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Onderzoek

Onderzoek

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HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY

Vision and mission

Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS) – bodily symptoms for which no diagnosed organic disease can be found – form a major challenge to our health care system. These complaints can be very diverse (i.e. headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, dyspnea, stomach and intestinal complaints, …) and can sometimes cause major disabilities. MUS can occur as (temporary) stress-related complaints in the context of overstrain or burn-out, but they can also have a more chronic character in terms of functional syndromes (i.e. chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic whiplash syndrome, …). The high prevalence of MUS constitutes a major theoretical, clinical and socio-economical challenge.

A narrow biomedical disease model ignores the fact that self-reported health complaints are always the result of a complex cerebral integration of afferent signals from the body (bottom-up) and perceptual-cognitive and affective (top-down) processes. Combining the results of interoception and symptom perception research with stress physiological and neurobiological data will allow us to transcend dualistic thinking. Our research group wants to contribute to the further identification of the underlying mechanisms of MUS and its translation into more refined treatment components.

 

Research activities 

The research group on Health Psychology performs experimental (lab studies) as well as clinical (translational) research, with focus on patient studies.

Research domains:

Interoception – MUS – stress-related disorders (i.e. burn-out) – functional syndromes – chronic pain – stress physiology – symptom perception – neural mechanisms – cognitive behavioral therapy – biofeedback – respiratory psychophysiology – health psychology

Ongoing research:

  • Physiological stress reactivity in patients with stress-related physical complaints
  • Affective modulation of symptom perception in patients with fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and healthy participants: an fMRI studie
  • Research on the validity and reliability of newly developed self-report questionnaires
  • Recognizing tension in the body in patients with stress-related disorders
  • Therapy compliance in blood glucose monitoring in diabetes patients
  • A multidisciplinary nature-based burn-out prevention program
  • Towards an integrative pathophysiological model for chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Hyperventilation in patients with chronic low back pain
  • Biofeedback research in MUS patients  

 

Operational methods and techniques

(Peripheral)   physiological measures   (sEMG,    skin conductance,    capnography,     respiratory plethysmography, ECG, heart rate variability, blood pressure, cortisol, cytokines samples)

Medical imagery (fMRI and PET), self-report and behavioral measures, standardized questionnaires, transcutaneous nervus vage stimulation, and biofeedback

Valorisation and community services 

The research expertise is valorised through the academic innovation lab RELAB and the multidisciplinary center of expertise Tumi Therapeutics. Members of the research group further provide lectures and workshops on national and international conferences and symposia, as well as for companies and health-care professionals. On regular basis in-house and external trainings and courses are delivered.

 

Partnerships

The research group on Health Psychology collaborates with research partners within our university as well as with research partners of other universities nationally (i.e. University of Leuven, University of Gent, UCLouvain, …) and internationally (i.e. University of Maastricht, University of Groningen, Mary Queen University of London, University of Southern California, King’s College London, University of Florida, …). There is a close collaboration with hospitals and treatment centers (i.e. ZOL Genk (TRACE), UZ Leuven, …). 

 

Principal Researchers

Prof. Dr. Katleen Bogaerts (Clinical and Health Psychology)

 

Postdoctoral researchers

Dr. Maaike Van Den Houte (Clinical and Health Psychology) 

 

Predoctoral researchers

Claire De Decker (Revalidation Sciences and Physiotherapy)