Bertram Opitz studied Biophysics at the Russian State University in Moscow, Russia. He was a PhD student at the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig and received his doctoral degree in 2000. Until autumn 2001 he continued working as a post-doc researcher and then moved to Saarland University as an Assistant Professor for Cognitive Neuroscience. Bertram joined the Brain & Behaviour Group in August 2012 as a Professor for Neuroimaging.
Areas of specialism
Feedback Processing in Educational Contexts;
Learning and Memory;
Second Language Aqcuisition;
Neuroimaging - fMRI/EEG/Neurostimulation
University roles and responsibilities
- Chair of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Ethics Committee
Contact the press team
Phone: +44 (0)1483 684380 / 688914 / 684378
Out-of-hours: +44 (0)7773 479911
Senate House, University of Surrey
Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH
My research focuses on the neural underpinnings of learning and memory. I'm primarily interested in the neural mechanisms of language acquisition and what factors influence the learning process. Current projects aiming on the role of learning instructions and feedback on (mainly second) language acquisition.
I'm also interested in the functional architecture of different memory systems and the processes by which information is transferred between these memory systems. In current research projects I investigate the processes of creating new enduring memory traces and modulating existing ones. Other projects focus on how we can exert control over our memories, and how these control processes could be trained. The main focus of these projects lies on training induced changes in the neural network in healthy participants and patient samples.
To achieve a comprehensive understanding of learning and memory systems I primarily examine the neural organization of these systems using well established neuroimaging techniques, like event-related potentials and functional magnetic resonance tomography in combination with neural stimulation techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the neural correlates of learning and memory.
Courses I teach on
Postgraduate research supervision
Learning & Memory
Some publications highlighting the neural underpinnings of successful learning. While the hippocampus seems to be involved in learning the relationship between elements of the same learning event (e.g., a single lecture) the prefrontal cortex is capable of generalising the commonalities across multiple such events to generate a long-lasting memory of this newly learned knowledge.
Opitz, B. (2010) Neural binding mechanisms in learning and memory. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 34, 1036-1046 doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.11.001
Spitzer, B.J., Hanslmayr, S., Opitz, B., Mecklinger, A. & Bäuml, K.-H. (2009) Oscillatory Correlates of Retrieval-Induced Forgetting in Recognition Memory. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 21, 976-990. doi:10.1162/jocn.2009.21072
Doeller, C. F., Opitz, B., Krick,C. M., Mecklinger, A. & Reith, W. (2005) Prefrontal-hippocampal dynamics involved in learning regularities across episodes. Cerebral Cortex 15, 1123-1133. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhh211
Feedback Processing & Cognitive Training
A few papers looking into possibilities to enhance learning. An important aspect that should be looked at is how the information provided by feedback is actually processed in the brain. Here the timing seems of special importance. In addition, training of some cognitive abilities like working memory seems to be beneficial for a broad variety of learning scenarios like second language acquisition
Opitz, B., Ferdinand, N.K. & Mecklinger, A. (2011) Timing matters: The impact of immediate and delayed feedback on artificial language learning. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5:8, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00008
Ferdinand, N. K. & Opitz, B. (2014) Different aspects of performance feedback engage different brain areas: Disentangling the neural correlates of valence and expectancy in feedback processing. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 5986 doi:10.1038/srep05986.
Opitz, B., Schneiders, J. A., Krick, C. & Mecklinger, A. (2014) Selective Transfer of Visual Working Memory Training on Chinese Character Learning. Neuropsychologia 53, 1-11 doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.10.017
Artificial Language Learning
Two papers highlighting that two distinct learning mechanisms concur during the acquisition of a second (artificial) language. Initially, people learn the grammar of a language by judging the similarity of novel sentence in reference to known sentences previously encountered. During the course of learning grammatical rules are abstracted and used more and more effectively.
Opitz, B. & Hofmann, J. (2015) Concurrence of rule- and similarity-based mechanisms in artificial grammar learning. Cognitive Psychology 77, 77–99. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2015.02.003
Opitz, B. & Friederici, A.D. (2003) Interactions of the hippocampal system and the prefrontal cortex in learning language like-rules. NeuroImage 19, 1730-1737. doi: 10.1016/S1053-8119(03)00170-8