Team Mind-Body Interface

Patients with mental disorders often report somatic symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, itching, tinnitus, and hyperventilation, that most of the time cannot be attributed to an underlying medical condition. These somatic symptoms can have a major impact on daily life and there is often a lack of effective treatments. This team aims to unravel specific risk and resilience factors for somatic symptoms and to answer questions such as: Which mechanisms trigger and affect these symptoms (from cognitive and behavioural to neurobiological mechanisms)? The focus is on expectancy and avoidance learning (to influence thoughts such as ‘My symptoms will worsen’ or ‘I better stop working for a while’), because of their crucial role in the maintenance of somatic symptoms. The aim is to understand the precise role of expectancy and avoidance learning in the transition from an acute to a chronic condition involving both somatic and psychological symptoms. 

Building on the pioneering work already conducted in this area by the team members, the Mind-Body Interface team will study the efficacy of different expectancy and avoidance learning manipulations, such as verbal suggestions, imagery and conditioning in healthy volunteers and in patients with various somatic symptoms. Can positive expectancy inductions in the acute phase of somatic symptoms mitigate the risk of symptoms persisting? And what conditions increase or decrease avoidance behaviour? How can treatment to overcome avoidance behaviour be optimised?  

Principal Investigator
Team members
PhD candidate