Visual Universitätsmedizin Mainz

Clinical stress and resilience research

Principal investigator

Prof. Dr. Katja Petrowski


Habituation or sensitivation as a possible resilience mechanism and vulnerability mechanism

According to the TK Stress Study 2016, increasing stress is responsible for increasing sick days (> 15 sick days per person and year). Fatigue is cited as the second most common cause of chronic complaints. Everyone is exposed to stress in their everyday life. Some stressors occur repeatedly or even regularly (illnesses, conflicts in work or private life, etc.). In order to stay mentally and physically healthy, it is necessary to adapt to these stressors in such a way that they are not a regular burden. Some people manage this habituation to stressful events, whereas other people react more intensely to repeated confrontation (sensitization) and are thus at risk of developing stress-related illnesses. The question arises as to which factors have an influence on whether someone shows habituation or sensitization to a repeated stressor. In this study with within-subject design, examinations on the habituation or sensitization of the hormonal stress load to repeated stressors are examined on healthy test persons. The stress parameters are recorded before and after repeated physiological stressors (electrodermal stimulation).

Inclusion criteria:

  •  Healthy persons between the ages of 18 and 65

  • without chronic and acute illnesses

Exclusion criteria:

  • chronic diseases (metabolic diseases, autoimmune diseases, heart diseases, blood diseases)
    endocrinological disease

  • Obesity according to ICD 10

  • mental illness

  • acute illnesses or infections

  • Taking psychotropic drugs

  • Taking cortisone supplements

  • Nicotine consumption> 10 cigarettes / day

Air pollution and stress resilience in a representative study of Germany

Recently, there has been a growing debate on the role of the physical environment and mental health. The relevance of gaining more insights on what constitute risk and protective factors for mental health seems to be more important now than ever. This study investigates the physical environmental factor air pollution measured by particulate matter of particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 µm (PM10) with and effects on mental health and well-being factors (life satisfaction, stress resilience, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem). A nationally representative face- to-face household survey was conducted. The representative German sample with an age range between 18 to 92 years is used. Addresses were selected according to the random route procedure. Of the 8,398 addresses selected, 8,106 proved valid. A total of 5,036 persons agreed to participate, provided verbal in- formed consent, and completed the study questionnaires. The response rate among those individuals who were asked to participate by the interviewers was 72.9%. Considering that Germany is still not reaching the WHO air quality standards - poor air quality may affect a large proportion of Germans.

For further trials, see webpage of the SPE

  • Effects of heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback on HRV and immune response in patients with panic disorder
  • Exposure therapy for patients with agoraphobia with an innovative 360° real life virtual reality-technique
  • Comparison of the habituation processes between healthy people and patients with social phobia before and after exposure treatment
  • Comparison of the chewing behaviour of patients suffering from obesity and healthy participants under resting and stress conditions
  • Cumulative hair cortisol before a traffic accident with traumatic brain injury as a predictor for the development and course of trauma-related disorders