the new inter-institutional initiative Innovation Campus Heidelberg Mannheim Health & Life Sciences is calling for several postdoctoral positions for inter-institutional projects. The application phase for this call ends April 22 2022, 9 pm CET. You will find the official call and all detailed information on the program and the application & selection process here
For our Project 71 “Social touch during times of distress – The role of significant others, oxytocin, and psychophysiological responding on health outcomes” we are looking for a PostDoc researcher with interest in fear conditioning and social touch. Together with Monika Eckstein and myself from CIMH Mannheim and University of Heidelberg, we will use a combination of brain imaging and psychophysiology to investigate the conditions and contexts under which touch acts as a safety signal or as a threat (see below for abstract).
We would be grateful if you forward the call to potential candidates or interested coworkers.
We will be happy to provide further infos!
Social relationships and social support are key factors in the development, maintenance, and recovery from medical and psychiatric conditions (Uchino, 2006). The mechanisms involved, however, are still not well understood and offer great potential for improving clinical and therapeutic interventions. Social touch as an element of social interaction can act as a safety stimulus and reduce threat responses in healthy humans, an effect which is probably mediated through central nervous oxytocin release (Eckstein et al., 2020). However, it seems crucial that touch is given by a trusted person in a safe context (Kreuder et al, 2019; Sailer & Leknes, 2022) to avoid being perceived as threatening itself. This project examines the moderating effects of social touch on stress, threat and its importance for health outcomes. Combining the research interests of our groups, we will focus on the interaction of support giver and receiver, as well as the stressful and threatening situation. In a series of laboratory experiments, study participants will be exposed to touch by different individuals (i.e., one´s romantic partner, an unknown person, or an artificial hand) during different social contexts (i.e., anticipated threat, safety, or reward). As an experimental stress and threat manipulation, we will use well-established social threat learning paradigms that operate through 197 verbal communication about potential threats (e.g., electrical shocks or painful stimulation; Bublatzky et al., 2014, 2020) and/or observation of aversive events to others (Olsson & Phelps, 2007). The mitigating effects of social touch will be assessed in healthy individuals and psychiatric patients (e.g., mother-child dyads, Covid-19 patients and relatives, patients with post-traumatic and stress-related disorders) on multiple psychobiological levels. Synergies from the infrastructure of the CIMH Mannheim and the Heidelberg University Hospital are used, ranging from structural and temporal measures of neuronal activity (fMRI, EEG/ERP, MEG), to psychophysiological response parameters (heart rate, muscle activity), and endocrinological responses (endogenous oxytocin and cortisol levels). These biological parameters will be combined with the participants’ self-report and questionnaire data.