Universität Bielefeld

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Projects

+   The psycho-physiology of social traumatization

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 current studies we aim to disclose psycho-physiological consequences of emotional maltreatment and to reveal underlying mechanisms that may link emotional maltreatment to psychopathology. In particular, 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.
+   E-KVT: Evaluation of a new approach for trauma therapy for
       young adults

Sexual and/or physical abuse in childhood and adolescence can lead to the development of a variety of psychological diseases and problems. Recent studies especially highlight the connection between these types of abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even though it is known that PTSD leads to severe health problems, there are only few evidence-based psychotherapeutic interventions for adolescents and young adults who developed PTSD after the experience of sexual and/or physical abuse.

The aim of the E-KVT-project is the evaluation of a treatment manual which is particularly focused on the treatment of adolescents and young adults. The manual is based on the Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) – a therapeutical approach that has already been evaluated for adults.  Additional components of E-KVT are aspects of emotional and behavioral training (Verhaltensmanagement?) as well as skill training for coping with typical developmental tasks. The treatment consists of reliable elements and has already been audited in a pilot study. The results showed an improvement for almost all participating patients.

Beside the evaluation of this treatment procedure, our multicenter trial investigates other aspects, such as neuronal correlates of PTSD, epigenetic markers etc. The study administration is represented by Prof. Rita Rosner (KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt).

The subproject in Bielefeld is supervised by Prof. Frank Neuner. We are trying to find neuronal correlates for information processing in adolescents and young adults with PTSD and would like to find out about how E-KVT influences this information processing. For questions upon the project, please contact the project coordinator for Bielefeld, Dr. Benjamin Iffland.

Further information (in German) upon the therapy and the multicenter trial can be found here

 

Methods

We use a range of different
psychophysiological measures which are combined with computerized behavioral tasks and ambulatory assessments.
Psychophysiological measures utilized in our laboratory are:
  • electroencephalography (EEG)
  • electrocardiography (ECG)
  • electrodermal activity (EDA)
  • facial electromyography (EMG)