Methods and participating laboratories in the Research Priority Program


The Department of Clinical Psychophysiology has several psychophysiological laboratories. The range of methods includes EEG, cardiovascular measurements such as HRV and baroreflex sensitivity, pupillometry, affective and visceral-afferent modulation of the startle reflex, prepulse inhibition, eyeblink conditioning, facial infrared and blood flow measurements, triggering of stress via cold pressure test, stress reaction tests (choice reaction time , PASAT) or handgrip and pharmacological (PO or IV) interventions for stress and physiological arousal (adrenaline, yohimbine, cortisol, metyrapone, etc.). The focus of the department is stress research.


The JuKi Lab

The JuKi Lab (Clinical-Psychophysiological Laboratory for Children and Adolescents in German) of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy for Children and Adolescents (Leader: Prof. Tanja Hechler) specializes in an age-appropriate psychophysiological survey of children and adolescents in fundamental science and application-oriented studies. The range of methods includes, in addition to various electromyograms (EMGs), the recording of respiration, electrocardiogram (ECG, associated with heart rate variability (HRV)), electrodermal activity (EDA), blood pressure (BP) and the movement of the subjects. Of particular note is the possibility of capturing the child's startle reflex in the JuKi Lab. White noise (50 ms with 95 dB (A)) is used to elicit, measure and analyze an eyelid reflex of the ocular muscle (orbicularis oculi). The modulation of the startle reflex allows the degree of activation of the defensive system to be measured.



In the EEG laboratories of the Departments of General Psychology and Methodology (Leader: Prof. Frings) and Neuro-Cognitive Psychology (Leader: Jun-Prof. Dr. Kamp) the electrophysiological bases of attention and memory processes and their modulation by acute stress can be examined.

Psychophysiological measures (e.g., event-related potentials, brain oscillations, eye movements, pupil widths) can be investigated in various experimental paradigms of attention and memory research and correlated with effects of acute stress induction.

In psychophysiological studies, temporally high-resolution (e.g., event-related potentials) and dynamic (e.g., brain oscillations) effects of acute stress induction on attention and memory processes in the human brain can be examined.



In the Department of General Psychology and Methodology, the non-invasive method of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is used to investigate the influence of neuronal modulation on cognitive and stress-related processes in the brain. Direct current is applied via electrodes attached to the scalp, which modulates the cortical excitability of the stimulated brain regions. The laboratory is equipped with a 4-channel DC stimulator (version MC) from NeuroConn. This is approved as a medical product in Germany.



In the Department of General Psychology and Methodology, cortical effects of acute stress can be investigated using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The fNIRS method is a noninvasive method that, similarly to the fMRI technique, is based on analysis of the BOLD response in the brain. Differences in oxygen-rich and deoxygenated hemoglobin can be used to demonstrate the involvement of cortical brain regions in certain cognitive processes and to study the modulation of cortical activity by stress. The fNIRS method has the advantage of being a mobile system.


Ambulatory Assessment

The Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy of Children and Adolescents (Prof. Dr. Tanja Hechler) has a mobile laboratory (Mobi Lab) to address fundamental and application-oriented questions on chronic pain, interoception and emotional processes in infants, children and adolescents. In particular, for young children (4-6 years), the ambulatory assessment, consisting of the accelerometer Varioport-e from Becker Meditec, is used. This mobile device makes it possible to monitor young children in environments that are familiar to them, e.g. in kindergarten. The Varioport-e, which is very light and small with its dimensions of 65 x 43 x 17 mm and weight of 50 grams, has four AUX inputs for external preamplifiers (EMG, EOG, Eyeblink etc.) or sensors (movement, breathing, finger pulse, skin temperature, etc.). Due to the portability of the device, even paradigms in which the children have to move can be carried out without problems. 


Virtual Reality

The Virtual Reality (VR) method opens up new perspectives in the field of psychological research. VR refers to the representation and perception of reality and its physical properties in a real-time computer-generated, interactive, virtual environment. The aim of this VR method is to create an artificial environment that creates the illusion of actually being real. The user (s) can move and interact with this virtual world. Using a head-mounted display (HMD), the stereoscopic impression of a computer-generated virtual environment is conveyed on an LCD screen directly in front of the subject's eyes. In this virtual world, for example, objects can be touched and changed, or one can interact with virtual people (e.g., avatars). Thus, three-dimensional realistic experiences can be implemented while full experimental control is maintained. At the same time, visual, acoustic, vestibular, tactile and nociceptive sensory information can also be recorded. By using an HMD with tracking sensor, the viewing direction and movement of the viewer within the 3D world can be implemented in real time. For navigation and interaction, additional input devices are used. Unlike traditional experimental settings, the subject acts within the medium and their actions have an immediate effect.

Moreover, in addition to realistic settings, other settings that are highly useful for research but can only exist in VR, such as being in a room full of spiders or meeting a person bearing physical characteristics of their own person, can be realized.

The development of the VR-Laboratory in the Department of Psychology and continuing research is supported by a major grant from the DFG. The laboratory is led by Social Psychology and facilitates collaboration between the research groups from Social Psychology, General Psychology and Methodology, General Psychology: Cognition, Emotion, and Action Regulation, Developmental Psychology, Business Psychology and the Research Institute of Psychobiology: Clinical Psychophysiology).


Group lab

The Group Laboratory located at the ► Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology offers 18 computer workstations for group investigations of social decision-making and interaction processes. Adaptable configuration of workstations in the laboratory allows flexibility so that individual experiments can be run in parallel too. Combining game theoretic, behavioral economic experiments in groups with methods for stress induction and measurement, pharmacological and behavioral genetic methods as well as psychophysiological measures are basically possible in this setting.

The research focuses on the investigation of pro- and antisocial behavior, social attention and social performance. We investigate the association of these with different hormone systems and the relationship to acute psychosocial stress.



In the Biochemical Laboratory of the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology, analytes from blood, saliva and urine as well as from cell culture supernatants can be determined by various methods.

The following methods are available: Delayed fluorescence immunoassay (DELFIA), Luminescence immunoassay (LIA), Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), High-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Numerous hormones, enzymes and immune parameters can be determined using these methods, such as adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), alpha-amylase, cortisol, dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA or DHEA-S), ghrelin, melatonin, immunoglobulins, insulin, interferons, interleukins (IL-2, IL-6, ...), catecholamines, leptin, estradiol, progesterone, prolactin, PYY, testosterone, TNF and others.


Molecular Genetics

The Molecular Genetics Laboratory of the Department of Neurobehavioral Genetics of the Research Institute of Psychobiology has advanced facilities for performing genetic, epigenetic and gene expression studies.

The portfolio ranges from "classical" genotyping using RFLPs and gel electrophoresis to melting curve analysis on a PikoReal ™ 96 Real-Time PCR system in case-control association studies. Quantitative PCRs (Real-Time PCR) and automated sequencing and fragment length determinations using the Beckman Coulter Genetic Analyzer CEQ-8000 are established in the laboratory. Chip-based genotyping and exome sequencing, where very large amounts of data are generated, can be performed and evaluated in cooperation with external cooperation partners. The laboratory has a Picodrop Microliter UV / Vis Spectrophotometer for analysis of the smallest amounts of DNA and RNA. For cloning and propagation of plasmids in Escherichia coli bacteria as part of functional gene analysis, the laboratory has S1 safety status. A luminometer for performing reporter gene assays, such as luciferase assays to determine the functionality of genetic promoter variants, is also available.