Creating the Future

Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary project

Stress & Epige­net­ics: How Fishes Contribute to the Treat­ment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Hector Fellows Axel Meyer and Thomas Elbert work in a joint inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research project inves­ti­gat­ing the epige­netic effects of stress.

Prof. Dr. Axel Meyer (Univer­sity of Konstanz) is one of the pioneers in the field of evolu­tion­ary biology. Together with postdoc Dr. Amber Makow­icz, he tests the effects of stress on long-lasting maladap­tive behav­ioral changes in offspring of stressed parents on the model of Poeciliid fishes. Prof. Dr. Thomas Elbert (Univer­sity of Konstanz) is a renowned profes­sor for clini­cal psychol­ogy and neuropsy­chol­ogy. He inves­ti­gates the conse­quences of traumatic stress and the psycho­log­i­cal genesis of the readi­ness to use violence and kill. Together with PhD student Daniela Conrad he builds on the findings of the research with fish to system­at­i­cally inves­ti­gate genetic pathways influ­enc­ing posttrau­matic stress disor­der (PTSD) in humans. They explore if epige­netic methy­la­tion in these pathways predicts treat­ment success with a trauma-focused approach (Narra­tive Exposure Therapy, NET) and whether it might change in the course or after­math of thera­peu­tic interventions.

Combin­ing these two disci­plines and perspec­tives allows the researchers to gain valuable new insights into epige­netic effects of stress and to contribute to the devel­op­ment of success­ful therapy approaches that are tailored to the patients’ genetic and epige­netic charac­ter­is­tics. This topic is currently of partic­u­larly high impor­tance as many refugees suffer from mental and physi­cal ailments caused by traumatic experi­ences at war and while fleeing from their homelands.

The project is funded by the Hector Fellow Academy. This young science academy is an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary network for top-level research and fosters cutting-edge research across insti­tu­tions and research fields. The Hector Fellow Academy nurtures innov­a­tive inter­dis­ci­pli­nary projects between renowned profes­sors of differ­ent STEM subjects (Science, Technol­ogy, Engineer­ing, and Mathe­mat­ics) as well as medicine and psychol­ogy. Besides, the academy promotes young scien­tists. It offers fully-funded PhD positions for ambitious candi­dates who carry out a self-devel­oped research project. By bring­ing together outstand­ing scien­tists across insti­tu­tions and scien­tific disci­plines, the Hector Fellow Academy creates impulses for innov­a­tive projects, initi­ates socio-polit­i­cal discourses and contributes to solving global challenges. At the same time, it strength­ens Germany’s position as a location for science.

Date 21.03.2016
Tags Video; Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Projects; Psychol­ogy; Biology;