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Competitive Grants

2020-2024              EU Horizon 2020 Grant “Systems approach of urban environments and health” (SURREAL; no. 956780), Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks, Call H2020-MSCA-ITN-2020, funded by the European Commission, Role: Co-PI (approx. € 500.000,-).

2018-2022              AFR PhD grant “Stress effects on interoceptive learning and memory as mechanism of somatic symptom generation” (INMEMO, no. 12534400), by candidate Ruta Müller, funded by the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg, Role: PI/Supervisor, (approx. € 178.000,-)

2018-2020              Faculty Grant in the Merit-Based Funding Scheme by the Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education, Role: PI (€ 15.000,-)

2017-2023              Project grant “Interoception and chronic stress” (INSTRESS), funded by the Research Office of the University of Luxembourg, Role: PI (1 FTE; € 190.000,-)

2015-2018              Project grant “Interoception in medically unexplained symptoms” (INMEDEX), funded by funded by the Research Office of the University of Luxembourg, Role: PI (1 FTE; € 174.000,-)

2015-2018              AFR PhD grant “Social rejection in early childhood and its effects on stress responses in later life(REJECT, no. 9825384) by candidate Violetta Schaan, funded by the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (Role: Co-Supervisor; approx. € 111.000,-)

2011-2013              University Research Focus “Psychobiology of Stress“, (Role: Early Career Member, with co-applicants H. Schächinger, E. Naumann, C. Muller, J. Meyer, R. Neumann und C. Frings), funded by the Land Rheinland-Pfalz (overall: € 120.000,-)

2010-2011              Project grant “Modulation of startle response by visceral stress through filling of the urinary bladder“, funded by the Research Fonds of the University of Trier, Role: PI (€ 4.000,-)


06/2016                  Young Investigator Publication Prize 2016 of the German Society for Psychology, Section Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology, for publication:

                               Muller, L.E., Schulz, A., Andermann, M., Gabel, A., Gescher, D.M., Spohn, A., Herpertz, S.C. & Bertsch, K. (2015). Cortical Representation of Afferent Bodily Signals in Borderline Personality Disorder: Neural Correlates and Relationship to Emotional Dysregulation. JAMA Psychiatry, 72, 1077-1086. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1252.

11/2010                  Dissertation Prize 2010, University of Trier (€ 2.000,-)

2008-2009              Stipend of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft: DFG) within the International Research Training Group “Psychoneuroendocrinology of Stress“, GRK 1389/1

09/2005                  Travel funds by the Research Fonds of the University of Trier

Current projects

Interoceptive brain network stimulation as intervention method to reduce stress and somatic symptoms (INSTIM)

Communication between the brain and peripheral body organs is essential for health, stress or disease. The processing and perception of signals arising from peripheral organs, i.e. interoception, is mediated by the interoceptive brain network (e.g., anterior insula; anterior cingulate cortex; somatosensory cortices). A high functionality of this brain network is considered to be protective against stress and stress-related disorders, which are characterized by somatic symptoms. While existing evidence is mostly based on cross-sectional studies showing correlative relationships between activity in the interoceptive brain network and acute stress or stress-related disorders, in the current study we aim to manipulate activity in the interoceptive brain network. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) represents a method to activate or deactivate cortical brain regions using electrical bursts of different frequencies. Certain TMS protocols have been established to inhibit the interoceptive brain network by insula and by network (indirect) stimulation. The aims of the current project are, therefore, (1.) to establish a protocol to strengthen the interoceptive brain network using a stimulation protocol, (2.) to reveal the potential of this stimulation protocol to reduce physiological responsiveness to acute stressors and (3.) to elucidate interoceptive network stimulation effects on somatic symptom distress.

Interoception in medically unexplained symptoms (INMEDEX)

Funded by: University of Luxembourg Research Fund (PUL). Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are highly prevalent in Western societies. However, psychobiological processes underlying MUS remain unclear. Interoception, the perception of bodily processes, may play an important role in the generation of physical symptoms in MUS. Stress contributes to the development and maintenance of MUS and may also affect interoception. Therefore, in the INMEDEX project the relationships between interoception, stress and MUS are investigated.

Interoception and chronic stress (INSTRESS)

Funded by: University of Luxembourg Research Fund (PUL). Chronic stress affects the perception of internal bodily states, i.e. interoception, thereby contributing to the generation of physical symptoms and subsequently the development of mental disorders in which physical symptoms play an important role (e.g. panic disorder, somatoform disorders, depression). The psychobiological processes underlying the generation of physical symptoms under conditions of chronic stress, however, are yet unclear. The current project will investigate alterations in interoception and physiological stress responses in schoolteachers with high and low in chronic stress, as the teaching profession represents a highly stressful occupation due to its enduring work-related demands.

Stress effects on interoceptive learning and memory as a mechanism of somatic symptom generation (INMEMO)

Funded by Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR). Somatic symptom disorders (SSD) are characterized by enduring physical symptoms without a sufficient medical explanation; they have a high lifetime prevalence of 4.4-12.9% and are associated with a significant impairment of quality of life. Although altered interoception, the processing of internal bodily signals, is observed in SSD, the psychobiology underlying symptom generation remains, however, unclear. Learning and memory associated with physical symptoms (i.e. interoceptive learning) may represent one key mechanism to explain symptom generation. As post-learning stress may facilitate (mainly declarative) learning and memory, this project aims at investigating stress facilitation effects on interoceptive learning and memory.”