Thomas Elbert

Thomas Elbert
Universität Konstanz | Uni-Konstanz · Department of Psychology

Prof. Dr.

About

799
Publications
236,245
Reads
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45,078
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 2009 - present
Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST)
Position
  • Honorary Lecturer
January 2002 - present
University of Alabama at Birmingham
January 1995 - March 2018
Universität Konstanz
Position
  • Professor (Full) of Clinical Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience

Publications

Publications (799)
Chapter
From episodic threats to social exclusion to the continuous wear and tear associated with living in adverse situations, stressors not only repeatedly activate the body’s defensive systems but also leave lasting traces in a web of memories. With an increasing number of threatful experiences, sensations, emotions, and cognitions belonging to differen...
Article
Exposure to community violence is common in South Africa and negatively impacts on biopsychosocial health. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterised by symptoms of intrusion, avoidance, hypervigilance and negative alterations in cognition and mood, and can develop consequent to trauma exposure. Individuals who repeatedly experience and...
Chapter
Full-text available
Narrative exposure therapy (NET) is a treatment for adult and child survivors who continue to suffer from past experiences of traumatic stressors. It is specifically designed for individuals who have been exposed to complex and multiple traumata, after having survived severe and repeated physical and social threats to life and integrity. NET enable...
Article
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The aftermath of traumatization lives on in the neural and epigenetic traces creating a momentum of affliction in the psychological and social realm. Can psychotherapy reorganise these memories through changes in DNA methylation signatures? Using a randomised controlled parallel group design, we examined methylome-wide changes in saliva samples of...
Article
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Background: Survivors of sexual violence are frequently condemned and socially excluded. Myths about rape may translate into stigmatization, diminish disclosure, prevent help-seeking from support structures and worsen mental health. Areas of conflict or organized violence remain the evident hotspots of sexual victimization. However, little is know...
Article
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Objective: Individuals who return from armed groups present with a history of traumatic events including perpetration. Subsequent severe mental stress and heightened levels of reactive and appetitive aggression may persist and if left untreated, frequently impede peacebuilding and societal stability. In this study, we tested a revised adaptation o...
Article
Exposure to violence can lead to appetitive aggression (AA), the positive feeling and fascination associated with violence, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), characterised by hyperarousal, reexperience and feelings of ongoing threat. Psychotherapeutic interventions may act via DNA methylation, an environmentally sensitive epigenetic mechani...
Article
In areas of armed conflict such as Eastern DR Congo, a large proportion of the population is affected by violence. Trauma and violent acts can lead to mental health and behavioural problems which have ramifications beyond the individual into the family, community and societal systems, and are passed on across generations. Dynamics of avoidance and...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is associated with high levels of functional impairments such as difficulties in academic or occupational performance and in social relationships. With an increasing number of traumatic event types experienced (trauma load), PTSD risk increases in a dose-dependent manner. Accordingly, high rates of P...
Article
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Objective: Former combatants are exposed to multiple traumatic stressors during conflict situations and usually participate in perpetration of violence. Ongoing perpetration of violence in post conflict areas, linked to mental health problems and appetitive aggression, destabilises peace keeping efforts. The aim of this study is to investigate lif...
Article
Extensive pharmacologic, genetic, and epigenetic research has linked the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) to memory processes, and to risk and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the present study we investigated the epigenetic pattern of 12 genes involved in the regulation of GR signaling in two African populations of heavily traumati...
Article
Full-text available
Individuals who perpetrate violence may likely perceive violence as appealing and infliction of violence to derive pleasure is termed as appetitive aggression. Individuals who were abducted as children into an armed group often experience a higher number of traumatic event types, that is traumatic load and are usually socialized in a violence-endor...
Article
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The neural cell adhesion molecule 1 (NCAM-1) has been implicated in several brain-related biological processes, including neuronal migration, axonal branching, fasciculation, and synaptogenesis, with a pivotal role in synaptic plasticity. Here, we investigated the evolutionary conserved role of NCAM-1 in learning and memory. First, we investigated...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Trauma-focused therapy approaches are recommended as treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This includes the treatment of trauma-related suffering in refugee populations. However, there is a lack of knowledge about symptom trajectories in refugees living in volatile conditions. This has led to fear of "retraumatisation" a...
Article
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During deployment, soldiers face situations in which they are not only exposed to violence but also have to perpetrate it themselves. This study investigates the role of soldiers' levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and appetitive aggression , that is, a lust for violence, for their engaging in violence during deployment. Furthe...
Article
Full-text available
Refugees affected by multiple traumatic stressors are at high risk for developing trauma‐related mental disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and insomnia, which is sometimes overlooked. The present study examined the effectiveness of narrative exposure therapy (NET) on trauma‐related symptoms in a sample of North K...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose Adverse childhood experiences in sensitive periods of the developing brain render the individual at a life-long risk for a broad spectrum of aberrant health outcomes. However, there is a lack of scales for the comprehensive assessment of adverse childhood experiences providing information of various types and the age of occurrence. Based on...
Article
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Background: The wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo have left indelible marks on the mental health and functioning of the Congolese civilians that sought refuge in Uganda. Even though it is clear that civilians who are exposed to potentially traumatizing events in war and conflict areas develop trauma-related mental health problems, scholarly...
Article
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Experiencing violence changes behavior, shapes personalities, and poses a risk factor for mental disorders. This association might be mediated through epigenetic modifications that affect gene expression, such as DNA methylation. The present study investigated the impact of community and domestic violence on DNA methylation measured in saliva colle...
Article
Full-text available
Quantitative electroencephalography (EEG) provides useful information about neurophysiological health of the aging brain. Current studies investigating EEG coherence and power for specific brain areas and frequency bands have yielded inconsistent results. This study assessed EEG coherence and power indices at rest measured over the whole skull and...
Article
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Background: Studies on populations affected by organized violence have shown elevated levels of family violence against children. This form of violence has been found to contribute to children's psychopathology independently of traumatic experiences related to war, persecution or flight. Little is known, so far, about the exposure to family violen...
Article
Zusammenfassung. Hintergrund: Über die seelische Gesundheit von minderjährigen Flüchtlingen, die ohne sorgeberechtigte Person nach Deutschland gereist sind, liegen bisher kaum Daten und keinerlei längsschnittliche Untersuchungen vor. Fragestellung: Ziel ist es daher, die psychische Gesundheit im Zusammenhang mit stressvollen Erfahrungen (insbesonde...
Article
Full-text available
Objective: Women and girls make up a sizeable proportion of armed groups in conflict regions. However, compared to males, research into the mental health of female combatants is limited and there have been no investigations into treatments. Psychological sequalae amongst predominantly male former combatants most prominently include PTSD and appeti...
Article
Full-text available
Background Post-traumatic stress but also aggressive attitudes and behaviour can be found in adolescents living in a context of ongoing community and gang violence in the low-income urban areas of Cape Town, South Africa. Aims We investigated the long-term effects (15–20 months after therapy) of (a) Narrative Exposure Therapy for Forensic Offender...
Article
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Stress during pregnancy widely associates with epigenetic changes and psychiatric problems during childhood. Animal studies, however, show that under specific postnatal conditions prenatal stress may have other, less detrimental consequences for the offspring. Here, we studied mental health and epigenome-wide DNA methylation in saliva following int...
Data
Datasheet 2.zip contains the script and data for reproducing some of the analysis of this paper, this includes: Supplementary Text S1 which contains the R script that will reproduce our analysis using Supplementary Data S1–S4; Supplementary Text S2 explains the column names in Supplementary Data S1; Supplementary Data S1 is the result table with be...
Data
Datasheet 1.pdf contains Supplementary Figures and Supplementary Tables.
Article
Full-text available
Refugees are exposed to multiple traumatic and stressful events and thereby are at higher risk for developing a variety of psychological sequelae including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the relation of PTSD to other mental health conditions has not been fully revealed in refugee populations. The present study investigated relations...
Article
Full-text available
A variety of mental disorders are related to deviant brain activity, but these neural alterations do not validate psychiatric diagnostic categories. High symptom overlap and variable symptom patterns encourage a dimensional approach. Following the logic of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC), we investigated trauma survivors for symptom clusters th...
Article
Full-text available
Background The Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule 1 (NCAM-1) has been implicated in several brain-related biological processes, including neuronal migration, axonal branching, fasciculation, and synaptogenesis, with a pivotal role in synaptic plasticity. Here, using an interdisciplinary approach we investigated the evolutionary conserved role of Neural...
Article
Full-text available
The probability to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), characterized by vivid, intrusive emotional memories of the encountered traumatic events, depends - among other factors - on the number of previous traumatic experiences (traumatic load) and individual genetic vulnerability. So far, our knowledge regarding the biological underpinnings...
Presentation
Individuals exposed to community violence (e.g. frequent and constant exposure to the use of guns, knives, drugs, and random acts of violence) are at high risk of developing PTSD. However there is a lack of specialised treatment for individuals suffering of PTSD in areas where violence is still ongoing. In the present study we aimed at integrating...
Article
Full-text available
Studies in conflict population have repeatedly documented that the number of traumatic event types experienced (trauma load) increases the risk to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a dose-dependent manner. Misconceptions about survivors' experiences and actions during the war, as well as mental health symptoms frequently lead to stigm...
Article
Full-text available
The risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increases with the number of traumatic event types experienced (trauma load) in interaction with other psychobiological risk factors. The NOTCH (neurogenic locus notch homolog proteins) signaling pathway, consisting of four different trans‐membrane receptor proteins (NOTCH1–4), constitutes...
Article
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Background Traumatic events like critical illness and intensive care are threats to life and bodily integrity and pose a risk factor for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD affects the quality of life and morbidity and may increase health-care costs. Limited access to specialist care results in PTSD patients being treated in primary care set...
Article
Full-text available
Victims of war, torture and natural catastrophes are prone to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These individuals experience the recurrent, involuntary intrusion of traumatic memories. What neurocognitive mechanisms are driving this memory disorder? Here we show that PTSD symptoms in heavily traumatized refugees are related to deficits...
Poster
Full-text available
Prenatal maternal stress is associated with lifelong implications for health and an increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems in the offspring, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unclear. We aimed at investigating the impact of maternal exposure to interpersonal violence during pregnancy on children’s DNA methylation status and...
Article
Full-text available
Objective The mental health needs of women affected by intimate partner violence (IPV) and living under continuous domestic violence are currently not well understood. The present study investigates the feasibility and efficacy of narrative exposure therapy (NET), compared with commonly used counselling (treatment‐as‐usual, TAU), in a group of curr...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Cross-sectional studies indicate that a substantial proportion of refugees have psychiatric disorders. However, longitudinal studies on the course of psychiatric symptoms and on influencing factors are scarce. The current study investigates the development of symptoms in an untreated refugee sample in Germany and seeks to identify poten...
Article
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Background: Anecdotal evidence suggests the frequently traumatic nature of female genital mutilation (FGM). At present, systematic research on the psychological sequelae of this tradition has remained limited. The study provides preliminary, high-quality psychodiagnostic data on potential psychopathological consequences of FGM, with a focus on pos...
Article
Since the 2001 official abolishment of ethnic specification in Rwanda, it is prohibited to classify individuals into ethnic groups in the postgenocide country. For the first time to our knowledge, this study compiles objective data on ethnic perception in Rwanda to investigate whether interethnic bias is still prevalent. It is hypothesized that Rwa...
Article
Full-text available
Appetitive aggression is a sub-category of instrumental aggression, characterised by the primary intrinsic enjoyment of aggressive activity. Aggression is heritable, and serotonergic and monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems have been found to contribute to the underlying molecular mechanisms. The aim of this study was to investigate the role that...
Chapter
Full-text available
Humans are experiencing wars that target primarily civilians and that are characterized by mass recruitment into armed forces and atrocities. An increasing number of victims is forced to flee from wars and persecution. Following the traumatic events experienced in the context of war and flight, a large proportion of post-conflict populations and re...
Article
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Background: A substantial number of refugees present with mental disorders. This appears particularly acute in the currently increasing refugee populations in Europe. Although EU guidelines demand the identification and support of vulnerable individuals such as survivors of trauma, no adequately validated and comprehensive mental health screening i...
Article
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Background: In violent communities, social rejection as a person with victim–offender attributes is associated with more intense symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a higher propensity towards violence, i.e. appetitive aggression. Successful community reintegration encompassing adequate social acknowledgment of individuals with bot...
Article
Full-text available
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been linked to deviations in lateralized frontal functional oscillatory activity. This is possibly because left and right DLPFC have differential roles in regulating both memory and stress response, which are both dysfunctional in PTSD. However, previous results are heterogeneous, and could be attributable...
Article
Full-text available
The peritraumatic cognitive process of mental defeat, the complete loss of inner resistance, has been identified as a key predictor of PTSD. Yet, most evidence on cognitive risk factors stems from industrialized countries where survivors typically report few traumata. Research from postconflict settings indicates that individual differences decreas...