Terry D. Blumenthal


»What we know (and do not know) about prepulse inhibition of startle«


The startle reflex is a phylogenetically old and very sensitive constellation of responses that serve both defensive and interruptive properties. Startle can be measured in a range of animal models, and in humans across the lifespan. This response is very sensitive to variations in stimulus and situational parameters, personality characteristics, clinical diagnoses, and pharmacological, social, and cognitive situations. One intriguing property of startle is the fact that it can be profoundly inhibited by the presentation of an otherwise innocuous stimulus, called a prepulse, shortly before the startle stimulus. This prepulse inhibition (PPI) of startle is a very reliable and robust effect, attenuating the startle response completely in many cases. PPI can vary based on a multitude of stimulus, situation, and person parameters, and some of those factors will be discussed in this presentation. Information about the sensitivity and utility of PPI will also be provided, suggesting applications in a variety of areas in psychology and neuroscience. An effort will also be made to correct some misconceptions about PPI, and to point toward future developments in the application of this exceedingly sensitive and useful measure.

short CV:
B.Sc. (Specialization in Psychology), 1979; University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
M.S. (Psychology), 1982; University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Ph.D. (Psychology), 1985; University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Published manuscripts from 1986 – 2016, in 40 different journals.
Conference presentations from 1982 – 2016 at conferences of 33 different scientific societies.
Colloquia and Invited Talks presented at Colleges and Universities in Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.
Ad-Hoc Reviewer of manuscripts for over 60 different journals.
Mentor for dozens of graduate and undergraduate thesis projects.
Past-President of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.


Herta Flor

 FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 2017

»Learning, memory and brain plasticity: implications for behavior change«


We propose that learning and memory processes and associated maladaptive plastic brain changes play a special role in the development of mental disorders and specifically chronic pain. The major problem may be the inability of aversive memory extinction with both explicit and implicit memory processes being involved. The dominant psychological treatments are currently cognitive-behavioral. However, this training mainly focuses on the reduction of life interference and the establishment of cognitive coping skills. Given the evidence of the importance of memory processes in psychopathology, brain-based extinction and sensorimotor trainings have been proposed as alternative and more mechanism-oriented treatments for both emotional and sensory disorders, which can be enhanced by pharmacological interventions that target extinction. If subjects can be trained to control the level of brain activation in localized regions, this has implications for the extent to which top-down processes can regulate peripheral activation such as muscle force and this also alters body perception. These principles can be transferred to the treatment  of immobility after injury  and in chronic disorders as well as to  processes of pathological aging such as frailty or dementia. Here we test sensorimotor interventions in motivational virtual reality and gaming environments.

Supported by SFB636 on psychopathology, SFB1158 on pain and a Reinhart-Koselleck grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

short CV:
1983 – 1984 Ph.D. University of Tübingen
1983 – 1984 Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
1987 Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry,Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1990 habilitation (second book) at University of Tübingen1991 – 1993 Heisenberg grant
1993 – 2000 Professor for Clinical Psychology, Humboldt-University Berlin
since 2000 Scientific Director, Institute of Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychology, Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and Professor for Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychology, Medical faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University


Jens C. Prüßner


»Bidirectional effects of early life adversity on stress system regulation – in search for a comprehensive theory«


Early life adversity (ELA), in the form of low parental care or overprotection, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, is consistently linked to poor mental health outcomes in adulthood, including psychosis, depression, and burnout. A generally agreed-upon mediator of these effects is a changed regulation of the stress /energy systems in the organism, namely the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (hpa) axis. Investigated in both human and animal studies, these systems are consistently found dysregulated in organisms exposed to ELA, however the directionality is unclear, with some studies demonstrating heightened activity, while others show blunting of the biomarkers of the system, after exposure to adversity early in life.

Several theories exist that try and explain these mixed effects, considering factors like age of exposure, trauma severity, duration, or type. Importantly, none of the theories can be used to explain all of the available data, suggesting that additional factors / mediators might be at play.

The current talk will summarize the major theories in the field and point out some of the commonalities and differences among them. In addition, it will introduce potential mediators that are currently not incorporated in the theories but that might be important to consider to better understand the ELA / stress response system relationship.

short CV:
Ph.D. 1997 in Trier
PostDoc 1998-2002 Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal, QC, Canada & Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany
Professor (tenure track) 2003 McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Professor (tenured) 2008 McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Professor, Lehrstuhl Klinische Neuropsychologie 2016 Universität Konstanz
over 200 publications, thereof one book, more than ten book chapters, h-index 55, Winner young investigator award ISPNE, CCNP