The International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE) is a joint international PhD Program of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and the University of Zurich.

The goal of the Research School is the study of the systematic changes in human behavior over evolutionary and ontogenetic time. The general approach is aimed at advancing the behavioral and social science of human development. LIFE takes an integrative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding human development in a changing world, connecting evolutionary, ontogenetic, historical, and institutional perspectives. The focus is on the evolution and interaction of individual and institutional development.

The curriculum combines psychology, educational science, neuroscience, and biology, focussing especially on the dynamics of human behavior on different time scales.

The LIFE Theory Lab

Contemporary theorizing, methodological advancements, and future challenges for  lifespan developmental science

The LIFE Theory Lab 2020 was an open series of 10 lectures held in June and July 2020 promoting an open-science virtual exchange on conceptual and methodological advances in the study of behavioral development. The Theory Lab gave leading researchers a platform to share their views on the ways in which the “dance” between theory and method (Nesselroade, 1988, cited in Nesselroade, 2006) has informed their own work, and has fostered scientific progress. Recent advances in evolutionary theory, genetics, imaging methods, behavioral observation, statistical tools, formal modeling, and machine learning provide unprecedented opportunities for describing, understanding, and ameliorating individual developmental change across the lifespan. Lifespan psychology has sought to provide a conceptual framework for capturing the overall architecture of human ontogeny (Baltes, 1997). Time has come to revisit this framework in the light of these recent advances, and gauge its function for structuring our knowledge about invariant and malleable aspects of human ontogeny.

Our lecture series promotes open formats of science dissemination and was accessible as a webinar. The sessions are available on the LIFE video channel of the MPI for Human Development at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVWzJFaTnS4Bo73emm98jnw/about



June 04, 2020
Tomás Ryan (Trinity College Dublin)
"Memory and Instinct as a Continuum of Information Storage"

June 11, 2020
Charles Nelson (Harvard University)
"Critical Periods in Early Human Development"
June 18, 2020
Candice Odgers (Duke University)
"Charting Individual Development"
June 25, 2020
Eric Turkheimer (University of Virginia)
"Gene – Environment Interplay"
July 02, 2020
Lars Nyberg (Umea University)
"Lifespan Maintenance of Brain and Cognition – Fiction or Science?"
July 09, 2020
Gerd Kempermann  (Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden)
"Adult Neurogenesis, Enriched Environments, and the Neurobiology of Life-style dependent Resilience"
June 16, 2020
Danielle Bassett (University of Pennsylvania)
"Structure-Function Couplings in Human Brain Development"
July 23, 2020
Iyad Rahwan (Max Planck Institute for Human Development)
"Machine Behavior: A Research Agenda for a Society Permeated by Artificial Intelligence"
July 30, 2020
Ellen Hamaker (Utrecht University)
"Choices in Design and Analysis to Study Change"
August 6, 2020
Ulman Lindenberger (Max Planck Institute for Human Development)
"Why We Need a Lifespan Approach to Developmental Change"      

Further Information

Go to LIFE Program to find out more about the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE).

For access to the internal website, click here.


Please find information about the application process here.

LIFE Co-Speakers

Ulman Lindenberger
MPI for Human Development

Clemens Tesch-Römer
(Associate Co-Speaker)
Freie Universität Berlin

Toni C. Antonucci
University of Michigan

Jacqui Smith
(Associate Co-Speaker)
University of Michigan

Steven M. Boker
University of Virginia

Alexandra M. Freund
University of Zurich

LIFE Theory Lab 2020

Flyer & VIDEOS

The flyer can be downloaded below and you can find selected videos of the LIFE Theory Lab here.