Research Group: Fear and anxiety


Our interest is in psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of anxiolysis. While most research in the field of anxiolysis is about finding new drugs or understanding how drugs achieve their anxiolytic effects, our strategy is to investigate the neural basis of safety learning. Safety learning is a process by which one learns that a feared stimulus is not as threatening as expected, resulting in an attenuation of anxiety responses. Safety learning often occurs in everyday life and is an essential component of adaptive behavior. In cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), safety learning is specifically promoted through extinction training and various forms of cognitive regulation such as reappraisal. Our bet is that a better, notably neurobiological, understanding of these learning processes will open up new ways to improve anxiety therapy, but also to enhance quality of life in normal individuals.

  • Research topics
  • Research topics

    • Mechanisms of fear conditioning, extinction, reappraisal and other safety learning processes

    • Safety memory formation, consolidation, recall

    • Individual differences in fear behaviors and safety learning

    • Enhancement of safety learning through behavioral, pharmacological or other manipulations

  • Lonsdorf TB, Kalisch R: A review on experimental and clinical genetic associations studies on fear conditioning, extinction and cognitive-behavioral treatment. Transl Psychiatry 2011; 1: e41

    Raczka KA, Mechias ML, Gartmann N, Reif A, Deckert J, Pessiglione M, Kalisch R: Empirical support for an involvement of the mesostriatal dopamine system in human fear extinction. Transl Psychiatry 2011; 1: e12

    Etkin A, Egner T, Kalisch R: Emotional processing in anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex. Trends Cogn Sci 2011; 15: 85-93

    Raczka KA, Gartmann N, Mechias ML, Reif A, Büchel C, Deckert J, Kalisch R: A neuropeptide S receptor variant associated with over-interpretation of fear reactions: a potential neurogenetic basis for catastrophizing. Mol Psychiatry 2010; 15: 1067-74There is a corrigendum for this paper. Please contact R. Kalisch.

    Mechias ML, Etkin A, Kalisch R: A meta-analysis of instructed fear studies: Implications for conscious appraisal of threat. Neuroimage 2010; 49: 1760-8

    Kalisch R: The functional neuroanatomy of reappraisal: time matters. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2009; 33:1215-26

    Marschner A, Kalisch R, Vervliet B, Vansteenwegen D, Büchel C: Dissociable roles for the hippocampus and the amygdala in human cued vs. context fear conditioning. J Neurosci 2008; 28: 9030-6

    Yacubian J, Sommer T, Schroeder K, Glascher J, Kalisch R, Leuenberger B, Braus DF, Büchel C: Gene-gene interaction associated with neural reward sensitivity. PNAS 2007; 2104: 8125-30

    Pessiglione M, Schmidt L, Draganski B, Kalisch R, Lau H, Dolan RJ, Frith CD: How the brain translates money into force: a neuroimaging study of subliminal motivation. Science 2007; 316: 904-6

    Kalisch R, Wiech K, Critchley HD, Dolan RJ: Levels of appraisal: A medial prefrontal role in cognitive appraisal of emotional material. Neuroimage 2006; 30: 1458-66

    Kalisch R, Korenfeld E, Stephan KE, Weiskopf N, Seymour B, Dolan RJ: Context-dependent human extinction memory is mediated by a ventromedial prefrontal and hippocampal network. J Neurosci 2006; 26: 9503-11

    Wiech K*, Kalisch R*, Weiskopf N, Pleger B, Stephan KE, Dolan RJ: Anterolateral prefrontal cortex mediates the analgesic and anxiolytic effects of expected and perceived control over pain. J Neurosci 2006; 26: 11501-9

  • DFG Emmy Noether Research Group: Neural Mechanisms of Human Safety Learning – Towards New Treatment Strategies for Anxiety Disorders (KA1623/3-1)

    DFG Research Grant: Role of the endogenous opioid system in human fear extinction (KA1623/4-1) (with C. Büchel)State of Hamburg excellence initiative: neurodapt! consortium, subproject: Genetic variability in synaptic proteins in classical conditioning and spatial learning (with D. Kuhl, M. Kneussel)

    DFG Research Grant: Mechanisms of placebo anxiolysis (part of the Transregional DFG Research Unit FOR 1328 "Expectation and conditioning as basic processes of the placebo and nocebo response: From neurobiology to clinical applications") (with C. Büchel)

    UKE complementary funding program

  • Tibor Bosse, Mathijs Pontier, Jan Treur Free
    University of Amsterdam, Department of Artifical Intelligence

    Jürgen Deckert, Andreas Reif
    University of Würzburg, Unit of Molecular Psychiatry

    Tobias Egner
    Duke University, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

    Amit Etkin
    Stanford University, Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory

    Matthias Kneussel
    University of Hamburg, Zentrum für Molekulare Neurobiologie Hamburg (ZMNH)

    Dietmar Kuhl
    University of Hamburg, Zentrum für Molekulare Neurobiologie Hamburg (ZMNH)

    Mathias Pessiglione
    CHU Pitié-Salpêtrière Paris, INSERM U610 (Functional neuroanatomy of normal and pathological behavior)

    Bryan Strange
    Centre for Biomedical Technology, Technical University of Madrid

    Deb Vansteenwegen, Bram Vervliet
    University of Leuven, Centre for the Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology

    associated with the DFG Transregional Collaborative Research Center SFB-TRR58 "Fear, Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders" Universities of Münster (H.-C. Pape), Würzburg (J. Deckert), Hamburg (C. Büchel)

    member of the DFG Transregional Research Unit FOR1328“Expectation and conditioning as basic processes of the placebo and nocebo response” speaker: W. Rief, University of Marburg

  • Currently no open positions are available.