Psych III Home

   Markus Kiefer



Media Reports

Curriculum Vitae


  Prof. Dr. Markus Kiefer, Ph.D.

 Director of the Section for Cognitive Electrophysiology

Associate Professor of Psychology
at the Institute of Psychology
and Education
of the University of Ulm

University of Ulm
Department of Psychiatry
Leimgrubenweg 12

D-89075 Ulm, Germany

Phone: +49 (0) 731-500-61532
+49 (0) 731-500-61542
Email to 
Markus Kiefer

Link to the home page of the Section for Cognitive Electrophysiology

My research is focused on the cognitive psychology and the cognitive neuroscience of memory, unconscious perception, executive function and emotion. Besides of behavioral experiments, my colleagues and I use high-resolution event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic  resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to investigate the temporal and spatial orchestration of brain activity subserving these cognitive functions.

Within this field I am working on the following four topics:

  Semantic Memory Structure

In this part of my research, my coworkers and I investigate according to which general principles conceptual object knowledge is stored in human long-term memory. Hereby we test the assumption that conceptual knowledge is not abstract, but modality-specific. We demonstrated that concepts are essentially derived from our perceptual and motor interactions with the outside world and embodied in the sensory and motor brain systems. More information regarding this research project is found on the home page of the Semantic Memory Research Group.

Selected publications:

"Brain-friendly learning in vocational education"
This flyer describes evidence-based guidelines for optimized learning in vocational education. It has been developed in cooperation with vocational instructors at Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH in Gingen, Germany.

Trumpp, N. M., Kliese, D., Hoenig, K., Haarmaier, T., & Kiefer , M. (2013). Loosing the
  sound of concepts: Damage to auditory association cortex impairs the processing of
  sound-related concepts. Cortex, 49, 474-486.

Hoenig, K., Müller, C., Herrnberger, B., Spitzer, M., Ehret, G., & Kiefer, M. (2011).
  Neuroplasticity of semantic maps for musical instruments in professional musicians.
  NeuroImage, 56, 1714-1725.

Kiefer, M., & Pulvermüller, F. (2012). Conceptual representations in mind and brain:
  Theoretical developments, current evidence and future directions. Cortex, 48,

Kiefer, M., Sim, E.-J., Helbig, H. B., & Graf, M. (2011). Tracking the time course of
  action priming on object recognition: Evidence for fast and slow influences of action
  on perception. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 1864–1874.

Ansorge, U., Kiefer, M., Khalid, S., Grassl, S., & König, P. (2010). Testing the theory
   of embodied cognition with subliminal words. Cognition, 116, 303-320.

Kiefer, M., Sim, E.-J., Herrnberger, B., Grothe, J. & Hoenig, K. (2008).
  The sound of concepts for markers for a link between auditory and conceptual brain
  systems. The Journal of  Neuroscience, 28, 12224-12230.

Kiefer, M., Sim, E.-J., Liebich, S., Hauk, O. & Tanaka, J. (2007).
  Experience-dependent plasticity of conceptual representations in human
  sensory-motor areas. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19, 525-542.

  Mechanisms of unconscious processing

How is semantic knowledge accessed during word recognition? What are the electrophysiological correlates of automatic vs. controlled access to semantic memory? In order to study automatic semantic priming in isolation, we used a visual masking procedure, which rendered the prime words unavailable to conscious experience. Nevertheless, although not consciously perceived, these prime words modulated behavioral reactions as well as the N400 ERP component. We were able to show that conscious and unconscious semantic priming exhibit in principle the same brain areas, but show different time courses. More information is found on the home page of the Unconscious Visual Perception Research Group. This research is conducted within the research network "Neuro-cognitive Mechanisms of Conscious and Unconscious Visual Perception" funded by the German Research Foundation.

Selected publications:

Kiefer, M. (2012). Executive control over unconscious cognition: Attentional
  sensitization of unconscious information processing. Frontiers in Human
  Neuroscience, 6:61, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00061.
Download article here

Martens, U., Ansorge, U., & Kiefer , M. (2011). Controlling the unconscious:
   Attentional task sets modulate subliminal semantic and visuo-motor processes
   differentially. Psychological Science, 22, 282–291.

Kiefer, M., Ansorge, U., Haynes, J. D., Hamker, F., Mattler, U., Verleger, R., &
   Niedeggen, M. (2011). Neuro-cognitive mechanisms of conscious and unconscious
   visual perception: From a plethora of phenomena to general principles. Advances in    Cognitive Psychology,7 , 55-67.
Download article hereEXT

Kiefer, M. & Martens (2010). Attentional sensitization of unconscious cognition. Task
  sets modulate subsequent masked semantic priming. Journal of Experimental
  Psychology: General, 114, 79-83.

Kiefer, M., Martens, U., Weisbrod, M., Hermle, L., & Spitzer, M. (2009). Increased
   unconscious semantic activation in schizophrenia patients with formal thought
   disorder. Schizophrenia Research, 114, 79-83.

Kiefer, M. (2008). Bewusstsein (Consciousness). In Müsseler, J., Lehrbuch der
  Allgemeinen Psychologie (pp. 154-188). Heidelberg:
  Spektrum, Akademischer Verlag.

Kiefer, M. (2007). Top-down modulation of unconscious 'automatic' processes:
   A gating framework.
Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 3, 289-306.
   Download article

Kiefer, M. & Brendel, D. (2006). Attentional modulation of unconscious 'automatic'
   processes: Evidence from event-related potentials in a masked priming paradigm.
   Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 184-198.

  Working memory/Executive Function

The coordination of processes underlying cognition and action is an important prerequisite for goal-directed behavior. It  is assumed that some of the working memory systems are mainly dedicated for holding relevant information on line while others (executive function) are involved in manipulating this information and in the goal-directed orchestration of information processing. My colleagues and I investigate the functional neuroanatomy of working memory systems and their dysfunction in psychiatric disorders.

Selected publications:

Stroth, S., Kubesch, S., Dieterle, K., Ruchsow, M., Heim, R. & Kiefer, M. (2009).
  Physical fitness, but not acute exercise modulates event-related potential indices
  for executive control in healthy adolescents. Brain Research, 1269, 114-124.

Kiefer, M., Ahlegian, M. & Spitzer, M. (2005). Working memory capacity, indirect
  semantic priming and Stroop interference: Pattern of interindividual prefrontal
  performance differences in healthy volunteers. Neuropsychology, 19, 332-344.

Kessler, K. & Kiefer, M. (2005). Disturbing visual working memory:
  Electrophysiological evidence for a role of prefrontal cortex in recovery from
  interference. Cerebral Cortex, 15, 1075-1087.

Kiefer, M. Apel, A., & Weisbrod, M. (2002). Arithmetic fact retrieval and working
  memory in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 53, 219-227.

Weisbrod, M., Kiefer, M., Marzinzik, F. & Spitzer, M. (2000). Executive control is
  disturbed in schizophrenia: Evidence from event-related potentials in a Go/Nogo
  task. Biological Psychiatry, 47, 51-60.

Kiefer, M., Marzinzik, F., Weisbrod, M., Scherg, M. & Spitzer, M. (1998). The time
  course of brain activations during response inhibition: Evidence from event-related
  potentials in a Go/Nogo task. NeuroReport, 9, 765-770.

  Emotion and cognition

Emotions have important modulatory influences on cognitive processes such as memory and executive functions. It is assumed that emotions configure the cognitive system thereby improving human adaptation to enviromental challenges. Meanwhile it is well accepted that emotional mood states trigger different cognitive styles and -
as a consequence - influence memory processes. However, the precise neuro-cognitive mechanisms underlying the emotion/cognition interface are unclear. To address this issue, we investigate the influences of emotions on memory and action control.

Selected publications:

Fladung, A.-K., Baron, U., Gunst, I., & Kiefer, M. (2010). Cognitive reappraisal
  modulates performance following negative feedback in patients with major
  depressive disorder. Psychological Medicine, 40, 1703-1710.

Kiefer, M., Schuch, S., Schenck, W. & Fiedler, K. (2007). Mood states modulate
  activity in semantic brain areas during emotional word encoding. Cerebral Cortex,
  17, 1560-1530.

Kiefer, M., Schuch, S., Schenck, W. & Fiedler, K. (2007). Emotion and memory:
  Event-related potential indices predictive for subsequent successful memory depend
  on the emotional mood state. Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 3, 363-373.
Download articleEXT

Erk, S., Kiefer, M., Grothe, J., Wunderlich, A., Spitzer, M. & Walter, H. (2003).
  Emotional context modulates subsequent memory effect. NeuroImage,18, 439-447.