Principal Investigator (PI)

Dr. Veronika Engert
Dr. Veronika Engert
Research group leader
Phone: +49 341 9940-2684

Further Information

ReSource Project

The ReSource Project is a unique, large-scale study on Eastern and Western methods of mental training.  Over a period of eleven months, participants practice a wide range of mental exercises that are designed to enhance attentional control, body- and self-awareness, healthy emotion regulation, self-care, compassion, empathy, and perspective taking. Overall, the aim of the training is to improve mental health and social skills. It may reduce stress, improve mental clarity, increase life satisfaction, and lead to a better understanding of others’ views, values and actions. [more]
Another important focus of the Department of Social Neuroscience is on the plasticity of the social brain and the investigation of trainability of socio-affective functions.

Plasticity of the Social Brain

Another important focus of the Department of Social Neuroscience is on the plasticity of the social brain and the investigation of trainability of socio-affective functions. [more]

Department of Social Neuroscience

Social Stress Lab

Psychosocial stress is a major public health burden in modern societies. While ancient stressors such as threat to physical integrity and physical hardship are less prevalent than ever, it is the human tendency to mount a stress response for psychosocial reasons that has led to chronic stress exposure in our society.

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Therefore, the study of stress reactivity in the social context, and, alternatively, how social factors can be used to decrease stress reactivity, is an important focus of the Department of Social Neuroscience. The Social Stress Lab is headed by Dr. Veronika Engert.

We are particularly interested in three topics: How early life experience shapes our stress system throughout lifetime (development), how acute stress reactivity influences our cognitions, emotions and behavior (consequence), and how we can learn to protect ourselves from the toxic effects of stress (resistance).

In recent studies we could show that a physiological stress response is not just experienced by those that are directly affected by the stressor: it can be contagious. While we are most affected by the stress of our loved ones, we can also catch the stress response of a total stranger or somebody we are watching on a video screen. Currently, we study how the mental training of attentional, socio-affective and socio-cognitive abilities in the context of a 9-month longitudinal training study, the ReSource Project, can buffer psychosocial stress reactivity.

To address our questions, we use a multi-method approach, employing a wide range of measures (e.g. endocrine, autonomic, immune, subjective-psychological stress markers) and methods (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging, thermal infrared imaging), both in the field and the laboratory, allowing us to probe the stress system on different levels and under different conditions.

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Selected Publications:

Engert, V., Koester, A.M., Riepenhausen, Singer, T. Boosting recovery rather than buffering reactivity: Higher stress-induced oxytocin secretion is associated with increased cortisol reactivity and faster vagal recovery after acute psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 74, 11-120.

Engert, V., Steinbeis, N., Linz, R., Singer, T. (2015). The effects of stress and affiliation on social decision-making: Investigating the tend-and-befriend pattern in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 62, 138-148.

Engert, V., Smallwood, J., Singer, T. (2014). Mind your thoughts: Associations between self-generated thoughts and stress-induced and baseline levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase. Biological Psychology,103, 283-91.

Engert, V., Merla, A., Grant, J.A., Cardone, D., Tusche, A., Singer, T. (2014). Exploring the use of thermal infrared imaging in human stress research. PLoS One, 9:e90782.

Engert, V., Plessow, F., Miller, R., Kirschbaum, C., Singer, T. (2014). Cortisol increase in empathic stress is modulated by emotional closeness and observation modality. Psychoneuroendocrinology,45, 192-201.

 
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