Prof Dr. Claudia Wilimzig

The neural basis of mental space psychology 

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Presentation description:

Mental Space psychology (MSP) investigates the importance of space for organizing our thinking. Whatever we think of is somewhere spatially organized. Mental space is the primary organizing principle of the mind.
While a group of researchers has extensively investigated as this symposium shows,hardly anything is known about the neural basis of this paradigm, how mental space is represented. 
Neural neurons are typically specific for one modality, f. e. visual or tactile.They may also include representation of space for that modality, f. e. they code for a visual stimulus at one location in space, such as retinal mapping. It is less known that there are also neurons that represent space independent, they measure how close a stimulus gets to one’s body (peripersonal neurons). These neurons are important for threats - stimuli one wants to avoid - and affection - stimuli one wants to get close to.
The - mostly unconscious - thinking in terms of space is about an imaginary space. Can this imaginary space also be represented by these neurons? Typically, the same neurons are involved in actual perception, in actual stimuli, and imaginary stimuli. Mental space represent objects and other persons as being close or distant with similar both extremes - stimuli one wants to have close, like persons one is on love with, and stimuli one experiences as close but one actually wants to avoid - f. e. food in eating disorders or broken up relationships.
We hypothesize that peripersional neurons are the neural basis of mental space psychology. Implications for different types of psychological disorders are discussed.


Claudia Wilimzig studied psychology in Göttingen, Germany, while being a student assistent in a German-Chinese collaboration project and an EEG lab. After that she did a PhD in theoretical neuroscience in Bochum, Germany.

She then worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, and at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.

After moving back to Germany, she worked as a scientific writer, chief scientific supervisor and associate researcher while obtaining various certifications as a coach. In 2016 she became Associate Professor at the Universidad Central de Nicaragua (Campus Berlin). Her main interest is the neural basis of cognition combining theoretical and neurophysiological knowledge.

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