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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Lebenswissen­schaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Psychologie


Übersicht über ausgeschriebene Qualifikationsarbeiten


MA: A large-scale meta-analysis on the brain’s structural alterations in specific phobia


Specific phobia is one of the most common mental disorders, characterized by marked and unproportional fear and anxiety or frequent avoidance of a phobic object or situation, and has been used as a model disorder to investigate the neural processing of fear and fear circuitry dysfunctions. Research on potential alterations in structural brain anatomy however are still scarce, although these may underlie the disorder-related functional changes and thus yield valuable insights in the neurobiology of specific phobia related pathogenic mechanisms. Additionally, since specific phobia can be divided into subtypes with partly different behavioral, autonomic and neural response patterns (e.g. animal vs blood-injection-injury subtype), comparing the neurostructural correlates of different phobia subtypes may provide further information about the underpinnings of their phenomenological differences and potentially valuable for optimizing their treatment. Finally, anxiety disorders including specific phobia increase the risk of subsequent depressive disorders, and earlier studies strongly suggest that comorbid depressive symptoms influence functional activation patterns in many areas associated with anxiety disorders including specific phobia. However, it is unclear whether this effect also holds true for neurostructural alterations.

Embedded within the ENIGMA initiative (http://enigma.ini.usc.edu/), this thesis provides the opportunity to work within the Psychotherapy chair’s project ENIGMA-specific phobia and help closing these open research questions by employing a large-scale meta-analysis on the neurostructural alterations in specific phobia. Our workgroup will provide an organized workshop on the fundamentals of MRI data analysis. Nevertheless, if you are interested in this master thesis proposal, basic knowledge in clinical neuroimaging is helpful. The thesis project is ready to start at any time. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Kevin Hilbert.