Schulte-Rüther Lab - Social Interaction and Developmental Neuroscience

We focus on social and emotional processing during typical development from childhood to young adulthood and atypical development in psychiatric disorders. In particular, we seek to identify neurodevelopmental trajectories of social interaction and their disturbance. Developmental disorders, such as Autism, are a prototypical example to study atypical development in the processing of social stimuli and contexts in the brain. However, neural and behavioral aspects of socio-emotional functioning also play an important role across a range of other psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents, such as Social Anxiety, ADHD, conduct disorder, and eating disorders.

To characterize socio-emotional functioning in such patients across development, we employ a broad spectrum of neuroscientific and behavioral methods, including functional MRI, neurophysiology methods, functional near-infrared spectroscopy, morphometric MRI, pharmacological fMRI, eye-tracking, and automated analysis of facial expression. We aim at using such methods to uncover the mechanisms of atypical social and emotional processing and, ultimately, to improve diagnostic procedures and therapeutic care for patients.

Research topics:

  • Neural substrates of social interaction and empathy and their disturbance in psychiatric disorders
  • Neurocognitive mechanisms of Autism Spectrum Disorders and their implications for therapeutic care
  • Oxytocin and social learning
  • Joint attention and social gaze behavior
  • Cognitive computational modeling in combination with functional neuroimaging
  • Social reward processing, reinforcement learning, reversal learning
  • Machine learning methods to improve diagnostic procedures in disorders of social interaction

Current Projects

  • MD-INTERACT: Multimodal assessment of dyadic interaction - a Project within the DFG Priority Program ViCom
  • ARLANOS: Neurobehavioral signatures of social Avoidance and Reinforcement Learning - a transdiagnostic approach in Anorexia nervosa and Social anxiety, DFG-Projekt with Stefano Palminteri (INSERM, Paris), Jochen Seitz (University Hospital RWTH Aachen)
  • MAD-I: Multimodal assessment of dyadic interaction in disorders of social interaction, Leibniz ScienceCampus – Audacity Award with Alexander Gail, Deutsches Primatenzentrum
  • SOLANAS: Social learning in anorexia nervosa and autism spectrum disorder – a transdiagnostic approach, with Jana Kruppa, University Hospital RWTH Aachen
  • JARL_fNIRS: Joint attention and its influence on reinforcement learning and social functioning in preschool children – a combined fNIRS and eye-tracking study, with Eileen Oberwelland Weiss, University Hospital RWTH Aachen


  • Research Center Jülich
  • University Hospital RWTH Aachen
  • University Hospital Cologne
  • Humboldt-University Berlin
  • University Hospital Giessen and Marburg (UKGM)
  • INSERM, Paris
  • Children’s Hospital Philadelphia
  • LMU University Hospital München
  • University Hospital Frankfurt
  • RWTH Aachen Univsersity
  • Max-Planck Institute for Psychiatry, München
  • LVR-Klinikum Düsseldorf

Selected publications

Schulte-Rüther M, Kulvicius T, Stroth S, Wolff N, Roessner V, Marschik PB, Kamp-Becker I, Poustka L (2022). Using machine learning to improve diagnostic assessment of ASD in the light of specific differential and co-occurring diagnoses. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.  

Ruan VA, Hartz A, Hueck M, Dahmen B, von Polier G, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K, Schulte-Rüther M*, Seitz J* (in press). Neural mechanisms underlying Social Recognition and Theory of Mind in Adolescent Patients with Bulimia nervosa and Transdiagnostic Comparison with Anorexia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review.  

Weiss E, Kruppa JA, Fink GR, Herpertz-Dahlman B, Konrad K, Schulte-Rüther M. (2021). Developmental differences in probablistic reversal learning: a computational neuroscience approach. Frontiers in Neuroscience, doi:10.3389/fnins.2020.536596

Hartz A, Guth B, Jording M, Vogeley K, Schulte-Rüther M (2021). Temporal Behavioral Parameters of on-going Gaze Encounters in a Virtual Environment. Frontiers in Psychologydoi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.673982

Kruppa J, Reindl V, Gerloff C, Oberwelland E, Prinz J, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K, Schulte-Rüther M. (2020). Brain-to-Brain synchrony in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder in parent-child-dyads. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, doi:10.1093/scan/nsaa092

 von Polier G, Greimel E, Konrad K, Großheinrich N, Kohls G, Vloet T, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Schulte-Rüther M (2020). Neural correlates of empathy in boys with early onset conduct disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11:178, doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00178 

Kruppa JA, Gossen A, Großheinrich N, Oberwelland E, Cholemkery H, Freitag C, Kohls G, Fink GR, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K, Schulte-Rüther M (2019). Social Reinforcement Learning and its Neural Modulation by Oxytocin in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology, 44:749-756. doi:10.1038/s41386-018-0258-7

Oberwelland E, Schilbach L, Barisic I, Krall SC, Vogeley K, Fink GR, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K, Schulte-Rüther M (2017). Young adolescents with autism show abnormal joint attention network: A gaze contingent fMRI study. NeuroImage Clinical, 14:112-121, doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2017.01.006  

Schulte-Rüther  M, Adigüzel K, Otte E, Firk C, Koch I, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K. (2017). Intact Mirror Mechanisms for Involuntary Facial Emotions in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder – an EMG study. Autism Research, 10(2), 298-310, doi: 10.1002/aur.1654 

Oberwelland E, Schilbach L, Barisic I, Krall SC, Vogeley K, Fink GR, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K, Schulte-Rüther M (2016). Look into my eyes: investigating joint attention using interactive eye-tracking and fMRI in a developmental sample. NeuroImage, 130:248-260, doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.02.026  

Freitag CM, Jensen K, Elsuni L, Sachse M, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Schulte-Rüther M, Hänig S, von Gontard A, Poustka L, Schad-Hansjosten T, Wenzl C, Sinzig J, Taurines R, Geißler J, Kieser M, Cholemkery H  (2016). Group based cognitive behavioural psychotherapy for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: The randomised, multicentre, controlled SOSTA – net trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(5):596-605 doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12509  

Schulte-Rüther M, Mainz V, Fink GR, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Konrad K (2012). Theory of mind and the brain in Anorexia Nervosa: Relation to Treatment Outcome. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 51(8): 832-41, doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.06.007         

Rubeis S, He X, Goldberg AP, Poultney CS, Samocha K, [...] , Schulte-Rüther M, [...] , Buxbaum JD, UK10K Consortium, Autism Sequencing Consortium[i] (2014) Synaptic, transcriptional, and chromatin genes disrupted in autism. Nature , 515(7526):209-15 


Schulte-Rüther M, Kulvicius T, Stroth S, Roessner V, Marschik P, Kamp-Becker I, Poustka L (2021) Using machine learning to improve diagnostic assessment of ASD in the light of specific differential diagnosis.

[i] Full Author List: De Rubeis S, He X, Goldberg AP, Poultney CS, Samocha K, Cicek AE, Kou Y, Liu L, Fromer M, Walker S, Singh T, Klei L, Kosmicki J, Shih-Chen F, Aleksic B, Biscaldi M, Bolton PF, Brownfeld JM, Cai J, Campbell NG, Carracedo A, Chahrour MH, Chiocchetti AG, Coon H, Crawford EL, Curran SR, Dawson G, Duketis E, Fernandez BA, Gallagher L, Geller E, Guter SJ, Hill RS, Ionita-Laza J, Jimenz Gonzalez P, Kilpinen H, Klauck SM, Kolevzon A, Lee I, Lei I, Lei J, Lehtimäki T, Lin CF, Ma'ayan A, Marshall CR, McInnes AL, Neale B, Owen MJ, Ozaki N, Parellada M, Parr JR, Purcell S, Puura K, Rajagopalan D, Rehnström K, Reichenberg A, Sabo A, Sachse M, Sanders SJ, Schafer C, Schulte-Rüther M, Skuse D, Stevens C, Szatmari P, Tammimies K, Valladares O, Voran A, Li-San W, Weiss LA, Willsey AJ, Yu TW, Yuen RK; DDD Study; Homozygosity Mapping Collaborative for Autism; UK10K Consortium, Cook EH, Freitag CM, Gill M, Hultman CM, Lehner T, Palotie A, Schellenberg GD, Sklar P, State MW, Sutcliffe JS, Walsh CA, Scherer SW, Zwick ME, Barett JC, Cutler DJ, Roeder K, Devlin B, Daly MJ, Buxbaum JD.


Head of the Social Interaction and Developmental Neuroscience Lab

Dr. rer. nat. Martin Schulte-Rüther

Dr. rer. nat. Martin Schulte-Rüther


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