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Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün 

Biological Psychology, University of Bochum

Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün

Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün

© DFG / David Ausserhofer

Onur Güntürkün is receiving the Leibniz Prize as one of the pioneers of biological psychology and one of the most important representatives of his field. His fundamental objective is to understand how perception, thought, and action arise in the brain. In pursuit of this goal, he has examined a variety of topics and objects, such as motor learning, fear, decision-making processes, risk-taking, and kissing. Güntürkün's work is characterized by the joining of psychological, biological, and neuroanatomical questions, concepts, and findings from comparative behavioural and neurosciences. For example, he worked with magpies to demonstrate that, although birds lack a cerebral cortex, they have the same ability as primates to recognise themselves in a mirror and can therefore develop something resembling a self-concept. Working from this finding, Güntürkün demonstrated that the forebrain structures in birds and primates have become more similar to each other in an evolutionary process and, despite their differing structures, converge in their neurobiological foundations and in performance, as observed in their behaviour. Güntürkün also exhibits extraordinary creativity in his methods, such as in his research into functional brain asymmetries in pigeons.

Born in Izmir in Turkey, Onur Güntürkün attended school in Baden-Baden and Izmir, returning to Germany to study psychology in Bochum and earn his doctorate. Following research stays in Paris and San Diego, he obtained his habilitation in Konstanz. Since 1997 he has been a professor for biological psychology in Bochum. Beyond his distinguished work, Güntürkün has also earned an excellent reputation as a teacher and research facilitator whose own enthusiasm is known to captivate his audience and the public.