SPECTRE – Study of Perceived Control and Resilience

Animal research has repeatedly shown that the experience of control over an aversive event can protect against the negative consequences of subsequent uncontrollable stress. Neurobiologically, this effect is thought to correspond to long-term changes in the connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the dorsal raphe nucleus. The vmPFC registers the ability to control stress and subsequently inhibits the stress response. Unfortunately, there is little translational research that has investigated this in humans. Based on the STORM study, in this project we adapt the paradigm for the induction of controllable and uncontrollable stress in order to apply it during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We aim to investigate the neural correlates of the experience of control over a stressor and test whether there are parallels to the results of animal research. We are therefore using fMRI to measure brain activation as a function of controllability, and we are also recording heart rate, pupil diameter, and various questionnaires on stress and mental health. Finally, we are interested in relationships between brain activation and subjective experience. Further results on this can make an important contribution to intervention measures to strengthen mental resilience.

Duration of study:
October 2016 to March 2020

Project C07 within the CRC 1193 „Neurobiology of Resilience“

Prof. Dr. Michèle Wessa (principal investigator),
Dr. Vanessa Scholz,
M.Sc. Laura Meine,
M.Sc. Katja Schüler