Most recent insights from the behavioral sciences, neuroscience and immunology impressively document the bi-directional communication between the brain and the immune system. These questions are the focus of the scientific activities of the different working groups at our Institute which we investigate in experimental animal models as well as in healthy humans and patients.
On the one hand, we are in particularly interested in the question of how associative learning processes affect immune functions, a phenomenon already reported by co-workers of the Russian physiologist and Nobel laureate Ivan Petrovich Pavlov at the beginning of the last century. We analyze the neurobiological mechanisms as well as the potential clinical relevance of learned immune responses in experimental animals, healthy volunteers and patients.
On the other hand, we analyze how the activated immune system sends signals to the brain and how these signals affect our emotions, cognition and behavior. in these experiments we investigate how experimentally induced low-grade inflammatory responses affect learning, memory and emotional processes as well as pain perception and processing. In particular, we are interested in the question whether and to what extend these inflammatory responses are responsible for the development and maintenance of neuropsychiatry diseases such as major depression.
Our scientific projects are supported by two collaborative center grants of the German Research Foundation (DFG), the SFB 1280 on “Extinction Learning”; and the TRR 289 on “Treatment Expectation”). The overall goal of our translational research activities is to develop innovative treatment options for patients and to optimize existing pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment approaches by using specifically targeted behavioral protocols.
For students, doctors, and health care professionals the Institute offers various courses, seminars and lectures as well as advanced training courses on the latest knowledge on the bi-directional communication between the brain and the immune system in the context of inflammation and neuropsychological disorders, as well as on the neuropsychological mechanisms of placebo- and nocebo responses, with a focus on the practical implication of this information for clinical practice.
The Institute of Medical Psychology was founded in 1978 and is one of the pre-clinical Departments of the Essen University Hospital.
Institut für Medizinische Psychologie und Verhaltensimmunbiologie Universitätsklinikum Essen
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