PD Dr. Frauke Nees

Department of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Herta Flor

Department of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University

 

The role of learning, stress and underlying brain circuits involving prefrontal-limbic interactions in the development of chronic back pain

We proposed that emotional learning and accompanying plasticity in emotion-related brain circuits is a core characteristic of chronic back pain in contrast to a focus on nociceptive circuits in acute pain. While a number of studies have shown that psychosocial factors predict persistent pain, little is known how these relate to altered learning processes and the role of stress analgesia, and about the associated changes in brain structure and function that might predict persistent pain.

Our data from the first funding period indicate disturbed emotional learning in interaction with stress sensitivity and comorbidity and concomitant altered somatosensory-limbic interactions as determinants of chronicity. In the second funding period we plan to extend our analyses to the role of social learning and related brain structure-function circuits in pain chronicity. Specifically, based on operant learning theory, we assume that significant others with solicitous compared to non-solicitous responses to the patients’ pain behaviours enhance pain perception and activation in brain circuits involved in affective processing, with social support modulating this relationship.

We expect to be able to link learning-related predictors of chronicity with those resulting from brain structure-function analyses and epidemiological studies, and to the new data of the role of social reinforcement and brain correlates. Finally, we will have causal information on involved brain circuits, related behaviours and psychological factors and can derive new assessments as well as treatment options. .

News

  • Annual International Research Symposium

    Our Annual International Research Symposium will take place on December 3, 2019...

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  • Bonn Researchers Identify Key Proteins for the Repair of Nerve Fibers

    Prof. Dr. Frank Bradke, and his colleagues at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) have identified a group of proteins that help to regenerate damaged nerve cells.

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  • Memory engrams discovered in the hypothalamus

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  • Congratulations!

    The Heidelberg Pain Consortium goes into the second funding period.

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  • Valery Grinevich appointed Professor for Neuropeptide research in psychiatry

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