Veronika Engert

Veronika Engert
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences | CBS · Department of Social Neuroscience

PhD

About

73
Publications
20,210
Reads
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3,775
Citations
Additional affiliations
September 2010 - July 2016
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Position
  • Senior Researcher
September 2004 - August 2010
McGill University
September 2004 - August 2010
Douglas Mental Health University Institute

Publications

Publications (73)
Article
Full-text available
Through the long-term activation of sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, chronic psychosocial stress can compromise mental and bodily health. Psychosocial stress is determined by the perception of social interactions as ego-threatening, and thus strongly influenced by individual social processing capacities. In the cu...
Article
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There is disagreement among researchers regarding the conceptualization of resilience as a dynamic state or stable trait. Aiming to shed light on the state‐versus‐trait debate, we explored the stability and construct validity of four of the most frequently utilized state or trait resilience scales in a longitudinal assessment. Additionally, we exam...
Article
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Mindfulness-based mental training interventions have become a popular means to alleviate stress and stress-associated health risks. Previous scientific investigations emphasize the importance of exploring the effects of such interventions in naturalistic settings to evaluate their implementation into daily life. Therefore, the current study examine...
Article
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Based on its role in social processing and stress, oxytocin has been suggested to mediate stress reduction of socio-affective, compassion-based mental training. We tested this hypothesis in the ReSource Project, a 9-month longitudinal mental training study. Participants practiced three different types of mental training, targeting either attentiona...
Article
Based on its role in social processing and stress, oxytocin was suggested to mediate stress reduction after compassion-based mental training. In the ReSource Project, a 9-month longitudinal mental training study, we first examined oxytocin's role in psychosocial stress reduction after training socio-affective (i.e., compassion-based, Affect Module)...
Article
Scientific investigations of the effects of meditation-based mental training are increasingly relying on studies in naturalistic settings. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) approaches are well-suited to explore training-induced mental states (i.e., affect, thought content, stress experience), and the degree to which training effects carry over...
Article
Chronic stress exposure reduces expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in animal and disease models. The stress-hormone cortisol has an antagonistic relationship with BDNF and may be implicated in this process. Previous work including our own suggests that contemplative mental training interventions like mindfulness-based stress red...
Article
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Since the Covid-19 outbreak, pandemic-specific stressors have potentiated the—already severe—stress load across the world. However, stress is more than an adverse state, and chronic exposure is causally involved in the development of mental and physical disease. We ask the question whether resilience and the Big Five personality traits predict the...
Article
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Objective: To investigate the effect of regular contemplative mental training on endocrine and psychological indices of long-term stress. Methods: An open-label efficacy trial that comprised three distinct 3-month modules targeting attention and interoception, socio-affective or socio-cognitive abilities through dyadic exercises and secularised...
Article
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The hippocampus is a highly plastic brain structure supporting functions central to human cognition. Morphological changes in the hippocampus have been implicated in development, aging, as well as in a broad range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. A growing body of research suggests that hippocampal plasticity is closely linked to the acti...
Preprint
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by difficulties in social communication and interaction, which have been related to atypical neural processing of rewards, especially in the social domain. Since intranasal oxytocin has been shown to modulate activation of the brain's reward circuit, oxytocin could be a useful tool to ameliorate the p...
Article
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Experience and thoughts that are unrelated to the external surroundings are pervasive features of human cognition. Research under the rubric of mind-wandering suggests that such internal experience is context-dependent, and that the content of ongoing thought differentially influences a range of associated outcomes. However, evidence on how the ext...
Preprint
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Objective This study had the objective to investigate the effect of regular contemplative mental training on endocrine indices of long-term stress. Methods An open-label efficacy trial comprising three distinct 3-month modules targeting attention and interoception, socio-affective or socio-cognitive abilities through dyadic exercises and secularis...
Article
Taking a biopsychosocial approach to health care is certainly not new.¹,2 However, it is not the norm, either. An important article in this issue of JAMA Psychiatry reminds us why such an approach is needed. Using meta-analytic methods, Shields et al³ demonstrate the potential of psychosocial interventions to affect the immune system, a classically...
Article
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Growing evidence suggests that chronic low-grade inflammation can be reduced through mindfulness-based mental training interventions. However, these results are inconsistent and based on patient populations with heterogeneous conditions. Similar research in healthy adults is lacking. Moreover, common intervention protocols involve varying combinati...
Article
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Importance Telomere length is associated with the development of age-related diseases and structural differences in multiple brain regions. It remains unclear, however, whether change in telomere length is linked to brain structure change, and to what extent telomere length can be influenced through mental training. Objectives To assess the dynami...
Article
The human body is highly susceptible to stress. It reacts to ongoing psychosocial challenge as it would to acute threats to our physical integrity: with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Contemplative mental training interventions, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, have bec...
Article
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is an essential facilitator of neuronal plasticity. By counteracting the adverse effects of excessive stress-induced glucocorticoid signaling, BDNF has been implicated as a resilience factor to psychopathology caused by chronic stress. Insights into the effects of acute stress on peripheral BDNF levels in hu...
Article
Mindfulness interventions have gained much attraction, also due to their promise to improve health and wellbeing. However, not enough attention is devoted to the differentiation between various mental practice types. Here, we summarize findings from the ReSource Project, a 9-month longitudinal mental training study comparing practices focusing on (...
Article
Psychosocial stress is a ubiquitous phenomenon in our society. While acute stress responses are necessary and adaptive, excessive activation of neurobiological stress systems can predispose an individual to far-reaching adverse health outcomes. Living in a complex social environment, experiencing stress is not limited to challenges humans face indi...
Article
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Daily life stress is an omnipresent phenomenon in modern society. Research has linked prolonged activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to psychiatric and somatic diseases. Everyday stressors substantially contribute to these health risks. Despite the notion that the physiological stress response is highly dependent on concurrent psyc...
Article
To gain a comprehensive understanding of the multidimensional complex systems structure of the stress response and related health outcomes, we utilized network analysis in a sample of 328 healthy participants in two steps. In a first step, we focused on associations between measures of basal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning and subje...
Article
In laboratory environments individuals may display empathic cortisol stress responses merely from observing another experience psychosocial stress. Moreover, within couples, women synchronize their own to their partners' cortisol release. We investigated whether a woman's tendency to experience such cortisol stress resonance in a controlled laborat...
Preprint
Psychosocial stress is a public health burden in modern societies. Chronic stress–induced disease processes are,in large part, mediated via the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system. We asked whether the contemplative mental training of different practice types targetingattentional,...
Article
Full-text available
Psychosocial stress is a public health burden in modern societies. Chronic stress–induced disease processes are, in large part, mediated via the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system. We asked whether the contemplative mental training of different practice types targeting attentiona...
Article
This article seeks to address the prevailing issue of how to measure specific process components of psychobiological stress responses. Particularly the change of cortisol secretion due to stress exposure has been discussed as an endophenotype of many psychosomatic health outcomes. To measure the individual variability in its process components, a l...
Article
Animal models and human studies using paradigms designed to stimulate endogenous oxytocin release suggest a stress-buffering role of oxytocin. We here examined the involvement of stress-induced peripheral oxytocin secretion in reactivity and recovery phases of the human psychosocial stress response. Healthy male and female participants (N = 114) we...
Article
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Background: Our knowledge with respect to psychological, endocrine, and neural correlates of attentional bias in individuals with high vulnerability to developing depression - the subclinically depressed, still remains limited. Design: The study used a 2×2 mixed design. Methods: Attentional bias towards happy and sad faces in healthy (N=26) an...
Article
The prevalence of psychosocial stress in Western societies is constantly on the rise. Its influence on social decision-making, however, remains poorly understood. Whereas, it is known that stress triggers psychological and physiological defense mechanisms, indications of such patterns in social decisions are ambivalent. We sought to elucidate the u...
Article
Stress disorders are among the most commonly occurring of all mental disorders. In this context, the question arises whether the stress inevitably unfolding around us has the potential to “contaminate” and compromise us. In the current multi-center study, we investigate the existence of such empathic stress (defined as a full-blown physiological st...
Article
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High resolution thermal infrared imaging is a pioneering method giving indices of sympathetic activity via the contact-free recording of facial tissues (thermal imprints). Compared to established stress markers, the great advantage of this method is its non-invasiveness. The goal of our study was to pilot the use of thermal infrared imaging in the...
Article
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Previous studies have shown that people who develop psychopathology such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following stress exposure are characterized by reduced hippocampal (HC) volume and impaired HC functional connectivity with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Nevertheless, the exact interrelationship between reduced HC volume a...
Article
This study aimed to identify vulnerability patterns in psychological, physiological and neural responses to mild psychosocial challenge in a population that is at a direct risk of developing depression, but who has not as yet succumbed to the full clinical syndrome. A group of healthy and a group of subclinically depressed participants underwent a...
Article
Men and women differ in regard to psychosocial stress responses. Biological and contextual factors are known to mediate these differences; however, few studies investigated their interaction. In the present study, we examined contributions of both contextual and biological factors to the stress response of young healthy adults. Men and women were e...
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Growing evidence from animal and human studies suggests a profound and long-lasting influence of early life experiences--ranging from variations in parenting behavior to severe adversity--on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function. The aim of the current investigation was to examine the association between naturally occurring variations in ear...
Article
Major depressive disorder is associated with dysregulated basal cortisol levels and small hippocampal (HC) volume. However, it is still debated whether these phenomena are a consequence of the illness or whether they may represent a vulnerability marker existing before the illness onset. Here, we aimed to examine this notion of vulnerability by ass...
Article
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In the past decade, a body of animal and human research has revealed a profound influence of early-life experiences, ranging from variations in parenting behaviour to severe adversity, on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis regulation in adulthood. In our own previous studies, we have shown how variations in early-life parental care influence the d...
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We explored the associations between early life experience, endocrine regulation, psychological health, and hippocampal integrity in 37 elderly volunteers. Specifically, a neurodevelopmental and psychological mediation model was tested: Retrospective early life parental care was hypothesized to influence hippocampal integrity and the development of...
Article
It is still a matter of debate whether estrogen can have a protective effect on brain integrity and against age- and Alzheimer-related assaults. Evidence points toward selective sparing of gray matter (GM) in postmenopausal women using hormone therapy. In the current study, the effect of sex and estrogen therapy (ET) exposure on GM density using vo...
Article
Rat studies have shown that pups subjected to suboptimal rearing conditions exhibited permanently dysregulated dopamine activity and altered behavioral responses to dopamine stimulation. In humans, heightened stress-induced mesoaccumbens dopamine release in adults reporting low maternal care experience has been shown. We explored the relationship b...
Article
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the major endocrine stress axis of the human organism. Cortisol, the final hormone of this axis, affects metabolic, cardiovascular and central nervous systems both acutely and chronically. Recent advances in neuroimaging techniques have led to the investigation of regulatory networks and mechanisms o...
Article
Recent neuroimaging studies investigating neural correlates of psychological stress employ cognitive paradigms that induce a significant hormonal stress response in the scanner. The Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST) is one such task that combines challenging mental arithmetic with negative social evaluative feedback. Due to the block design natur...
Article
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Individual health is determined by a myriad of factors. Interestingly, simply being male or female is one such factor that carries profound implications for one's well-being. Intriguing differences between men and women have been observed with respect to vulnerability to and prevalence of particular illnesses. The activity of the major stress hormo...
Article
Increased activation of the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, marked by increased secretion of cortisol, is a biological marker of psychological stress. It is well established that the hippocampus plays an important role in the regulation of HPA axis activity. The relationship between cortisol (stress-related elevation or exogenous adminis...
Article
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a childhood psychiatric condition characterized by severe impulsiveness, inattention and overactivity. Methylphenidate (MPH), a psychostimulant affecting both the dopaminergic and the noradrenergic systems, is one of the most frequently prescribed treatments for ADHD. Despite the widespread use of...
Article
Stress-induced metabolic changes can have detrimental health effects. Newly developed paradigms to investigate stress in neuroimaging environments allow the assessment of brain activation changes in association with the perception of and the metabolic response to stress. We exposed human subjects to a psychosocial stressor in one positron emission...
Thesis
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The influence of the dopamine agonist Ritalin® on performance in a card sorting task involving a monetary reward component was tested in 43 healthy male participants. It was investigated whether Ritalin® would have differential behavioral effects as a function of the participants' parental bonding experiences and the personality variable "Novelty S...
Article
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We developed a protocol for inducing moderate psychologic stress in a functional imaging setting and evaluated the effects of stress on physiology and brain activation. The Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST), derived from the Trier Mental Challenge Test, consists of a series of computerized mental arithmetic challenges, along with social evaluativ...
Article
Objective: It has been suggested that a hypofunctional hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in chronic fatigue syndrome could result in an exaggerated release of pro-inflammatory cytokines during stress. As pro-inflammatory cytokines are involved in the induction of sickness behavior and thus constitute a potential physiological correlate of...
Article
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Phosphatidylserine, derived from cow brains, has been shown previously to dampen the ACTH and cortisol response to physical stress. Further research investigated the influence of soy lecithin phosphatidylserine supplementation on mood and heart rate when faced with an acute stressor. In this study, we investigated the effects of soy lecithin phosph...
Article
Subtle dysregulations of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis have been proposed as an underlying pathophysiological mechanism in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This study attempted to assess the relationship between patient characteristics and HPA axis functioning using a neuroendocrine challenge test. A test battery designed to assess d...
Article
Objective: Alterations of the immune–neuroendocrine interplay have been described in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Employing a recently developed method, the study set out to investigate whether patients with CFS have an altered sensitivity to glucocorticoids (GCs) when under stress. Methods: A total of 21 CFS patients and 20 healthy age- and ge...
Article
A reduced secretion of cortisol has been proposed as a possible explanation of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. However, the evidence of hypocortisolism in chronic fatigue syndrome is conflicting. In order to simultaneously assess possible alterations in adrenocortical sensitivity and secretory adrenal reserve, the authors administered bot...
Article
Subtle alterations of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have been proposed as a shared pathway linking numerous etiological and perpetuating processes with symptoms and observed physiological abnormalities. Because the HPA axis is involved in the adaptive responses to stress and CFS patients experience...
Article
Subtle alterations of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have been proposed as a shared pathway linking numerous etiological and perpetuating processes with symptoms and observed physiological abnormalities. Because the HPA axis is involved in the adaptive responses to stress and CFS patients experience...
Article
Subtle dysregulations of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in chronic fatigue syndrome have been described. The aim of this study was to examine the negative feedback regulations of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in chronic fatigue syndrome. In 21 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 21 healthy control subjects, awakening and c...