Prof Martin Keck


Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry – Hospital



Prof Martin Keck is Director of the Research Hospital (Hospital for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatic Medicine and Neurology – Centre for Mental Health) and Head of the Research Group Biological Neuropsychotherapy at the Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry in Munich.

The tradition-rich hospital of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry is primarily concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of stress-related disorders, the prevalence of which is increasing world-wide. Stress-related disorders are also the main focus of our research. As a non-profit research organization, it is important to us that our patients profit from our scientific findings without unnecessary delay.

We take pride in ranking among the world’s leading institutions. The basic research of our institute is strongly intertwined with our clinical research and treatment. State-of-the-art research, ranging from genetics and proteomics to metabolomics are combined with clinical analytical imaging techniques and measurements of brain functions. As well as optimizing the current treatment approaches, our acquired knowledge serves to develop novel therapies and drugs for tomorrow’s personalized medicine.

Clinical Research

Our projects focus on three main lines of research: firstly the biological mechanisms of psychotherapy, secondly the use of biomarkers to optimize the psycho- and pharmacological treatments to individual patient characteristics and finally the differential assessment of cognitive deficits in patients with depression and the consequent individualized treatment approach. Our work is realized through close cooperation with the departments Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics and Translational Research in Psychiatry.

Our overall aim is to provide optimized medical care for our patients. Therefore, as part of our latest psychotherapy study, a wide spectrum of psychological and biological procedures will be carried out (e.g. cMRT, fMRT, psychophysiological paradigms, molecular genetic methods).

Biological Neuropsychotherapy

Currently, the etiology of mental illness can be best described as being of multifactorial genesis. According to a vulnerability-stress model, many genes and environmental factors interact in a complex way to cause the development of mental illness. Environmental factors (e.g. enduring stress, life events, trauma) influence us via diverse neurobiological pathways (e.g. transmitter systems, the stress hormone axis), which might cause somatic and psychological changes. Consequently, mental illness can be treated directly via biological pathways (e.g. pharmacological treatment) or indirectly via the change of environmental factors, of our behavior, and of our experiences (e.g. by psychotherapy).

The aim of biological neuropsychotherapy is the investigation of the molecular-genetic and psychoneuroendocrine mechanisms behind behavioral and experiential changes during psychotherapy. What happens in our body during psychotherapy and how can we describe psychotherapeutic processes in our brain? Which factors predict a positive treatment outcome? How can we characterize and identify the patients who profit most? Using this approach, the effects of psychotherapeutic treatment can be neurobiologically validated, thus providing an objective, sound base. Our research aims to comprehensively broaden the neurobiological evidence on the effectiveness of psychotherapy and tries to further differentiate the present level of knowledge.

In a new study, we measure emotional, cognitive and interpersonal processes during psychotherapy using numerous neurobiological and biochemical procedures. These include physiological measurements (ECG, blood pressure, heart rate, electrodermal activity), imaging methods (MRT, cMRT, fMRT), investigation of the stress-hormone system (the dex/CRH-test), analysis of laboratory parameters, proteins, immune parameters and (epi-)genetic characteristics (DNA, RNA). These data provide insights into a complex functioning.

Our work hopes to deliver new input in the area of psychotherapy in research and practice. We would like to scientifically contribute to the development of guidelines for a neuroscience-based practice of psychotherapy.

About Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry – Hospital:

The Klinik Max-Planck-Instituts für Psychiatrie (MPG-H) is part of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry (MPG) which is one of 83 research institutes of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, Germany’s leading organization for basic research covering a broad range of scientific disciplines. The MPG, founded in 1917, currently has around 500 employees, of which approximately 150 are scientists. MPG’s mission is to gain insight into the causes of stress- and trauma-related disorders such as major depression and post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders.

The MPG has been extremely successful in promoting translational research in psychiatric disorders, ranking third place world-wide regarding its impact in psychiatric research.