Dorothea Hämmerer studied psychology at the University of Trier, the University of Paris X Nanterre and the University of Freiburg. Starting with her doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in 2006, she used cognitive neuroscientific methods to understand why we have different cognitive abilities at different ages. Dorothea Hämmerer’s post-doc studies took her to the Technical University of Dresden, the University College London (Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Welcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging) and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Magdeburg.
They have enabled her to expand her skills in magnetic resonance imaging and in the physiological and cognitive assessment of aging and dementia. She still maintains close collaborative relationships with the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience in London and the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience. In her research, Dorothea Hämmerer tries to understand how age differences in the brain, especially in neuromodulatory systems, affect age differences in cognitive functions, especially attention control, decision-making and memory across the lifespan. Together with her collaboration partners, she is developing cognitive paradigms and non-invasive imaging methods that can capture correlates of individual neuromodulatory systems (especially dopamine and noradrenaline) in a more targeted manner.
For reasons that are still unknown, neuromodulatory systems are particularly vulnerable in old age and are among the earliest and most severely affected brain regions in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s dementia. In her current research, Prof. Hämmerer focuses in particular on exploring the noradrenergic locus coeruleus and uses structural and functional imaging methods to map the earliest cognitive and neurophysiological changes in neurodegenerative diseases.
She is co-founder of the Locus Coeruleus Imaging Meeting Magdeburg, which brings together clinicians, animal researchers, physicists and cognitive neuroscientists to try to better understand the role of the noradrenergic locus coeruleus in neurodegenerative diseases. Her research was recognized with the Brenda Milner Award and a Senior Research Fellowship from Alzheimer Research UK.