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Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize for Monika Schönauer

Psychologist from the University of Freiburg receives most important award for young researchers in Germany

Freiburg, Mar 11, 2021

Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize for Monika Schönauer

Monika Schönauer. Photo: Patrick Seeger

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has awarded the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize to assistant professor Dr. Monika Schönauer from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Freiburg. The prize, endowed with 20,000 euros, is considered the most important award for young researchers in Germany and will be awarded ten times in total this year. 150 Researchers from all disciplines were nominated for it. In the past ten years, eight researchers from the University of Freiburg have received the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize – this is the greatest number nationwide. “I warmly congratulate Monika Schönauer on this award, which she has received for her outstanding research achievements,” says Rector Professor Kerstin Krieglstein, “For the University of Freiburg, this is both confirmation that we are on the right path, and an incentive to keep on creating the best possible conditions for young researchers so that they can fully develop their potential.”  

Since 2020, Monika Schönauer has been an assistant professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Freiburg, where she heads an Emmy Noether Group receiving more than 1.3 million euros over six years from the DFG. The group researches how and where memories are stored in the brain. Experiences leave traces in the brain, known as engrams. It is still unclear what determines whether an event leaves a neuronal trace and how long it is retained. The team aims to gain new insights into this by observing the formation and development of memory traces in the brain, using imaging methods.

Newly formed memories are retained if they solidify in long-term memory. The decisive factor may be that neuronal networks in the neocortex, the outer parts of the cerebral cortex, are repeatedly activated. According to the researchers, three conditions may favor this process: Memory retrieval, repeated, temporally spaced learning, and sleep. The goal of Schönauer's group is to investigate these three conditions in more detail and, for example, to determine when memory traces form in the neocortex. The results of their research could mean that basic models regarding the consolidation of memories and how information gets stored in long-term memory need to be revised.

DFG’s Press Release (in German)


Assistant Professor Dr. Monika Schönauer
Institute for Psychology – Neuropsychology
Economics and Behavioral Sciences
University of Freiburg
Phone: 0761/203-2475