Other mental disorders and transdiagnostic approaches

Further development of the transdiagnostic psychodynamic online self-help "Using the power of your emotions" (KEN-Online)

Emotions influence our experience and behavior. They are an essential guideline for decision making and can help to communicate needs openly. In turn, suppressed emotions can lead to a variety of physical and psychological problems, which is why the perception, recognition of meaning and communication of emotions play an important role in mental illness. The online self-help program "Using the power of your emotions" (KEN) addresses exactly this problem. It was developed by scientists at the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine of the University Medical Center Mainz on the basis of the successful American self-help book "Living like you mean it" by J. Frederick, in order to make it easier for participants to deal with their own emotions in the context of a mental illness. With the help of the online self-help program, the participants learn more about their emotions, where they come from and how they can communicate them adequately to others.

The goal of the current project is to further develop the already existing online self-help program KEN-Online. The main focus here is on improving user-friendliness. The program is to be made more attractive and easier to use by revising its content and design. The development process is based on regular scientific surveys on the general attitude of the participants towards online interventions and their willingness to participate in KEN-Online as a blended-treatment approach in inpatient and day-care psychotherapy.

Inclusion criteria:

  • Patients in inpatient and day-care psychotherapeutic treatment
  • Informed consent

Exclusion criteria:

  • No private internet access

German project homepage


Optimization of the online aftercare GSA-Online plus through the development and evaluation of a supplementary module for individualized return to work planning (RTW-Plan)

After their stay in a rehabilitation clinic, rehabilitation patients are faced with the transition to everyday life and to their jobs. In practice, difficulties often arise concerning the transfer of developed possibilities for change and action plans into everyday life and work. This is especially true for rehabilitation patients who, due to their work-related problems, require more complex planning for their return to work. For various reasons, some rehabilitation patients do not receive sufficient professional support on their return to work (RTW).

RTW-Plan is an innovative internet-based approach to rehabilitation aftercare that focuses on planning, monitoring, feedback and support for the return to work. This could be particularly helpful for people who need support in the sense of structuring assistance. If necessary, RTW-Plan can be combined with the already successfully evaluated online aftercare program GSA (Healthy and Stress-Free at Work)-Online plus. With GSA-Online plus, rehabilitants from different indication areas, where psychological stress is present or conflicts are expected when returning to work, can use psychotherapeutically oriented aftercare. This should result in a graduated offer at the end of the project, which supports the return to work on the basis of different needs. In the context of the present study, the offer will be used and evaluated in several cooperation clinics of the German Pension Insurance Association.

Inclusion criteria:

  • Rehabilitation patients with different indications, who would like to return to work after a stay in a rehabilitation clinic
  • Private undisturbed internet access via smartphone
  • Modern smartphone for their personal use only

Exclusion criteria:

  • Negative prognosis of work ability (less than 6 hours in the general labour market)
  • No or delayed (by two weeks or more) return to work

Exploring Relaxation and Stress Immunization in virtual Environments (VR)

Virtual reality (VR) environments and head-mounted devices (HMD) for immersive experiences are not new. However, the technological progress with HMDs for a broader target group has developed rapidly within a short period of time. Strong competition between providers leads to reduced prices on the markets, improves the quality of devices with high definition (HD) resolutions, and a more suitable comfort for everyday usage. Many applications from various providers are entering the markets and App-Stores; some promise health benefits without having scientifically proven evidence. So far, research mainly examined patient populations applying virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET). In particular for specific phobias, panic disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). However, there is not much empirical psychophysiological data available on healthy individuals using HMDs for virtual environments, the possible adaption process of repeated application, neurological impacts of this immersive stimulus (visual/audio), or health promoting effects of VR interventions. Thus, the aim is to investigate effects of standardized repeated VR exposure on stress reactivity and relaxation in healthy adults to promote effective stress resilience training.

Inclusion criteria:

  • male, between 18 and 35 years
  • no psychological disorder
  • no acute or chronic disease (e. g. diabetes)
  • no intake of psychotropic drugs
  • No application of cortisone containing products (e. g. asthma inhalator or cortisone lotions)
  • No recent shots (within past two weeks before testing)
  • Low or no cigarette consumption < =9 cigarettes/ day
  • Body Mass Index <27 kg / m²
  • Agreement to give salivary samples
  • Agreement to measure the heart frequency via mobile 2-channel ECG
  • Agreement to measure galvanic skin response
  • Agreement to apply virtual reality intervention (visual/acoustics)

Exclusion criteria:

  • Cognitive problems that prevent to give consent to participate
  • Diagnosis of Epilepsy, dementia, or other neurological diseases that prevent a VR hard-/software application
  • Certain vision aid that prevent a clear VR exposition (exceptions are low diopter values between -1.0/+1.0, contacts or glasses that still allow wearing the VR goggles comfortably).
  • High sensibility again blinking light or movements (e. g. epilepsy)
  • Recent stroke attack
  • Cardiovascular, lung or blood diseases
  • Transplant patient
  • Patient with respirator or other respiration apparatus/breathing assisting devices
  • Recent eye, face, head or neck injury that would prevent a comfortable usage of the VR goggles
  • No proficient German knowledge

Project homepage

Effects of metabolic state on sensory gating and attention processes

Neuroscientific studies suggest an interaction between metabolic state and excitatory synaptic transmission in the brain, which may be of high relevance for treatment of psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. Animal data show that enhanced synaptic levels in lysophosphatic acid (LPA), a bioactive phospholipid, increase cortical microcircuit activity, reduce sensory gating and impair resilience during stress-related behaviors (Vogt et al. EMBO Mol Med [2016] 8: 25–38). Here we study the role of fatty acid metabolism (LPA) during fasting on cortical excitability, sensory gating and attention processes in healthy volunteers. The aim of the study is the identification of system-level mechanisms of psychiatric diseases which are amenable to pharmacological modulation of bioactive lipid signaling or dietary interventions.

LifeStress Study

The aim of the LifeStress study is the investigation of daily life stressors, so called microstressors or daily hassles in relationship to mental processes as well as cardiological parameters. To capture longitudinal processes and fluctuations over time, healthy participants take part in up to four EMA (ecological momentary assessment) measurement weeks with a time interval of 6 months respectively. EMA takes part on 7 consecutive days directly in the daily life of the participants via smartphone surveys. In the EMA surveys participants are asked to report the occurrence and perceived strain of microstressors as well as other behaviors and affective states such as their momentary affect and the use of emotion regulation strategies. During the EMA period participants wear an ecg chest belt to constantly measure cardiological variations (e.g., heart rate and hear rate variability). At the beginning and end of the EMA week a short baseline assessment of self-report questionnaires (e.g. mental health) takes place in the lab.

Inclusion criteria:

  • aged between 18 and 65 years
  • participant of LORA or MARP study
  • adequate knowledge of german language
  • familiar with the use of a smartphone
  • no disabilities that contradict the usage of a smartphone (e.g., uncorrected visual disturbances)
  • average alcohol consumption of less than 15 standard glasses of alcohol, no illegal drugs

Exclusion criteria

  • no everyday life during the EMA week (e.g., vacation)
  • mental, neurological or cardiological disorders or medication intake due to one of such diseases

CARROT - Correlates and moderators of resilience: the role of eating behaviors and diet

The CARROT-study is a state-of-art and modern ambulatory survey (EMA= ecological momentary assessment), which investigates the relationship between stress and dietary behavior. In addition to psychological factors, we are interested in underlying physiological processes, e.g. variabilities in blood glucose or heart rate. The survey will be administered on 10 consecutive days, directly in the everyday life of the subjects. For this purpose, subjects receive a smartphone with which they record their dietary behavior at six random prompts per day and answer a few short questions about their affect. In addition, we record the heart rate with a small ECG-chest strap. The blood glucose level will be recorded by a continuous glucose monitoring system (Dexcom Mobile G6). Ultimately, the CARROT-study will determine factors of key health behavior that contribute to an active and healthy lifestyle as well as mental and physical health.

Inclusion criteria:

18-65 years as well as knowledge of the operation of a smartphone and sufficient spoken and written German language skills. Furthermore 18 ≤ BMI ≤ 25.

Exclusion criteria:

Diagnosed eating disorder, diabetes or other mental, neurological or cardiovascular diseases in the medical history or use of medication due to such diseases (according to self-disclosure of the potential subject). Furthermore, use of narcotics, absence of an informed consent and a positive pregnancy test.

For further information, please contact our site staff:

Dr. Mareike Ernst, Telephone number: 06131-17-7649,


get in touch with us via our general e-mail address:

University Medical Center Mainz
Study Center for Clinical Trials in Mental Disorders
Untere Zahlbacher Str. 8
55131 Mainz