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Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Herta Flor

Learning / memory and neuronal plasticity, clinical applications

Our research focuses on the interaction of brain and behavior, in particular the question how behavior and experience influence neural processes and how neural processes alter behavior and experience. A special focus is on the role of implicit learning and memory processes in the development and maintenance of mental and psychophysiological disorders such as chronic pain, anxiety disorders or pathological aging.

This includes experimental psychological approaches, neuropsychological testing, peripheral physiological assessments as well as structural and functional brain imaging and brain stimulation methods. In addition, treatment approaches using behavioral and combined pharmacological-behavioral treatments are developed and examined. These include extinction training, sensory discrimination training, applications in augmented and virtual reality, neurofeedback and brain computer interfaces.

Legend: A Functional magnetic resonance imaging (neuro)feedback protocol, B Virtual reality mirror box system for use during functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess illusion-related brain activations (left: Outside view of the goggles and data glove, right: Subjects’ view of the virtual environment in the goggles), C Brain responses to heat pain stimulation at high field (7 Tesla) magnetic resonance imaging.

Selection of recent publications

  1. Wicking M, Steiger F, Nees F, Diener SJ, Grimm O, Ruttorf M, Schad L, Winkelmann T, Wirtz G, & Flor H. Deficient fear extinction memory in posttraumatic stress disorder. Neurobiol Learn Mem 2016; 136:116-126.
  2. Baeuchl C, Meyer P, Hoppstädter M, Diener C, & Flor H. Contextual fear conditioning in humans using feature-identical contexts. Neurobiol Learn Mem 2015; 121:1-11.
  3. Hoppstadter M, Baeuchl C, Diener C, Flor H*, Meyer P*. Simultaneous EEG-fMRI reveals brain networks underlying recognition memory ERP old/new effects. Neuroimage 2015; 116: 112-22. *shared last authorship
  4. Rance M, Ruttorf M, Nees F, Schad LR, Flor H. Real time fMRI feedback of the anterior cingulate and posterior insular cortex in the processing of pain. Hum Brain Mapp 2014; 35(12):5784-98.
  5. Whelan R, Watts R, Orr CA, Althoff R, Artiges E, Banaschewski T, Barker G J, Bokde ALW, Büchel C, Carvalho FA, Conrod PJ, Flor H, Fauth-Bühler M, Frouin V, Gallinat J, Gan G, Gowland P, Heinz A, Ittermann B, Lawrence C, Mann K, Martinot J-L, Nees F, Ortiz N, Paillère-Martinot M-L, Paus T, Pausova Z, Rietschel M, Robbins TW, Smolka MN, Ströhle A, Schumann G, Garavan H, & the IMAGEN Consortium. Neuropsychosocial profiles of current and future adolescent alcohol misusers. Nature 2014; 512(7513): 185-9.
  6. Nees F, Tzschoppe J, Patrick CJ, Vollstädt-Klein S, Poustka L, Banaschewski T, Barkers G, Büchel C, Conrod P J, Garavan H, Heinz A, Gallinat J, Lathrop M, Mann K, Artiges E, Paus T, Poline J-B, Robbins TW, Rietschel M, Smolka MN, Spanagel R, Struve M, Loth E, Schumann G, Flor H, & the IMAGEN Consortium. Determinants of early alcohol use in healthy adolescents: the differential contribution of neuroimaging and psychological factors. Neuropsychopharmacology 2012 ; 37(4):986-95.
  7. Pohlack ST, Nees F, Ruttorf M, Witt SH, Nieratschker V, Rietschel M, & Flor H.  Risk variant for schizophrenia in the neurogranin gene impacts on hippocampus activation during contextual fear conditioning. Mol Psychiatry 2011; 16(11):1072-3.
  8. Wessa M, Flor H. Failure of extinction of fear responses in posttraumatic stress disorder: evidence from second-order conditioning. Am J Psychiatry 2007; 164(11):1684-92.
  9. Flor H, Nikolajsen L, Staehelin Jensen T. Phantom limb pain: a case of maladaptive CNS plasticity? Nat Rev Neurosci 2006; 7(11): 873-81.
  10. Flor H, Denke C, Schäfer M, & Grüsser S. Effect of sensory discrimination training on cortical reorganization and phantom limb pain. The Lancet 2001; 357:1763-64.

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