The Bingel Laboratory

Translational Pain Research Unit

University Medicine Essen
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Bingel

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



New PhD candidate: Welcome Jialin!

We warmly welcome Jialin Li who will join our lab as a PhD candidate in the following three years! She did a lab rotation with us and Dr. Tamas Spisak, supported by the Max Planck School of Cognition. Before that, she got her Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, under supervision of Prof. Benjamin Becker and Prof. Keith Kendrick. Her research interests include placebo and nocebo effects, appetitive and aversive learning, how expectation and learning influence treatment, and disease prediction using machine learning approach.


Welcome Boushra!

Dr. Boushra Dalile from KU Leuven will join our lab for two smaller research stays in the next few months! She is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders (TARGID) at KU Leuven, Belgium. She was trained in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (2012-2017) and holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from KU Leuven (2021), where she investigated the role of short-chain fatty acids in the human microbiota-gut-brain axis, particularly pertaining to psychophysiological stress- and fear-related responses under the supervision of Prof. Kristin Verbeke. He research interests include the gut microbiota, dietary fiber, short-chain fatty acids as well as brain health in general, and psychological stress, anxiety, and cognition in particular. Currently, she is working on unravelling the mechanisms that mediate the effect of short-chain fatty acids on the stress response in human, and the implications of that on various brain functions. Her work was published in various peer-reviewed academic journals including Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Neuropsychopharmacology, and Psychoneuroendocrinology.


New article in PAIN!

Julian and Katharina recently published a new paper, where 89 patients were investigated for changes between the groups with and without previous open-label placebo treatment regarding pain intensity (primary outcome), disability and mood (secondary outcomes), biopsychosocial factors and lifestyle (exploratory outcomes) from parent baseline to follow-up. The results: Over the three-year period, there were no differences in any outcome between groups with and without open-label placebo treatment. Therefore, the study does not support the previously suggested assumption that a three-week open-label placebo treatment has long-term effects. Read the full article here.


Welcome Deniz!

For the next 3 weeks, we welcome Deniz Büyükgök as a visiting fellow into the lab! She is a neuropsychologist at Istanbul University, Faculty of Medicine, at the Psychiatry Department. She completed her PhD in the same university, at the Advanced Neurological Sciences Program. Her dissertation included functional neuroimaging on apathy. She is eager to conduct more translational research. That’s why she wanted to visit Prof. Bingel’s research unit to gain new insight and to deepen my knowledge. We all hope this will be an opportunity to build bridges between colleagues abroad.


New article in NeuroImage!

Together with colleagues from Essen and Bochum, Katharina just published a new paper on the interruptive effect of visceral pain on cognition. In a previous study, Julian had demonstrated that visceral pain caused a stronger reduction of memory encoding than somatic pain (find the paper here). Katharina now showed that this greater interruptive effect of visceral pain is accompanied by reduced neural activity in brain areas involved in visual processing and memory encoding. In some of these brain regions, this activity reduction was associated with pain-related fear. Read Katharina’s article here.


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.


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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