TRF1 Organizer Q&A – Anne Giersch

Anne Giersch studied medicine and specialized in psychiatry before doing a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, with a training in Psychophysics and Experimental Psychology in the field of visual grouping. After a post-doctoral stay in Germany, she was hired by the French Medical Research Institute (INSERM) as a full time researcher. She directs a team in Strasbourg in France (INSERM U1114) recognized for its expertise in the exploration of cognitive disorders in schizophrenia. Anne Giersch has worked on cognition, psychopharmacology and schizophrenia for several years, with 70 papers in international journals. She has developed a specific focus on time issues, to uncover the mechanisms of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and their relationship with neurobiological disorders and clinical symptoms. She claims that the thought fragmentation described in patients may reveal critical mechanisms of disorders affecting the sense of self in patients, but also critical temporal dynamics of our unconscious and conscious mental activity.  


How can we determine the brain’s code for time?

And how do we go from the brain code to the experience of time? Duration? Order? Asynchrony? Thing?


What aspect of timing does your lab investigate, and what do you consider to be the most pressing and fundamental questions in timing research?

My lab is investigating the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Those patients have been described as suffering from a disruption of the sense of time continuity, which we can only imagine to be a frightful, unspeakable, experience. The question of the sense of time continuity is so old it might not be considered as a pressing question. However, if its disruption explains some of the terror experienced by the patients; if it leads them to stop from feeling as one unique continuous being over time, then it becomes an emergency. But still one question among other pressing questions.


As the Organizers, what are your hopes and expectations for the 1st Timing Research Forum Conference?

The conference brings together researchers coming to timing from different perspectives. This has always been fruitful in research, and my hope for this conference and the following ones is that this timing research will remain open, or even open up more to different approaches and backgrounds, attracting researchers from different fields in a flexible way.


What current topics/techniques or new advances in timing research are you most excited about?

I came to timing only after studying psychiatry, and then visual organization under the effect of drugs or pathology. I am now totally absorbed in timing research. I see the whole topic as an ideal way to understand what consciousness is and where our conscious experience comes from, both its content and its container, or structure.


What advice do you have for students and postdoctoral researchers interesting in investigating the brain’s code for time?

I would say come! Work and read. As much as you can, in your field and outside your field. Philosophy, neuroimaging, psychology, molecular biology, beyond if you can. And don’t forget to stop, think, and let your mind wander.