Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology
+49 201 723 4501

logo uni

tnbs logo

Professor of Experimental Psychobiology

Overiew of main research goals

Visceral pain is of high clinical relevance, but remains less well-studied when compared to somatic pain. Our interdisciplinary research approaches at the interface of psychology, neurogastroenterology and the neurosciences contribute to an improved understanding of the brain-gut axis, which is fundamental to visceral pain. The goal of our research is to elucidate psychological and neurobiological aspects of the brain-gut axis in the context of acute and chronic visceral pain. In healthy persons but also in patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, we aim to elucidate peripheral and central mechanisms involved in visceroception, i.e., perceptions arising from the gastrointestinal tract.

Our studies are designed to test how visceroception is modulated by cognitive and emotional factors such as learning, expectations and psychological stress. We also focus on the role of inflammatory processes in pain sensitization and central pain processing using brain imaging techniques. In all these lines of research, understanding inter-individual differences, especially the role of sex/gender, is an important research goal. Together, these approaches improve our understanding of psychobiological aspects in the pathophysiology of chronic visceral pain in functional gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis.

Publications (review articles)

Boeckxstaens G, Camilleri M, Sifrim D, Houghton LA, Elsenbruch S, Lindberg G, Azpiroz F, Parkman HP.
Fundamentals of Neurogastroenterology: Physiology/Motility - Sensation.
Gastroenterology. 2016 Feb 18. pii: S0016-5085(16)00221-3 Epub ahead of print

Elsenbruch S, Wolf OT.
Could Stress Contribute to Pain-Related Fear in Chronic Pain?
Front Behav Neurosci. 2015;9:340

Elsenbruch S, Häuser W, Jänig W.
Viszeraler Schmerz.
Der Schmerz 2015 Oct;29(5):496-502.

Elsenbruch S, Enck P.
Psychobiological mechanisms in the pathophysiology of chronic visceral pain.
Schmerz. 2016;30:407-411.

Icenhour A, Elsenbruch S, Benson S.
Biologische und psychosoziale Einflussfaktoren auf geschlechterbezogene Unterschiede beim Schmerz.
Gender 2015;2:11-28.

Benson S, Engler H, Schedlowski M, Elsenbruch S.
Experimental endotoxemia as model to study neuro-immune mechanisms in human visceral pain.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012;1262(1):108-117.

Elsenbruch S.
Abdominal pain in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: a review of putative psychological, neural and neuro-immune mechanisms.
Brain Behavior and Immunity 2011 Mar;25(3):386-94.

Research projects

Inflammatory mechanisms of pain sensitization

Stress and negative emotions in acute and chronic visceral pain

Pain-related learning, memory and attentional processes

Expectancy effects on pain perception and treatment response

Research team

Elsenbruch Sigrid, Prof. Dr.
Benson Sven, Prof. Dr., Klinik für Neurologie
Labrenz Franziska, Dr. rer. nat.
Icenhour Adriane, Dr. rer. medic.
Petrakova Liubov, Dr. rer. medic.
Koenen Laura Ricarda, M.Sc. Psych.
Öhlmann Hanna, M.Sc. Neurosciences
Pawlik Robert Jan, M.Sc. Psych.

Engelbrecht Elisa, cand. med. (student research assistant)
Handke Analena, B.A. Psych, (student research assistant)
Pasler Annika, M.Sc. Psych. (student research assistant)
Stemmer Eva, cand. med. (student research assistant)

Links AG Prof. Dr. Elsenbruch

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medizinische Psychologie
Essener Kolleg für Geschlechterforschung
Europe against Pain: The European Federation of IASP® chapters (EFIC®)
European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility
Deutsche Schmerzgesellschaft
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie
Homepage der DFG-geförderten Forschergruppe FOR 1328
Informationen zur DFG-geförderten Forschergruppe FOR 1581: www.dasgehirn/info/handeln/verlernen
Homepage der DFG-geförderten Forschergruppe FOR 1581:
German-Endocrine-Brain-Immune Network (GEBIN):
PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society (PNIRS):
Netzwerk Frauen und Geschlechterforschung: