• E-mailMarco.Hirnstein@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 60 82+47 475 15 850
  • Visitor Address
    Jonas Lies vei 91
    8B104 (8. etasje, BB-bygget)
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7807
    5020 BERGEN

I am mainly interested in three lines of research:
First, how effective are non-invasive brain stimulation techniques as treatment for mental and neurological disorders? Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have become popular methods for treating depression, schizophrenia, stroke, and other mental and neurological disorders. Only for depression there is clear evidence so far that non-invasive brain stimulation effectively reduces symptoms. For all other disorders the efficacy is unclear. Moreover, I am interested in uncovering what the neural mechanisms are that underlie non-invasive brain stimulation treatment.
Secondly, how do cognitive gender differences arise? That is, the phenomenon that in certain cognitive tasks females and males consistently best each other. For example, females tend to outperform males in verbal memory, while males do better at mentally rotating abstract figures. I am interested in how the interaction of biological factors (e.g., sex hormones, genes), social factors (e.g., gender stereotypes), AND psychological factors (e.g., confidence) give rise to cognitive gender differences.
Thirdly, I am interested in what is advantageous about hemispheric specialization? Hemispheric specialization refers to the phenomenon that our two brain halves (=hemispheres) are specialized for different functions. For example, most of us talk with our left hemisphere but recognize faces with our right hemisphere. Why and what evolutionary advantage might this have bestowed upon us? Why are most of us right- and not left-handers and why has this been so for millenia?

Hemispheric specialization is also what binds these seemingly disconnected topics together: It has been proposed that cognitive gender differences arise, because males have a stronger hemispheric specialization than females. The more "asymmetric" organization in males is said to facilitate spatial abilities, while the "more symmetric" organization in females is said to facilitate verbal abilities. Depression and schizophrenia are often characterized by reduced or inverted in hemispheric specialization. Similarly, it is hypothesized that when one hemisphere is lesioned via stroke, the "healthy" hemisphere needs to be inhibited to facilitate rehabilitation. Techniques like TMS or tDCS allow to selectively inhibit or facilitate neural activity in specific brain areas.

In addition, I am working together with the Department of Neurosurgery at the Haukeland University Hospital: We use TMS to localize motor areas in patients with brain tumours to help the neurosurgeon planning the upcoming surgery.   

Last but not least, I am the leader of the "FLaSH" group (ForskningsLab for Stimulering av Hjernen). Funded by the Faculty of Psychology and the Bergen Research Foundation, our primary goal is to investigate the efficacy and the underlying neural mechanisms of tDCS as a treatment for reducing auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia. The FLaSH group is a node within the Bergen fMRI group.   

Media coverage of our STOPP STEMMER project:

Interviews on cognitive gender differences:

Interviews on (left-)handedness:

At the University of Bergen, I am responsible for the Bachelor modules "PSYK207: Læring og atferdspsykologi" [learning and behavior] and "PSYK250: Bacheloroppgåve i generell psykologi" [Bachelor thesis in general psycholoy]. The latter together with Elisabeth Norman. Among others, my teaching duties comprise lectures, seminars, marking, and supervision of Bachelor and Master theses as well as "Emne- and Hovedoppgaver".
During my stays at the Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany, 2006-2007) and Durham University (UK, 2007-2011) I have supervised a number of Bachelor and Master students and led courses and seminars.

Journal articles
  • Hjelmervik, Helene; Westerhausen, Rene; Hirnstein, Marco; Specht, Karsten; Hausmann, Markus. 2015. The neural correlates of sex differences in left-right confusion. NeuroImage. 113: 196-206. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.02.066
  • Ocklenburg, Sebastian; Güntürkün, Onur; Hugdahl, Kenneth; Hirnstein, Marco. 2015. Laterality and mental disorders in the postgenomic age - A closer look at schizophrenia and language lateralization. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 59: 100-110. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.08.019
  • Hirnstein, Marco; Hugdahl, Kenneth. 2014. Excess of non-right-handedness in schizophrenia: Meta-analysis of gender effects and potential biases in handedness assessment. British Journal of Psychiatry. 205: 260-267. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.113.137349
  • Ocklenburg, Sebastian; Hirnstein, Marco Andre; Beste, Christian; Gunturkun, Onur. 2014. Lateralization and cognitive systems. Frontiers in Psychology. 5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01143

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)

Journal papers: academic

  • Hirnstein, M., Johnsen, E., Marquardt, L., Hugdahl, K., Güntürkün, O., & Ocklenburg, S. (2016). Lateralisering og schizofreni I den postgenomiske æra – en symptombasert tilnærming. BestPractice Psykiatri/Nevrologi, 28, 22-26.
  • Ocklenburg, S., Güntürkün, O., Hugdahl, K. & Hirnstein, M. (2015). Laterality and mental disorders in the postgenomic age – A closer look at schizophrenia and language lateralization. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 59, 100-110. (Nivå 2)
  • Hjelmervik, H., Westerhausen, R. Hirnstein, M., Specht, K., & Hausmann, M. (2015). The neural correlates of sex differences in left-right confusion. Neuroimage, 113, 196- 206. (Nivå 2) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811915001901
  • Ocklenburg, S., Hirnstein, M., Beste, C., & Güntürkün, O. (2014). Lateralization and cognitive systems. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01143. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01143/full
  • Hirnstein, M., & Hugdahl, K. The excess of non-right-handedness in schizophrenia: A meta-analysis of sex effects and potential biases in handedness assessment. British Journal of Psychiatry, 205(4), 260-267. (Nivå 2) http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/205/4/260.abstract 
  • Hirnstein, M., Coloma Andrews L., & Hausmann, M. Gender-stereotyping and cognitive sex differences in mixed- and same-sex groups. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 1663-1673. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10508-014-0311-5
  • Hirnstein, M., Hugdahl, K., & Hausmann, M. (2014). How brain asymmetry relates to performance - a large-scale dichotic listening study. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00997. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00997/full
  • Hirnstein, M., Westerhausen, R., Korsnes, M. S., & Hugdahl, K. (2013) Sex differences in language asymmetry are age-dependent and small: A large-scale, consonant vowel dichotic listening study with behavioral and fMRI data. Cortex, 49(7), 1910-1921. (Nivå 2)
  • Ocklenburg, S., Westerhausen, R., Hirnstein, M., & Hugdahl, K. (2013). Auditory hallucinations and reduced language lateralization in schizophrenia: A meta-analysis of dichotic listening studies. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 19(4), 410-418.
  • Hirnstein, M., Westerhausen, R., & Hugdahl, K. (2013). The right planum temporale is involved in stimulus-driven, auditory attention – evidence from transcranial magnetic stimulation. PLOS ONE, 8(2): e57316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057316. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057316
  • Alba-Ferrara, L., De Erausquin, G. A., Hirnstein, M., Weis, S., & Hausmann, M. (2013). Emotional prosody modulates attention in schizophrenia patients with hallucinations. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 59. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00059. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00059/full
  • Hirnstein, M., Freund, N., & Hausmann, M. (2012). Gender stereotyping enhances verbal fluency performance in men (and women). Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 220, 70-77.
  • Hirnstein, M. Dichotic listening and left right confusion (2011). Brain and Cognition, 76, 239-244.          
  • Ocklenburg, S., Hirnstein, M., Ohmann, H., & Hausmann, M. (2011). Mental rotation does not account for sex differences in left-right confusion. Brain and Cognition, 76, 166-171.
  • Hirnstein, M., Bayer, U., Ellison, A. & Hausmann, M. 2011. TMS over the left angular gyrus impairs the ability to discriminate left from right. Neuropsychologia, 49, 29-33. (Nivå 2)
  • Ocklenburg, S., Hirnstein, M., Hausmann, M. & Lewald, J. 2010. Auditory space perception in left- and right-handers. Brain and Cognition, 72, 210-217.
  • Hirnstein, M., Leask, S., Rose, J. & Hausmann, M. 2010. Disentangling the relationship between hemispheric asymmetry and cognitive performance. Brain and Cognition, 73, 119-127.
  • Hirnstein, M., Ocklenburg, S., Schneider, D. & Hausmann, M. 2009. Sex differences in left-right confusion depend on hemispheric asymmetry. Cortex, 45, 891-899. (Nivå 2)
  • Hirnstein, M., Bayer, U. & Hausmann, M. 2009. Sex-specific response strategies in mental rotation. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 225-228.
  • Hirnstein, M., Hausmann, M. & Güntürkün, O. 2008. The evolutionary origins of functional cerebral asymmetries in humans: Does lateralization enhance parallel processing? Behavioural Brain Research, 187, 297-303.
  • Hirnstein, M., Hausmann, M. & Lewald, J. 2007. Functional cerebral asymmetry in auditory motion perception. Laterality, 12, 87-99.

Book sections:

  • Hugdahl, K. & Hirnstein, M. (2013). Cerebral hemispheres: Behavior and imaging studies. In S. P. Koffler, J. E. Morgan, I. S. Baron, & M. F. Greiffenstein (Eds.), Neuropsychology: science and practice (pp. 95-113). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hirnstein, M. & Hausmann, M. 2010. Kognitive Geschlechtsunterschiede. In Handbuch Psychologie und Geschlechterforschung. Steins, G. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag fuer Sozialwissenschaften. 69-85.

This project, funded by the Faculty of Psychology and the Bergen Research Foundation, aims to reduce auditory hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia by using transcranial direct current stimulation. (Please click here for more information)

Gender and cognition
Together with collaborators from the UiB’s Centre for Women’s and Gender Research, Durham University (UK), and the University of Padova (Italy), we are carrying out a couple of projects that aim to investigate how cognitive gender differences arise. For instance, how do gender stereotypes affect performance in cognitive tasks and how do gender stereotypes vary across different countries and different university subjects (e.g., humanities versus science)?

Colours and emotions
Together with Lynn Marquardt from the UiB and collaborators worldwide under the umbrella of the University of Lausanne, we investigate differences and similarities across countries and people in how they associate colours with emotions. A radio interview on this issue can be found here, 14.4.2016, "Morgen med Radio Hordaland". Please click here for completing our online test on colours and emotions to help us.