Completed Projects

  • Spider VR

    Project Description

    This study was conducted as a part of the CRC TRR-58 „Fear, anxiety and anxiety disorders“ that is funded by the „Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft“ (DFG) and in cooperation with the „Institute of Medical Psychology and Systems Neuroscience“, the institue for biogmagnetism and biosignalanalysis and the university clinic of Würzburg.

    Core part of this study was the treatment of spider phobia with the help of exposure therapy – a part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is a well researched intervention that has been proven to show the best results for anxiety disorders and other mental disorders and has helped a lot of patients to reduce their symptoms. However, not all patients respond equally well. Hence, the goal of the study was to test whether a prediction of the success on the basis of neurobiological markers is possible even before a treatment has begun. This could eventually help to treat patients with a bad prognosis in a more intense, stratified treatment in order to improve treatment success.

    What exactly did we do in the study?

    The study comprised a total of six visits over a span of seven months:

    Diagnostics: On three visits, we conducted a thorough diagnostical interview as well as presented several questionnaires in order to assess the severity of anxiety symptoms, changes in mood, life time stressors and personality traits. In order to assess the severity of the spider phobia on a behavioral level, we conducted a standardized behavioral avoidance test with a live spider. Finally, we drew blood to determine genetical information.

    Additionally, participants were asked to participate in a total of three MRI and two MEG measurements. Between the first and the second diagnostical interview, we conducted an Exposure intervention in virtual reality. In this intervention, we presented spiders in a virtual reality and asked the participants to watch the spider(s) closely, not to look away and accept arising fear. We frequently asked the participants to rate their current mood and severity of the fear.

    What are our results?

    We could show that it is principally possible to predict the individual success to the exposure intervention with a machine learning approach based on a priori assessed date (e.g. questionnaires). Additionally, we showed that people with spider phobia differ in their neurofunctional reaction to unspecific, but emotional stimuli (emotional faces) compared to healthy controls, which provides new insights of specific anxiety disorders.

    Publications based on data of this project:

    Böhnlein, J., Altegoer, L., Muck, N. K., Roesmann, K., Redlich, R., Dannlowski, U., & Leehr, E. J. (2020). Factors influencing the success of exposure therapy forspecific phobia: A systematic review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 108, 796–820. doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.12.009

    Leehr, E. J., Roesmann, K., Böhnlein, J., Dannlowski, U., Gathmann, B., Herrmann, M. J., … Hilbert, K. (accepted). Clinical predictors of treatment response towards exposure therapy in virtuo in spider phobia: a machine learning and external cross-validation approach. Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

    Roesmann, K., Leehr, E. J., Boehnlein, J., Steinberg, C., Seeger, F., Schwarzmeier, H., Gathmann, B., Siminski, N., Herrmann, M. J., & Dannlowski, U. (2021). Behavioral and Magnetoencephalographic Correlates of Fear Generalization Are Associated with Responses to Later Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy in Spider Phobia. MedRxiv.

    Leehr, E. J.*, Roesmann, K.*, Böhnlein, J., Dannlowski, U., Gathmann, B., Herrmann, M. J., Junghöfer, M., Schwarzmeier, H., Seeger, F. R., Siminski, N., Straube, T., Lueken, U., & Hilbert, K. (2021). Clinical predictors of treatment response towards exposure therapy in virtuo in spider phobia: A machine learning and external cross-validation approach. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 83. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JANXDIS.2021.102448 [IF: 5.26]

    Böhnlein, J., Leehr, E. J., Roesmann, K., Sappelt, T., Platte, O., Grotegerd, D., Sindermann, L., Repple, J., Opel, N., Meinert, S., Lemke, H., Borgers, T., Dohm, K., Enneking, V., Goltermann, J., Waltemate, L., Hülsmann, C., Thiel, K., Winter, N., … Dannlowski, U. (2021). Neural processing of emotional facial stimuli in specific phobia: An fMRI study. Depression and Anxiety, 38(8), 846–859. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.23191

     

    The project was funded by the "Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft" (DFG) - project number 44541416-TRR 58 (CRC-TRR58).

  • Z02

    Project Description

    The study was conducted as part of the cross-site special research field  "Fear, Anxiety, and Anxiety Disorders" (SFB/Transregio58). To date, it is known that, in addition to environmental influences such as stressful life events, genetic (hereditary) factors and biochemical processes of the genetic material play a role in the development of anxiety disorders. The biochemical processes are epigenetic mechanisms, which are variable and can respond to environmental influences. In addition, fear can be learned by “generalizing” experiences of fear or anxiety in certain situations that is by transferring them to other situations. The aim of the Z02 study was to investigate the interaction of (epi-)genetic factors, environmental influences and personality traits.

    What exactly was done in the study?

    Only subjects without mental disorders were included in the study. 

    Clinical interview: A standardized clinical interview was used to ensure that all subjects were free of any current and past mental health problems.

    Biosamples: A blood sample was taken from every participant, which was first frozen and sent to our cooperation partners for further genetic examination. All participants filled out questionnaires to assess nervosity, anxiety and further personality characteristics, among others. 

    What are our findings?

    With the help from data of this project, new insights into the interplay of genetic preconditions, environmental influences and Coping-Stiles (i.e. dealing with adverse life events) could be obtained. Furthermore, the data were used for projects, which investigated the corresponding relationships in mental disorders such as panic disorder.

    Publications based on data of this project:

    Schiele, M. A., Herzog, K., Kollert, L., Böhnlein, J., Repple, J., Rosenkranz, K., Leehr, E. J., Ziegler, C., Lueken, U., Dannlowski, U., Pauli, P., Arolt, V., Zwanzger, P., Deckert, J., Erfurth, A., & Domschke, K. (2020). Affective temperaments (TEMPS-A) in panic disorder and healthy probands: Genetic modulationby 5-HTT variation. World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 21(10). doi.org/10.1080/15622975.2019.1705999

    Schiele, M. A., Herzog, K., Kollert, L., Schartner, C., Leehr, E. J., Böhnlein, J., Repple, J., Rosenkranz, K., Lonsdorf, T. B., Dannlowski, U., & others. (2020). Extending the vulnerability--stress model of mental disorders: three-dimensional NPSR1 x environment x coping interaction study in anxiety. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 217(5), 645–650.

     

    The project was funded by the "Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft" (DFG) - project number 44541416-TRR 58 (CRC-TRR58).

  • TIP

    Project Description

    What exactly was done in the study? 

    The study included subjects without mental disorder, as well as patients with Depression, and/or Social Anxiety Disorder.

    Phenotyping: A standardized clinical interview was used to assess the presence of a mental disorder. Several questionnaires on social anxiety and emotion regulation were conducted, and a blood sample was taken from all subjects for (epi-)genetic analysis.

    Magnetic resonance encephalography imaging (MRI): All participants took part in an MRI measurement. Thereby, strucutral images of the brain were taken. In addition, functional MRI was used to collect neural activity patterns during emotion processing and during a resting state measurement.

    Preliminary results: unipolar depression, as well as anxiety disorders (including social anxiety disorder) are one of the most common mental disorders and often occure comorbidly. Both diagnostic groups are characterized by intensive negative emotions. Aim of the study was to investigate (neurobiological) underpinnings of emotion processing in persons with depression (MDD), persons with social anxiety disorder (SAD), persons with social anxiety disorder and depression (SAD+MDD) and persons without anxiety disorder. In particular the group of patients suffering from MDD and SAD seem to be impaired concerning their emotion regulation skills. A summary of previous MRI-studies provides evidence for transdiagnostic (MDD and anxiety disorders) neuronal correlates of impaired emotion processing in frontal and limbic areas, whereas the results for disorder specific neuronal correlates are still inconsistent.

    Publications based on data of this project:

    Sindermann, L., Redlich, R., Opel, N., Böhnlein, J., Dannlowski, U., & Leehr, E. J. (in press). Systematic Transdiagnostic Review of Magnetic-Resonance Imaging Results: Depression, Anxiety Disorders and their Co-occurrence. Journal of Psychiatric Research.

     

    The project was funded by the "Innovative Medizinische Forschung" (IMF) program (LE121703).