Psychoanalysis Unit


The Social Modulation of Pain (Why Love Hurts)

Volkswagen Foundation project

VW call: European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences and the Humanities; Phase 2

VW funding: € 395,641 for three years

PI: Dr Katerina Fotopoulou; project investigators and cooperation partners: Anne Springer, Verena Gottschling

Pain is one of the largest health problems in the developed world, but it remains a persistent challenge for philosophy and science. A clinically important topic that has been neglected by research is the social modulation of pain. In this study, we will conduct conceptual, psychophysical and neuroimaging investigations to address the following questions: (1) How do social attachment and empathy influence acute and chronic pain? (2) Which individual and cross-cultural traits modulate this influence? (3) Which neurobiological mechanisms underlie these effects? (4) Can psychotherapy alter individuals' chronic responses to social relating and pain and, if so, by which neural mechanisms? (5) If psychosocial variables and talking therapies do significantly influence the functioning of the brain, which mentalistic concepts used in psychology and philosophy are essential for a full understanding of the neuropsychology of pain? Our results will contribute to the understanding, management and neuropsychotherapy of pain. Importantly, our project addresses one of the oldest questions in psychology, philosophy and medicine: how mind-body processes affect healing.

Website: www.fotopoulou.com