How folds form in the brain

The Bertha Benz Prize was awarded for the tenth time on 14 June 2018 as part of the Bertha Benz lecture programme in Heidelberg. Dr. Silvia Budday from the Faculty of Engineering at FAU has been awarded the prize for her doctoral thesis ‘The Role of Mechanics during Brain Development’.

Scientists have always been fascinated with the principles of self-organisation and the formation of structures in organisms. Up to now, several research approaches have tried to reconstruct the formation of structures in the brain’s cortex using various models and simulation methods. However, researchers have been unable to find a valid model that explains the mechanisms involved in forming these structures.

Silvia Budday has broken new ground by systematically investigating the influence of physical forces on the formation of structures in the brain on the basis of non-linear continuum biomechanics with finite elements. She discovered that different patterns are generated by means of self-organisation as a function of cortex thickness, the geometric shape of the brain and the local variations of rigidity and growth rates. In her thesis, she demonstrated that several observed similarities and variations in the cortex structures can be explained by means of these mechanisms, both while comparing various species of mammals and different individuals of one species. Essentially, this involves a mechanical process that does not correlate with the intelligence of a mammal.

The Bertha Benz Prize

Since 2009, the Daimler and Benz Foundation has awarded the Bertha Benz Prize each year to a female engineer who has completed an outstanding doctoral thesis in Germany to increase publicity for the achievements of women in engineering. Bertha Benz not only believed in her husband’s vision of a ‘horseless carriage’, but was also on an equal footing with him in technical matters, a fact that is not well known today. The Foundation thus awards the Bertha Benz Prize worth €10,000 in recognition of her outstanding personality and her visionary achievements. With the prize, the Foundation would like to support young female engineers with their choice of career. Since the Daimler and Benz Foundation received a large number of applications of an exceptionally high standard, the prize this year was awarded to two young female engineers for their outstanding scientific achievements during their doctoral theses, the first time that this has ever happened. In addition to Silvia Budday, Dr. Despoina Petousi from Technische Universität Berlin was also awarded the prize for her thesis titled ‘Analysis of Integrated Silicon Depletion-Type Mach-Zehnder Modulators for Advanced Modulation Formats’.

Short film portrait about Dr. Silvia Budday (in German)

Further information:
Dr. Silvia Budday
Phone: +49 9131 8567611

Dr. Johannes Schnurr
Press spokesperson of the Daimler and Benz Foundation
Phone: +49 6203 10920

Dr. Silvia Budday from the Chair of Applied Mechanics has been awarded the Bertha Benz Prize and the ECCOMAS Best PhD Award. (Image: Studioline)