Using multiple methods from psychology, biology and the neurosciences, we investigate socio-emotional processes and autonomic as well as endocrine stress responses both in experimental setups and in everyday life (with ecological momentary assessment, EMA).
On the level of basic research we investigate social cognition and social behavior in healthy people and in patients suffering from medical and mental disorders.
In experimental studies, we assess and manipulate hormone levels (e.g. oxytocin, cortisol, sex hormones) in relation to different kinds of social interaction, to gain knowledge about the neuroendocrine mechanisms of social behavior. We also use laboratory stress tests to induce psychological stress. Here, we investigate how individuals react to different stressors and what might buffer stress in an experimental setting.
On the level of applied research, we aim to identify factors which can protect from harmful stress experience, such as interactions with a close other, compassion, or social support. We design and use stress management interventions in different populations (healthy stressed adults or e.g. individuals suffering from depression).
In particular, our research methods include:
|► Standardized laboratory stress tests (e.g. the Trier Social Stress Test, TSST)|
|► Eye Tracking |
|► Neuroendocrine and enzyme measures (cortisol, gonadal hormones, alpha-amylase) |
|► Behavioral assessments (behavior observation during real-time interaction, behavior coding using the Circumplex model)|
|► Psychophysiological measures (heart rate, heart rate variability) |
|► Hormonal challenge tests (e.g. oxytocin application)|
|► fMRI measures (in cooperation with ZI Mannheim or the Neuroradiology Department of the University Hospital Heidelberg)|
|► Interventions (cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT; stress management) |