Our research focuses on the neurobiological underpinnings of fear and anxiety related processes. Thereby we use fear conditioning, extinction as well as return of fear manipulations as laboratory models for the acquisition and (behavioural) treatment of anxiety disorders as well as relapse respectively. Thereby we focus on individual differences such as trait anxiety, life events and genetics as well as contextual factors. In addition, we are interested in emotional attention processes as well as in how life adversity becomes embedded in the brain. Specifically, we are interested in how acute and chronic stress experiences over the lifetime affects behavioural and neural correlates of fear conditioning, extinction as well as attention processes.

Our group is managing a DFG funded "Network for the Study of Fear Conditioning and Extinction Learning as well as the Return of Fear (EIFEL-ROF)". The scientific network EIFEL-ROF forges an interdisciplinary platform for methodological discussions and to coherently delineate the factors underlying individual differences in (pathological) anxiety and brings together experts from different fields pursuing common goals.

EIFEL-ROF aims to increase communication and coordination through tutorial/research guidelines papers, joint publication of review articles and meta-analyses, coordination of cross-laboratory replication tests and data pooling without additional funding. This will entail small steps from the individual research groups involved, while creating a giant leap forward in anxiety research through pooling forces across a sufficient number of labs with a common focus but complementary expertise.For more information on the network see DFG Funded Research Network

  • Staff
  • Staff
    Tina Lonsdorf
    • Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgruppenleiterin

    W34, 3. Etage, Raumnummer 310


    Manuel Kuhn

    Manuel joined the group as a PhD student in April 2013 to work on the CRC TRR58 (link: https://campus.uni-muenster.de/sfbtrr58/the-project/ ) sub-project B06 “The role of NOS-I mediated 5HT1a signaling in hippocampus-dependent fear conditioning”. In this project, Manuel has reported converging evidence for an impact of a functional NOS gene variation on anxiety-related processes using a multimodal replication approach (link: https:// http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26746182 ). In addition, he has been involved in an fMRI project investigating the impact of extreme scores in state anxiety on reinstatement-induced return of fear (link: https:// http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27496367 ) as well as a study investigating the role of life adversity and its developmental timing on anxiety-related traits and brain structure (link: https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26568620 ). Manuel has furthermore established the assessment of fear potentiated startle via EMG within the fMRI environment (together with Julia Wendt, Katja Linder and Alfons Hamm, University of Greifswald). After establishing this method, he conducted an affective startle modulation fMRI study as well as a fear conditioning study (together with Rachel) as a proof-of-principle (in preparation).
    Within the 3rd funding period of the CRC, Manuel works as a PostDoc and supports sub-project B07 (“Longitudinal and multimodal investigations of the modulation of fear- and anxiety-related processes by life adversity – predictive and buffering factors “) and Z02 (“Gene-environment interactions, neural circuits and generalization in dimensional endophenotypes of fear and anxiety in adults and children: development and reversibility”. Thereby, he has already related affective startle modulation in a large population well characterized to the exposure to recent and childhood adversity (in preparation).

    Google Scholar publication list

    FIS publication list

    PhD Students

    Rachel Sjouwerman

    Rachel joined the group as a PhD student in November 2015 to work on the DFG funded project “Systematic investigation of the experimental boundary conditions contributing to reinstatement of fear in humans”. She has been conducting behavioral studies on the role of contextual manipulations on conditioned responding ( link:https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26696855 ) and reinstatement-induced return of fear using skin conductance responses, fear potentiated startle as well as subjective ratings as dependent measures. Rachel has investigated the impact on procedural manipulations (ratings, startle probe presentation) on fear learning (link: https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27628268 ). In addition, she worked on an fMRI project investigating the impact of extreme scores in trait anxiety (high/low) on reinstatement-induced return of fear on a neural and behavioral level and on a second fRMI project on reinstatement (in preparation).

    Google Scholar publication list

    FIS publication list

    Claudia Immisch

    Claudia joined the group as a Phd student in December 2016 to work on the CRC TRR 58 (link: https://campus.uni-muenster.de/sfbtrr58/the-project/ ) sub-project B07 “Longitudinal and multimodal investigations of the modulation of fear- and anxiety-related processes by life adversity – predictive and buffering factors”.

    Link to research gate profile: https:// www.researchgate.net/profile/Claudia_Immisch

    Study Psychologist

    Karoline Rosenkranz

    Karoline joined us from the University of Göttingen as a study psychologist in December 2016 to support sub-project Z02 (Gene-environment interactions, neural circuits and generalization in dimensional endophenotypes of fear and anxiety in adults and children: development and reversibility ) of the CRC TRR 58 (link: https://campus.uni-muenster.de/sfbtrr58/the-project/ ) by recruiting a large group (N=500) of well-phenotyped participants within the framework of a multi-center data-collection within the CRC.


    Our group is supported by two physicians: Dr. Sarah Biedermann from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, and Dr. Johannes Fuß from the Department of Sex Research and Forensic Psychiatry. Both support projects within the framework of the CRC 58 and conduct research projects investigating patient samples (PTSD, panic patients), at-risk groups or healthy adults in experimental models of fear and anxiety using a variety of methods such as psychophysiology, structural and functional MRI and Virtual Reality.

    Sarah Biedermann: link: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sarah_Biedermann

    Johannes Fuß: link: https://scholar.google.de/citations?user=UchIMJ8AAAAJ&hl=de

    Master & Bachelor student

    Moritz Held (BA)

    Moritz‘ bachelor thesis will provide an inventory on different extinction recall indices in the literature as well as an empirical test on the impact of different defintions of extinciton recall indices on study outcome. The thesis is a collaboration project with Dr. Miguel Fullana (Barcelona).

    Research intern

    Alex MacRae-Korobkov from the University of Alberta (DAAD rise stipend, 05-08 2017) working primarily with Rachel Sjouwerman.

    Student assistents

    Moritz Held

    Janne Nold

    Kevin Rozario

    Stella Schmotz

    Saregül Subasi

    Josephine Wandt


    PhD Students

    Dr. Gaetan Mertens (visiting PhD student, University of Ghent, 2014)
    Dr. Robert Scharfenort (PhD student, 2013-2016)

    Study psychologists

    Dirk Schümann (study psychologist, 2013-2014)
    Laura Kürbitz (study psychologist, 2015)

    MA/BA students

    Maren Klingelhöfer-Jens (Master-thesis, 2017: Negative Affect, State Anxiety, and Return of Fear: A Multimethodological Renewal and Reinstatement Study in Humans)
    Insa Preuß (Master-thesis, 2016: Das Wiederauftreten von Furcht nach Reinstatement ?
    eine translationale Studie)
    Maike Möller (Master-thesis 2015: Neural and psychophysiological correlates of fear-conditioning dependent on the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism and life adversity)
    Johanna Niehaus (Bachelor-thesis, 2015: Contextual influences on return of fear through reinstatement and renewal in humans: A multimodal fear conditioning study)

    Research Internships

    Moritz Held (2016)
    Jana Hofacker (2015)
    Maike Möller (2015)
    Caren Nagel (2017)

    Student assistants

    Stefanie Faas
    Phillip Leja
    Lisa Wolff
    Insa Preuß
    Anne Wegner
    Johanna Niehaus

  • Topics

    fear conditioning, extinction and return of fear

    genetic association studies on fear conditioning, extinction and return of fear

    acute and chronic stress (e.g. life events)

    emotional attention


    We use a multidimensional approach including peripheral psychophysiological (skin conductance responses, fear potentiated startle), hormone measurements, Virtural-Reality as well as functional (fMRI) and structural (VBM, freesurfer) neuroimaging methods.

  • For a full publication list see:

    Google Scholar publication list

    UKE reasearch information system publication list

    Key publications (original work)

    Scharfenort, R. & Lonsdorf, T.B. Neural correlates of generalized and differential reinstatement. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (in press)

    Kuhn, M., Scharfenort, R., Schümann, D., Schiele, M., Münsterkötter, A.L., Domschke, K., Haaker, J., Kalisch, R., Pauli, P., Reif, A., Zwanzger, P. & Lonsdorf, T.B. Mismatch or allostatic load? Timing of life-adversity differentially shapes gray matter volume and anxious-temperament Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (in press)

    Lonsdorf, T.B.*, Haaker J* & Kalisch R. (2014)
    Long-term expression of human contextual fear and extinction memories involves amygdala, hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex: a reinstatement study in two independent samples.
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 9(12):1973-83.

    Haaker J., Gaburro S., Sah A., Gartmann N., Lonsdorf, T.B., Meier K., Singewald N., Pape H-C., Morellini F. * & Kalisch R..* (2013)
    A single dose of L-DOPA makes extinction memories context-independent and prevents the return of fear.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 110(26):E2428-36

    Lonsdorf, T.B., Weike A.I., Nikamo P., Schalling M., Hamm A.O., Ohman A. (2009)
    Genetic Gating of Human Fear Learning and Extinction: Possible Implications for Gene-Environment Interaction in Anxiety Disorder.
    Psychological Science, 20:198-206

    Key publications (review articles)

    Lonsdorf T.B. & Baas, JMP Genetics in experimental psychopathology: From laboratory models to clinical applications. Where do we go from here? Psychopathology Review (accepted)

    Haaker, J., Golkar, A., Hermans, D. & Lonsdorf, T.B. (2014) A review on human reinstatement studies: An overview and methodological challenges. Learning & Memory, 21(9):424-40. doi: 10.1101/lm.036053.11

    Lonsdorf, T.B. & Kalisch, (2011) R.: A review on genetic association studies of fear conditioning, extinction and exposure-based treatment Translational Psychiatry, 1:e41; e41:doi:10.1038/tp.2011.36.

  • National

    Prof. Dr. Alfons Hamm & Dr. Julia Wendt
    Physiologische & Klinische Psychologie, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald

    Prof. Dr. Raffael Kalisch
    Neuroimage Center Mainz, Universität Mainz

    Prof. Dr. Andreas Reif, Prof. Dr. Katharina Domschke & Prof. Dr. Jürgen Deckert
    Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie, Psychosomatik und Psychotherapie, Universitätsklinikum Würzburg

    PD Dr. Ingo Schäfer
    Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, UKE


    Prof. Dr. Jan De Houwer & Gaetan Mertens
    Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology Universität Ghent (Belgien)

    Assoc. Prof. Johanna Baas
    Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Utrecht (Belgien)

  • ProjekttitelDrittmittelgeberFörderzeitraumSumme (in Euro)
    Testing the mismatch hypothesis: Impact of life history, stress and serotonin on attention biases, fear conditioning and extinction (INST 211/633-1)DFG

    SFB TRR 58Teilprojekt B07
    Systematic investigation of the experimental boundary conditions contributing to reinstatement of fear in humans” (DFG LO 1980/1-1)DFG Einzelantrag11/2014-11/2017
    Reinstatement of fear in clinical and non-clinical populations (Nebenantragsteller: Mareike Düesberg & Ingo Schäfer)
    Forschungsförderungsfonds der Medizinischen Fakultät (FFM), Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf01-12/201545.774
    Wissenschafliches Netzwerk „Research network for the (European) Interdisciplinary study of Fear and Extinction Learning as well as the Return of Fear (EIFEL-ROF)“**(DFG LO 1980/2-1)DFG05/2015-05/2018
    Longitudinal and multimodal investigations of the modulation of fear- and anxiety-related processes by life adversity – predictive and buffering factors (INST 211/633-2)
    DFG SFB TRR 58Teilprojekt Z0207/2016-07/2020346.100
    Gene-environment interactions, neural circuits and generalization in dimensional endophenotypes of fear and anxiety in adults and children: development and reversibility (INST 211/438-4; mit K. Domschke, U. Lüken, U. Dannlowski, P. Pauli, R. Romanos & J. Deckert)DFGSFB TRR 58Teilprojekt Z0207/2016-07/2020904.700(HH: 210.700 Euro)

    Studien zur emotionalen Reaktivität

    Aufwandsentschädigung: Bis zu 350,-€

    Es handelt sich um zwei Studien. Wenn Sie für beide Studien eingeladen werden erhalten Sie bis zu 350€€. Die Studien umfassen u.a. eine Blutprobe zur Erhebung genetischer Daten (sog. Genotypisierung), Fragebogentestungen (sog. Phänotypisierung), psychophysiologische Testungen (z.B. Hautleitfähigkeit), ein Virtual Reality Experiment, sowie MRT-Aufzeichnungen.

    Sie sind:

    • körperlich und psychisch gesund.
    • zwischen 18 und 35 Jahre alt.
    • rechtshändig.
    • Sie sprechen und lesen fließend Deutsch,
    • Ihre Eltern und Großeltern sind in Deutschland geboren,
    • rauchen weniger als 20 Zigaretten pro Tag,
    • trinken weniger als 15 Gläser Alkohol die Woche,
    • konsumieren keine illegalen Drogen (auch Cannabis),
    • nehmen nicht regelmässig Medikamente ein (z.B. Schilddrüsenhormone),
    • sind bereits auch mindestens die nächsten 12 Monate für Studien zur Verfügung zu stehen (auch MRT),
    • haben nicht zwischen 2007 - 2012 an Lernstudie 1 oder zwischen 2013 - 2015 an Lernstudie 2 am Institut für Systemische Neurowissenschaften teilgenommen.
    • Sie sind absolut zuverlässig!

    Studie 1: Gen-Umwelt-Interaktionen und Generalisierung bei dimensionalen Endophänotypen von Furcht und Angst in Erwachsenen und Kindern: Entwicklung und Reversibilität
    Um das Auftreten von Angsterkrankungen von vornherein zu verhindern bzw. sie wirksamer behandeln zu können, ist es notwendig, die Entstehung von Angst besser zu verstehen. In dieser Studie möchten wir das Zusammenspiel von (epi)genetischen Faktoren, Umwelteinflüssen und Persönlichkeitsmerkmalen untersuchen.
    Die Studie beinhaltet eine Fragebogenbatterie, sowie eine Messung des Schreckreflexes bei der verschiedene Bilder und Töne am Computer präsentiert werden und ein Virtual Reality Experiment.
    Dauer: 4- 5 Stunden, Vergütung: 50€€

    Studie 2: Multimodale Untersuchung von Aufmerksamkeitsprozessen
    In dieser Studie sollen Zusammenhänge zwischen Persönlichkeitseigenschaften und Lernen mithilfe der fMRT erforscht werden. Die Studie beinhaltet 6 Termine in 3 Jahren, wobei 3 dieser Termine online von zu Hause aus absolviert werden können und 3 der Termine im MRT stattfinden.
    Bei den MRT Terminen finden an zwei aufeinander folgenden Tagen jeweils Untersuchungen statt, die an jedem der Tage maximal 2h dauern werden. Die Termine beinhalten Haar- und Speichelproben, Blutproben und Experimente im MRT.
    Die Vergütung erfolgt jeweils nach einem absolvierten Termin in bar.
    Dauer: 30 min- max. 2 Stunden pro Termin, Vergütung: bis zu 300€€ bei Teilnahme an allen Terminen

    Wenn Sie interessiert sind, schreiben Sie uns gerne eine Mail an lernstudie2@uke.de und geben unbedingt eine Telefonnummer, sowie Termine, die ihnen gut passen würden, an.
    Vielen Dank für Ihr Interesse!
    Dr. Tina Lonsdorf