The Bingel Laboratory

Translational Pain Research Unit

University Medicine Essen
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Bingel

C-TNBS Transl. Neuro- & Bhv. Sciences
SFB TRR 289 Logo



Patients with chronic pain experienced more pain due to the COVID-19 pandemic

In a new study from our lab, Diana and colleagues found that more than one-third of patients with chronic pain experienced an increase in their pain symptoms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Structured interviews with 197 patients from our out-patient clinic revealed that especially patients with higher pain levels and those who experienced many restrictions due to the pandemic reported increases in pain. Interestingly, psychological factors such as negative expectations and feelings of having little control over one’s life were also associated with pain worsening during the pandemic. The study was part of the Collaborative Research Centre project “Treatment Expectation” (CRC TRR 289). You can find the article here.


New publication on pain-related learning in chronic back pain!  

Our PhD student Frederik published his first article in the journal PAIN®. In this study, Frederik and colleagues showed that pain-related threat and safety learning is impaired in patients with chronic back pain. We also thank our collaborators Sigrid Elsenbruch, Oliver Wolf, Christian Merz, and Katja Wiech for their valuable contributions. This project was part of the Collaborative Research Center 1280 Extinction Learning (SFB 1280) and the Center for Translational Neuro- and Behavioral Sciences (C-TNBS). Check out the publication here!


New article in Communications Biology!

In this study, our team investigated the question of whether humans build quicker and more robust memory traces for stimuli that signal an impending pain increase than for those that signal a decrease in pain. From an evolutionary perspective, this could be seen as a “better safe than sorry” strategy. Using an intricate experimental design, it was possible to demonstrate that healthy volunteers learned pain-predicting stimuli better and faster than stimuli that predicted pain relief.  Such a learning strategy could be a protective mechanism to avoid potentially dangerous situations. However, there were few differences with respect to “unlearning” (i.e., extinction) between the stimuli. This suggests that learning and unlearning of (un)pleasant associations are based on different mechanisms. The results of this study, which was part of the Collaborative Research Centre “Extinction Learning, 1280” by the DFG, help us to further understand the mechanisms behind the chronification and maintenance of pain disorders. Read the full article here.


New MD student: Torben Strietzel

We are happy to welcome Torben Strietzel who studies human medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke. As a doctoral candidate, he is looking forward to supporting the Bingellab team in the next six months, to further his education in the field of placebo/nocebo research and to work on his dissertation.


New Postdoc: Welcome Helena!

We are happy to welcome Helena Hartmann who has joined our lab as a postdoctoral researcher on April 1st! Helena completed her PhD at the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) Unit at the University of Vienna and then conducted further research at the Social Brain Lab of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience as a visiting researcher. In her PhD, she investigated the behavioral and neural underpinnings of shared representations between first-hand pain and empathy for pain as well as prosocial behavior. At the Bingellab, she will be working on neuroimaging of placebo and nocebo effects in pain and modulation of pain-related expectations. Find out more about Helena on her personal website and on Twitter.

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Congratulations! Sarah passed her Study Nurse exam!

As a study nurse, Sarah will be supporting our clinical studies from beginning to end, coordinating the different needs of patients, researchers, medical, and administrative staff. Although in her daily work she has been taking on many of these tasks already, the formal training with its final exam has helped her to solidify her knowledge and it marks an important step in her career. We are happy to have her on board! To find out more about the Study Nurse training program at the UKE click here!


Welcome to our group

We are happy to welcome Isabel Krüger who received the ELAN grant for excellent medical students from the Faculty of Medicine at the UDE. The ELAN graduate school is a great opportunity for medical doctoral students to enter the field of research while receiving close mentoring and structural support.

As part of her dissertation in neurology, Isabel will be working on one of our experimental projects for the next couple of months.

Find out more about ELAN here



Kathi and Tobias received the award for pain research (2nd prize) of the German Pain Society for their research on treatment expectations and their influence on the success of migraine prophylaxis. We are very proud that this is the 5th time this award has been given to members of our lab. Read the publication here!


Interdisciplinary Multimodal Pain Therapy – Expectation Matters

A new publication by Dustin, Diana, and colleagues presents pilot data from an observational cohort study at the back pain center in Essen showing that treatment expectancy is a predictor for the efficacy of Interdisciplinary Multimodal Pain Therapy in chronic back pain patients.  Open access, available here.


Gut feelings!

Two new TPRU studies shed light on learning and memory mechanisms associated with visceral pain. Adriane and colleagues report that context-dependent conditioning can transform benign interoceptive signals into predictors of visceral pain (read article here). Julian, Katharina and colleagues compared somatic and visceral pain and found that acute visceral pain interferes more with memory encoding (read article here).


The Bingel Laboratory

Prof. Dr. med. Ulrike Bingel

Clinical Neurosciences
University Hospital Essen
Department of Neurology

Hufelandstraße 55
45147 Essen
Fon: +49 (0) 201 723 - 2446
Fax: +49 (0) 201 723 - 6882

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