Our aim is to evaluate physiological readouts for affective processes that are relevant to psychiatric disorders. The emphasis lies on stressing the system in order to see whether it dysfunctions, which typically requires a task such as playing loud sounds or administering mild electric shocks during on-screen picture viewing. Among the readouts are startle electromyography which is measured with electrodes on the muscle surrounding the eye (orbicularis oculi), heart rate as measured with pulse oximetry, the galvanic skin response measured on the fingers and eye tracking with a high-speed camera for gaze direction and pupil size measurements (Fig.).

The tracking of the eye provides valuable data about the pupil fluctuations during rest or the response to particular stimuli (upper panels). Electromyography (EMG) measures the eye blink response to loud sounds (lower panels).

A further aim is to examine such psychophysiological readouts in the MR scanner, and to investigate the correlations between physiological responses and brain activity (and connectivity) as measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). With this line of research, we evaluate the neural circuitry associated with physiological responses during a task and during rest – and whether the so-called ‘resting state’ is really a resting state.

Measurements of subjects and patients take place in the Psychophysiology Laboratory and in the MR-scanner, also as part of the project Biological Classification Of Mental Disorders (BeCOME).

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