Research methods

We take a multimodal approach and make use of the following methods:

Clinical interviews and questionnaires: Semi-structured clinical interviews and questionnaires are used to assess mental disorders, personality pathology, functional impairments and other constructs of interest (e.g., childhood adversity, attachment style, therapeutic alliance) in a standardized way to guarantee the highest reliability.

Neuroimaging: Neuroimaging (e.g., fMRI, DTI, and fNIRS) is a non-invasive method to examine the structural and functional correlates of psychiatric symptoms and personality pathology in the brain. Neuroimaging studies are conducted in collaboration with the Translational Imaging Center at the Inselspital Bern.

Experimental designs: Laboratory-based experiments allow for the examination of mechanisms underlying psychiatric symptoms under highly controlled conditions. For instance, we use the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) to reliably induce stress and examine behavioral, affective, and biological responses. In addition, standardized experimental paradigms are used for examination of emotion detection and regulation, pain perception, and interpersonal functioning.

Psychoendocinology and -physiology: Urine, hair and blood samples, electrocardiogram (ECG) or electrodermal activity (EDA) can be used to examine biological (trait and state) makers (e.g. cortisol, testosterone, oxytocin, heart rate variability or skin conductance response) of psychiatric symptoms and personality pathology. In addition, ECG data is used to examine autonomous nervous system functioning. Biological makers can inform prevention and early detection of mental and personality disorders.

Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA): Applications running on a cell phone can be used to measure mood, cognitions, behavior, and social context factors in real time in the course of daily life of participants. EMA can be applied to examine psychological mechanisms proposed to trigger and maintain psychiatric symptoms, treatment response, and potential mechanisms of change.

Clinical trials: In randomized controlled trials, we examine the efficacy and the safety of novel treatment approaches for adolescents with mental disorders, including those with BPD pathology.