Somatic Consequences

Research Focus B blends into C, in consideration of the interface of somatic and psychiatric symptomatology (C1). Since ACE increase the vulnerability for several frequent somatic disorders or conditions, this research focus involves mechanisms of diabetes (C2), inflammatory bowel diseases (C3), and chronic pain (C4). ACE may also affect the experience of regular somatic conditions, such as child birth and labor (C5). Projects with main research focus C will retrospectively assess ACE and are interested in somatic and neurobiological, but also psychosocial markers. One study also uses an animal model to examine the consequences of ACE-related alterations experimentally in a controlled environment (C4). Research focus B and C will make use of a central recruitment of study participants, which has been successfully established in KFO 256.

Comorbidities (C1)

Shared and Diagnosis-Specific Alterations of Functional Domains in Highly Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders Related to ACE

Adult patients with an ACE history show particularly high degrees of comorbidity of psychiatric disorders. The planned doctoral projects will investigate psychological and brain mechanisms that identify the negative functional impacts of ACE in MDD, PTSD, and somatic symptom disorder (SSD), i.e., disorders with particularly high prevalence in the sequelae of ACE and high comorbidities among each other. The aim is the identification of ACE-related shared and distinct alterations of functional domains across diagnostic groups. The role of type and intensity of ACE in the emergence of specific mental disorders and the mechanisms affected will be examined.

Principal Investigator: S.C. Herpertz, Co-Principal Investigator: K. Bertsch

Obesity & Diabetes (C2)

Childhood Escape – Late Life Risk for Obesity and Diabetes

The planned doctoral projects will examine the association between childhood escape from East Prussia in World War II (WW II) and late-life health-related outcomes. Since ACE have been related to an increased risk for obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2 (DM2), MDD, and dysregulation of the HPA system, we will study the prevalence of these phenotypes in elderly participants who experienced ACE, either individually (WW II East Prussia refugees) or trans-generationally (mother was WW II refugee). Since the effects of early life stress as well as parents’ stress have been related to changes in DNA methylation, we will study methylation patterns on a candidate gene basis.

Principal Investigators: Michael Deuschle, Hans-Peter Hammes, Co-Principal Investigator: Stephanie Witt

Inflammatory Bowel Deseases (C3)

ACE and Biological and Psychobiological Markers of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

ACE take place during a critical phase for the immune system and the intestinal microbiota and may therefore contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) later on in life. Altered cognitive processing such as stronger emotional responding as well as the formation of a dysfunctional illness-identity have been discussed but hardly examined in relation to ACE and IBD. To do so, the planned doctoral projects will examine alterations in disease-relevant biological systems (mucosal immune system, intestinal microbiota) and psychobiological processes in the context of ACE and evaluate the differential effects of psychosocial interventions on objective and subjective markers of IBD.

Principal Investigator: S. Lis, Co-Principal Investigator: W. Reindl

Back Pain (C4)

The Impact of Early Social Adversity on the Development of Myofascial Low Back Pain – an Animal Experimental Study

Stress is known to induce or enhance chronic low-back pain. Recent animal experiments indicate that stress itself is able to sensitize nociceptive neurons in the spinal cord. The planned doctoral projects will investigate and compare the impact of ESA and stress on the sensitization process of these neurons in an animal model of myofascial low back pain. Furthermore, experimental interventions will be performed to neutralise or reduce the impact of ESA and stress on the sensitization process of spinal cord dorsal horn neurons.

Principal Investigator: R.-D. Treede, Co-Principal Investigator: R. Spanagel

Childbirth & Labor Pain (C5)

The Role of ACE for Prenatal Distress, Childbirth Experience and Labor Pain

ACE have been postulated to be associated with alterations in reproductive traits, prenatal maternal distress, childbirth experience, and labor pain as well as pregnancy outcome. However, the evidence is weak, since the number of published studies is limited and study collectives are small, and the influence of type and timing of ACE has hardly been considered. Psychosocial factors may modulate the impact of ACE and should be studied in more detail to develop powerful interventions. The planned doctoral projects will address the influence of type and timing of ACE on the outcomes mentioned above and their modulation by psychosocial factors. Finally, they will search for interventions to minimise adverse effects of ACE on birth experience and discomforts of labor.

Principal Investigator: M. Sütterlin, Co-Principal Investigator: R.-D. Treede