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.
GABAergic and noradrenergic Trnasmission in social learning. Esser et al. Behavior, Research and Therapy 2020
Opioid regulation of social learning of threats. Haaker et al. Nature Communications 2017
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.
Observational learning invovles neural responses in the spinal cord. Tinnermann et al. Science Advances 2021
The laboratory protocol for social threat learning. Haaker, Golkar, Selbing et al. Nature Protocols 2017
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 .
Review: How can we translate fear conditioning models between rodents and humans? Haaker et al. Neuroscience & Biobehavioural Reviews 2019
Review: return of fear & reinstatement Learning&Memory 2015
Neural responses during the return of fear & Reinstatement SCAN 2014