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  • Department of Psychology

    © Universität Bielefeld


The team of the Neuner and Catani working group at Bielefeld University (AE11) studies the causes and consequences of traumatic experiences with methods from clinical psychology, public health and neurosciences. Across single projects our specific view is characterized by four features:

Developmental life-span perspective

We study the interplay between risk factors, protective factors, adversities and outcomes at various stages of the human development

The parameters of studies range across socio-ecological levels, from the molecular individual level (including neuronal activity) to the impact of family and community factors

A key focus of our research is on field studies with individuals and groups that accumulate risk factors and adversities but receive little research attention, such as war survivors in conflict regions in Africa and Asia and refugees in Europe

Out of the findings of our basic research we develop and test evidence-based mental health interventions, such as Narrative Exposure Therapy, study new mental health structures and test innovative ways of dissemination including web-based technologies

A publication list of the team can be found here.

Overview of all projects

TREAT aims to determine factors that are associated with access to evidence-based mental health treatment for refugees living in Germany. TREAT will determine key figures of the provision of psychotherapy to refugee patients and analyses barriers in the access to treatment. The examination of barriers focuses on structural barriers within the health care system (e.g., lack of culture-sensitive resources) as well as attitudes and behavior of treatment providers. Prevailing assumptions about mental health care with refugee patients will be explored and tested.



Lars Dumke, M.Sc.

Prof. Dr. Frank Neuner

Contact person for any questions

Lars Dumke

Cooperating Partners

TREAT is a subproject of the research group "Refugee migration to Germany: a magnifying glass for broader public health challenges" (PH-LENS) funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).


Recent Publications

  • Dumke, L. & Neuner, F. (2023) Othering refugees: Psychotherapists’ attitudes toward patients with and without a refugee background, Psychotherapy Research, 33:5, 654-668, DOI: 10.1080/10503307.2022.2150097

  • Dumke, L., Wilker, S., Kotterba, A., & Neuner, F. (2023). The role of psychotherapists' perceived barriers in providing psychotherapy to refugee patients. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 1– 12.

Training of cognitive functions in depression: Mindfulness versus neuropsychological training

Depressive disorders are usually accompanied by cognitive impairments, such as attention problems. At the brain level, associated abnormalities in basic activity are evident. Since these impairments have negative effects on the treatment and the participation of the patients in occupational and social activities, there are some attempts to treat them with established neuropsychological therapy methods. Although mindfulness-based practices are known to have a positive impact on cognitive functioning, in addition to positively affecting other depressive symptoms, mindfulness-based practices have not yet been tested against established neuropsychological treatments in depressed patients. Given the broad effects of mindfulness-based therapy, it would already be a success if the effects of this therapy were not inferior to an established neuropsychological training program. Therefore, with this pilot study, we address the question of whether mindfulness-based training is at least not significantly inferior to an established training program. In order to exclude age-correlated pathological brain processes, we focus on young patients between 16 and 21 years with a depressive episode. They will be randomized to two treatment arms: They will receive either "Rehacom®", a proven PC-based cognitive training program, or a modified version of "Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)", a mindfulness-based therapeutic procedure for depressive patients. In both cases, the patients are examined neurophysiologically (BRAIN), neuropsychologically and with regard to further depressive symptoms (IMPAIRMENT) and everyday functionality (PARTICIPATION) before randomization and after implementation of the four-week intervention.

Funded in the Start-up Fund Medical Research of the Medical School EWL




Benjamin Iffland

Wolfgang Wagner

Contact person for any questions

Benjamin Iffland
Telefon: +49 521 106 4491

Cooperating Partners

Prof. Dr. Thomas Beblo

Prof. Dr. Michael Siniatchkin

Dr. Hanna Kley

Child maltreatment refers to various forms of abusive and potentially harmful parenting that threatens the healthy development of a child. Most of this research refers to the consequences of physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect or combinations of these types of maltreatment. Second to traumatic events that involve a threat to life and limb, it is aversive social experiences that can be detrimental for mental health. Traumatic social experiences include emotional abuse and neglect by caretakers as well as relational peer victimization. Recently, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates that experiences of emotional maltreatment increase the risk of various forms of psychopathology.

In several studies it has been shown that the regulation of stress responses can be altered by psychopathology and adverse childhood experiences. However, research examining alterations in the physiological responses to stress in subjects with a history of emotional maltreatment is still scarce. Additionally, to date it is unknown whether the processing of threatening cues in emotional maltreated individuals underlies the same mechanisms as the information processing in victims of physical and sexual abuse where the formation of associative memory representations has been suggested.

In the current project we aim to disclose psycho-physiological consequences of emotional maltreatment and to reveal underlying mechanisms that may link emotional maltreatment to psychopathology. In particular, in a series of studies we investigate reactivity to social stressors on different physiological (EEG, ECG, SCL, EMG) and experiential parameters as a function of levels of child maltreatment and diagnostic status of various psychiatric disorders.

Contact person: Dr. Benjamin Iffland

Recent publications

  • Klein, F., Iffland, B., Schindler, S., Wabnitz, P., & Neuner, F. (2015). This person is saying bad things about you: The influence of physically and socially threatening context information on the processing of inherently neutral faces. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience , 1-13.
  • Sansen, L., Iffland, B., & Neuner, F. (2015) The trauma of peer victimization: Psychophysiological and emotional characteristics of memory imagery in subjects with social anxiety disorder, Psychophysiology, 52 (1), 107-116.
  • Iffland, B., Sansen, L., & Neuner, F., (2014) Rapid heartbeat, but dry palms: reactions of heart rate and skin conductance levels to social rejection, Frontiers in Psychology ,5: 956.
  • Iffland, B., Sansen, L., Catani, C., & Neuner, F., (2014) The trauma of peer abuse: Effects of relational peer victimization and social anxiety disorder on physiological and affective reactions to social exclusion, Frontiers in Psychiatry , 5:26.
  • Sansen, L., Iffland, B., & Neuner, F. (2014) Peer victimization predicts psychological symptoms beyond the effects of child maltreatment, Psychiatry Research , 220, 1051-1058.
  • Sansen, L., Iffland, B., Catani, C., & Neuner, F. (2013) Die Bedeutung aversiver sozialer Erfahrungen in Familie und Peergroup für die Entwicklung sozialer Ängste, Zeitschrift für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie , 42, 34-44.
  • Iffland, B., Sansen, L., Catani, C., & Neuner, F. (2012). Emotional but not physical maltreatment is independently related to psychopathology in subjects with various degrees of social anxiety: a web-based Internet survey. BMC Psychiatry , 12:49.
  • Wabnitz, P., Martens, U., & Neuner, F. (2012). Cortical reactions to verbal abuse: Event-related brain potentials reflecting the processing of socially threatening words. NeuroReport . 23(13), 774-779.

Data Protection & Privacy

Data protection is very important for our research. This is why you can find everything we do for data protection and privacy on this page. You can download information about our data protection concept in different versions for adults and for children and teens:

Information zum Datenschutz für Erwachsene

Information zum Datenschutz für Kinder und Jugendliche

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