitation in terms of fundamental theory. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies. 2020 Jul 2;19(3):228-42.
  • Patterson K, Grenny J, McMillan R, Switzler A. Crucial conversations tools for talking when stakes are high. McGraw-Hill Education; 2012.


Dr. van Vugt

Dr. van Vugt was originally trained as a mathematician in the Netherlands but retooled to be a cognitive scientist in Paris and computational linguist in Los Angeles. He’s been active as a baroque oboe player and more recently facilitates encounters that aim to increase understanding between people.

Affiliation: University of Montreal
Homepage: https://www.florisvanvugt.com/

Lecture Series 3 – Associations between autonomic and cognitive flexibility: from assessment to therapeutic interventions

Lecturer: Cristina Ottaviani
Fields: Clinical psychophysiology



Perseverative cognition is now recognized as a transdiagnostic factor for the onset, maintenance and recurrence of psychiatric disorders as well as a risk factor for somatic health. Perseverative cognition represents a rigid and inflexible response to the environment which is characterized -among other processes- by high levels of intrusiveness and difficulties in disengaging from thoughts. From a neurophysiological point of view, this can be translated in a lack of inhibitory control, and several studies support such a deficit both at central and peripheral levels. Indeed, perseverative cognition has been associated with reduced prefrontal inhibitory control over limbic structures and by reduced parasympathetic control of the heart, assessed by heart rate variability (HRV). Data from several studies will be presented supporting the nexus between cognitive and autonomic rigidity. Lastly, therapeutic top-down (non-invasive brain stimulation) and bottom-up (e.g., HRV biofeedback) approaches to increase cognitive and autonomic flexibility will be illustrated.


  • Ottaviani, C. (2018). Brain-heart interaction in perseverative cognition. Psychophysiology, 1284, e13082. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13082
  • Ottaviani, C., Medea, B., Lonigro, A., Tarvainen, M., Couyoumdjian, A. (2015). Cognitive rigidity is mirrored by autonomic inflexibility in daily life perseverative cognition. Biological Psychology, 107, 24-30.
  • Ottaviani, C., Shapiro, D., Couyoumdjian, A. (2013). Flexibility as the key for somatic health: From mind wandering to perseverative cognition. Biological Psychology, 94, 38-43.


Dr. Cristina Ottaviani

Cristina Ottaviani is Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Ottaviani got a PsyD in 2005 and a PhD in 2009 at the University of Bologna, Italy. Her research interest is on brain-body interactions underlying cognitive rigidity, particularly during intrusive thinking. Dr. Ottaviani serves as Associate Editor for the International Journal of Psychophysiology and for the Journal of Psychophysiology.

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Homepage: https://corsidilaurea.uniroma1.it/it/users/cristinaottavianiuniroma1it

Lecture Series 2 – Flexible Decision-Making for Collaborative Robots

Lecturer: Karinne Ramirez-Amaro
Fields: Cognitive reasoning, Semantic-based learning, Understanding of Human Activities

AI & Robotics


Autonomous robots are expected to learn new skills and to re-use past experiences in different situations as efficient, intuitive and reliable as possible. Robots need to adapt to different sources of information, for example, videos, robot sensors, virtual reality, etc. Then, to advance the research in the understanding of human activities, in robotics, the development of learning methods that adapt to different sensors are needed. In this talk, I will introduce a novel learning method that generates compact and general semantic models to infer human activities. This learning method allows robots to obtain and determine a higher-level understanding of a demonstrator’s behavior via semantic representations. First, the low-level information is extracted from the sensory data, then a meaningful semantic description, the high-level, is obtained by reasoning about the intended human behaviors. The introduced method has been assessed on different robots, e.g. the iCub, REEM-C, PR2, and TOMM, with different kinematic chains and dynamics. Furthermore, the robots use different perceptual modalities, under different constraints and in several scenarios ranging from making a sandwich to driving a car assessed on different domains (home-service and industrial scenarios). One important aspect of our approach is its scalability and adaptability toward new activities, which can be learned on-demand. Overall, the presented compact and flexible solutions are suitable to tackle complex and challenging problems for autonomous robots.


Dr. Karinne Ramirez Amaro

Dr. Karinne Ramirez Amaro is an Assistant professor at Chalmers University of Technology since September 2019. Previously, she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Chair for Cognitive Systems (ICS) at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). She completed her PhD (summa cum laude) at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany in 2015. She received a Master degree in Computer Science (with honours) at the Center for Computing Research of the National Polytechnic Institute (CIC-IPN) in Mexico City, Mexico in 2007. Dr. Ramirez-Amaro received the Laura Bassi award granted by TUM and the Bavarian government to conduct a one-year research project in December 2015. She was awarded the price of excellent Doctoral degree for female engineering students, granted by the state of Bavaria, Germany in September 2015. In addition, she was granted a scholarship for a Ph. D. research by DAAD – CONACYT and she received the Google Anita Borg scholarship in 2011. She was involved in the EU FP7 project Factory-in-a-day and in the DFG-SFB project EASE. Her research interests include Artificial Intelligence, Semantic Representations, Assistive Robotics, Expert Systems, and Human Activity Recognition and Understanding.

Affiliation: Chalmers University of Technology
Homepage: https://www.chalmers.se/en/staff/Pages/karinne.aspx

Lecture Series 1 – Visual Flexibility

Lecturer: Anna Stöckl
Fields: Biology, Neuroscience

Nervous system


Our sense of vision provides a major gateway to the world around us. It is instrumental for orientation, movement control, food and mate selection, and communication; including when reading this course description. Vision takes such a central role in the human sensory world – and also that of many other animals, in the air, on land and in water – because of the multidimensionality of information conveyed by light. This information is contained in the intensity, wavelength, oscillation axis (polarisation) of the light, and can be read out at different spatial and temporal scales. To make sense of this plethora of information, visual systems are equipped with a striking level of flexibility at many different levels of organisation: a manifold of different eye types has evolved, adapted to the prevalent visual features present in each animal’s natural environment. But also within individual eyes and subsequent visual processing, flexibility is paramount to respond to the daily variation in the parameters of light received: light intensity, for example, varies 10 million fold from day to night, and the temporal changes in contrast are far greater in a flying than a stationary animal. Beyond the sensory aspects, top-down processes, such as attentional focus or learning-induced changes, extend the flexibility of the visual percept further. This course will highlight the different organisational levels of visual flexibility within the context of natural light environments – drawing on examples from the full range of organismic diversity to review how flexible visual solutions enable animals to tap into the rich information source that light provides.


Dr. Anna Stöckl

Anna Stöckl is currently a junior group leader at Würzburg University in Germany. She studies insects – in particular her favourite fluffy friends: the hawkmoths – to understand their visually-guided behaviours and the neural processes that underly them. Anna was awarded her PhD at Lund University in Sweden, where she investigated the neural strategies that allow hawkmoths to dynamically adjust their visual system to starlight intensities. Her current research focuses on the structure of the natural visual input perceived by flying insects, and how this is used to control their flight. She also investigates the role of floral patterns in guiding flower handling by pollinating insects, and the neural basis of their ability to recognise and memorise a large variety of natural and artificial patterns.

Affiliation: Würzburg University
Homepage: https://www.biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de/en/zoo2/research/stoeckl-lab/

Keynote Lecture 1 – Navigating Decision Environments and Adaptive Strategy Selection

Lecturer: Niklas Keller
Fields: Cognitive Science / Decision Making / Machine Learning



The talk will provide the students with an overview of decision environments and the impact they have on the utility of different (heuristic & competence-driven vs statistical or machine learning) approaches to decision making. It will discuss under which conditions simpler strategies can lead to better predictions than modern data-driven technologies and how to foster decision-making competence for an uncertain world.


  • Homo Heuristicus: Why Biased Minds Make Better Inferences
  • Gigerenzer, G. & Brighton, H., Jan 2009, In: Topics in Cognitive Science. 1, 1, p. 107-143 37 p.
  • Luan, S., Reb, J., & Gigerenzer, G. (2019). Ecological rationality: Fast-and-frugal heuristics for managerial decision making under uncertainty. Academy of Management Journal, 62(6), 1735–1759. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2018.0172
  • Keller N, Jenny MA, Spies CA, Herzog SM. Augmenting Decision Competence in Healthcare Using AI-based Cognitive Models. 2020 IEEE International Conference on Healthcare Informatics (ICHI), https://doi.org/10.1109/ICHI48887.2020.


Dr. Niklas Keller

Dr. Niklas Keller is a research associate at the Clinic for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine at the Charité University Medicine, Berlin, and an associated scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, as well as the “Decision Engineering and Decision Sciences” lab at the Michigan Technological University. The work and research focus of Niklas Keller lies in the field of organizational psychology, developing methods to support decisions in critical situations, as well as risk communication and defensive decision-making. In cooperation with the German Armed Forces, he developed simple decision support tools to differentiate between civilians and suicide bombers at military checkpoints. In his work at the Charité, he tought medical students and physicians to interpretat and communicate medical statistics and developed tools to improve post-operative patient allocation and patient-handovers.

Affiliation: Simply Rational – The Decision Institute
Homepage: https://update.simplyrational.de/