Research Projects

Research Foci of the Research Training Group

Adversive Childhood Experience (ACE) can have long-lasting adverse effects on the brain and other somatic systems, specifically through epigenetic mechanisms and influences on brain development. In adulthood, the prior experience of ACE can result in complex clinical profiles with several co-occurring mental and somatic disorders. The risk for developing a mental disorder after ACE is highest for major depression disorder (MDD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and substance-use disorder (SUD). Furthermore, psychological and psychosocial mechanisms known to contribute to mental disorders are affected after ACE, such as impairments in cognitive and affective processing, including social emotions such as heightened experience of loneliness, as well as social cognitive functioning and social interactions, including aggressive behaviours. Furthermore, emerging evidence suggests that ACE promote the development of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable as well as inflammatory diseases. Somatic symptom disorder (SSD), including abnormal pain perception with and without corresponding somatic pathology (e.g., chronic pain vs. pain during child birth) has shown to be enhanced after ACE.

Taken together, there is an urgent need to study complex ACE-related characteristics and mechanisms relevant for mental and somatic disorders by integrating state-of-the-art knowledge and methods. Identifying and validating psychosocial and somatic risk factors and diagnostic markers shall result in the development of innovative somatic and psychological treatment options for patients suffering from ACE-related disorders.

Research Focus A: ACE Characteristics
Research Focus B: Psychosocial Consequences
Research Focus C: Somatic Consequences