Systems neuropharmacology of aversive learning
Our research focuses on neurotransmitter systems involved in aversive learning. In particular, we investigate how neurotransmitters such as Dopamine, Opioids and Cannabinoids contribute to emotional states of fear and anxiety. Moreover, we try to understand how these neurotransmitters influence the dynamics of learned fear and their impact on models of behavioural treatment of anxiety related disorders.
We employ basic learning paradigms such as classical conditioning, which enables translational neuroscientific research across species. To draw inferences on the neuropharmacological systems involved in these basic aversive learning processes, we combine pharmacological neuroimaging (fMRI) methods with psychophysiological measurements of threat responses.
I studied psychology at the Westfälische-Wilhelms Universität in Münster and obtained my PhD in neuroscience at the Department of Systems Neuroscience at the Medical University Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.
During my PhD I worked on applied basic research in respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). More precisely, I investigated how the chronic experience of breathlessness (dyspnea) impacts brain structure and function in patients with COPD and how brain changes interplay with disease-specific characteristics (e.g., disease-specific fears, depression, anxiety, physical condition). I also examined the neural processing of dyspnea in healthy individuals mainly focused on the interaction between psychological factors such as affective states, personality traits but also genetics.
In December 2016 I joined the group on Systems Neuropharmacology Research as a Postdoc to work on the SFB-TRR58 (link:https://campus.uni-muenster.de/sfbtrr58/the-project/ ) sub-project B10. This project investigates the neuropharmacological mechanisms of the dopaminergic and the endocannabinoid neurostransmitter system on extinction learning processes. The major aim is to delineate the separate effect of the two transmitter systems as well as their interaction within the neural circuits mediating extinction learning and retrieval.