what we do

Fear and anxiety are a central part of our emotional world. Our research group aims to understand how fear is transmitted by neuropharmacological means, direct experiences and social information. To reach this goal, we use laboratory models of aversive learning in humans that map out how we learn about dangers in the environment and how we adaptively learn safety and overcome fears. To draw inferences on neurobiological processes, we examine neural responses (fMRI), together with psychophysiological signals (e.g. Skin-conductance and Eye-blink startle reflex) in humans.

Neuropharmacology of social learning

What are the neurochemical substrates that enable to transmit information from one person to another? We examine neuropharmacological systems that are involved in social learning by observation of others.

Social learning of threats

We often learn by observation of others what is dangerous in our environment. Our group examines the neurotransmitter systems that regulate how we learn fear responses by social information. We employ a laboratory model to probe transmission of threats by observation of others.

Neurotransmitter systems to augment extinction of fear

How we can overcome fears by learning to be safe? And which neurotransmitter can agument safety learning to combat fear?

  • Dopamine-mediated actvity in the vmPFC, Nucleus Accumbens and VTA during extinction learning. Esser et al. bioRvix 2020

  • Dopaminergic augmentation of safety learning Haaker et al. PNAS 2013

  • Project B10 within the Collaborative Research Center (SFB TRR58)

Translational models of fear and anxiety ​

We are curious how we learn to anticipate aversive experiences (e.g. pain) and respond with fear. To reach this goal, we use laboratory models of aversive learning and return of fear in humans .