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   Markus Kiefer



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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 Ulm University 

Ulm University 
Department of Psychiatry
Leimgrubenweg 12

D-89075 Ulm, Germany

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

picture markuskiefer

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. My colleagues and I elucidate neuro-cognitive mechanismes underlying these cognitive functions in both healthy participants as well as in psychiatric patients. Besides of behavioral experiments, we use high-resolution event-related potentials (ERPs), functional magnetic  resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulution (TMS) 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:

Harpaintner, M., Trumpp, N. M., & Kiefer, M.. (2018). The semantic content of
  abstract concepts: A property listing study of 296 abstract words. Frontiers in
   Psychology, 9:1748. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01748 
Download article here

Popp, M., Trumpp, N., & Kiefer , M. (2016). Feature-specific event-related potential
  effects to action- and sound-related verbs during visual word recognition. Frontiers
  in Human Neuroscience, 10:637. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00637.
Download article here

Sim, E. J., Helbig, H. B., Graf, M., & Kiefer, M. (2015). When action observation
  facilitates visual perception: Activation in visuo-motor areas contributes to object
  recognition. Cerebral Cortex, 25, 2907-2918. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu087.

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., 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.


Flyer: "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.

  Conscious and unconscious visual processing

In this field of my research, my colleagues and I investigate mechanisms of conscious and unconscious visual processing. In one line of research, we asses attentional control of unconscious visual processes elicited by masked prime stimuli. We showed that unconscious processing is modulated by attentional task sets. This indicates that unconscious processing streams are not autonomous, but orchestrated by higher-level attentional control. In a second line of research, we elucidate the temporal emergence of visual awareness. Is there a sharp discontinuous or dichotomous transition between unaware and fully aware states, or does awareness emerge gradually encompassing intermediate states? Our work suggests that the emergence of awareness is neither purely gradual nor dichotomous, but highly dynamic depending on the task and mask type. 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., Trumpp, N. M., Schaitz, C., Reuss, H., & Kunde, W. (2019). Attentional
  modulation of masked semantic priming by visible and masked task cues. Cognition,
  187, 62-77, doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.02.013.
Download article here

Kiefer, M. (2018). Cognitive control over unconscious cognition: Flexibility and
  generalizability of task set influences on subsequent masked semantic priming.
  Psychological Research, doi:10.1007/s00426-018-1011-x.

Kiefer , M., & Kammer, T. (2017). The emergence of visual awareness: Temporal
  dynamics in relation to task and mask type. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8:315.
  doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00315.
Download article here

Kiefer, M., Liegel, N., Zovko, M., & Wentura, D. (2017). Mechanisms of masked
  evaluative priming: Task sets modulate behavioral and electrophysiological priming
  for picture and words differentially. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience,
  12(4), 596-608. doi10.1093/scan/nsw167.
Download article here

Ulrich, M., Adams, S. C., & Kiefer, M. (2014). Flexible establishment of functional brain
  networks supports attentional modulation of unconscious cognition. Human Brain
  Mapping, 35, 5500-5516.

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

  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, their development in children and their dysfunction in psychiatric disorders.

Selected publications:

Schneider-Hassloff, H., Zwönitzer, A., Künster, A. K., Mayer, C., Ziegenhain, U., &
  Kiefer, M. (2016). Emotional availability modulates electrophysiological correlates of
  executive functions in preschool children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10:299,
  doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00299.
Download article here

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 interaction between emotions, memory and action control in healthy participants as well as in psychiatric patients.

Selected publications:

Sanwald, S., Widenhorn-Müller, K., Wernicke, J., Sindermann, C., Kiefer, M., Montag,
  C. (2019). Depression is associated with the absence of sex differences in the
  2D:4D ratio of the right hand. Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Woike, K., Sim, E-J., Keller, F., Schönfeldt-Lecuona, C., Sosic-Vasic, Z., & Kiefer, M.
  (2019). Common factors of psychotherapy in inpatients with major depressive
  disorder: A pilot study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10:463,
  doi 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00463.
Download article here

Fladung, A. K., & Kiefer, M. (2016). Keep calm! Gender differences in mental rotation
  performance are modulated by habitual expressive suppression. Psychological
  Research, 80, 985-996, doi 10.1007/s00426-015-0704-7.

Montag, C., Widenhorn-Müller, K., Panksepp, J., & Kiefer, M. (2016). Individual
  differences in Affective Neuroscience Personality Scale (ANPS) primary emotional
  traits and depressive tendencies. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 73, 136-142.

Schönfeldt-Lecuona, C, Keller, F., Kiefer, M., Gahr, M., Plener, P. L., Spitzer, M.,
  Gunst, I. M., Fischer, T, Connemann, B. J., Schmidt, M., M. (2015). Relationship
  between transitional objects and personality disorder in female psychiatric inpatients
  – A prospective study. Journal of Personality Disorders, 29, 215-230.

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.