Afraid of being disliked

In Mind
Thursday, 26 January 2006 00:00

Doctoral research into errors of reasoning in social anxiety disorder

‘They probably think I’m an incredible idiot now’, ‘After this blunder I will definitely no longer count’. Some people think their environment judges them, for example, on the fact that they stutter, blush or otherwise show insecurity. If these people subsequently start to avoid situations that make them feel insecure or ‘socially anxious’, then they can develop a ‘social anxiety disorder’. This disorder affects their daily lives. About eight percent of the Dutch population will at one point be faced with a social anxiety disorder.

The power of the subconscious

In Mind
Tuesday, 22 November 2005 00:00

Dr. Reinout Wiers publishes ‘Handbook of Implicit Cognition and Addiction’

Why do you smoke?’ ‘Because I like it and because it relaxes me and that is more important to me now than my health in the long term.’ That sounds like a clear explanation of a reason to give in to an addiction. However, other factors also often play a role, as psychologists discovered in the last years. Factors the addict himself (think of alcohol, drugs, gambling) can’t even name. These factors originate from the ‘implicit system’ of the brains. Dr. Reinout Wiers, researcher in Experimental Psychology, particularly in the area of ‘addictions’, has been investigating this topic for years.

TMS shows dynamic compensation between cerebral hemispheres

The leading journal Science recently published an article on the brain research of the Maastricht scientists Alexander T. Sack en Rainer Goebel. A research that breaks new grounds. The researchers, attached to the Faculty of Psychology, unravel in this publication the specific functions of the left and right hemisphere during the process of mental imagery. Possibly even more important is that also the existence of dynamic compensation mechanisms was shown. The scientists made this discovery through the experimental combination of two techniques: fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).

EU subsidy for research into rare Prader Willi Syndrome

Unravelling the human genome sometimes produces surprising new insights. That is also the case with the Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS), a rare genetic disorder that affects one in every 20.000 persons. In the Netherlands, every year fifty to sixty babies are born with this syndrome. The discovery of the genetic causes of PWS makes a new approach of the disorder possible. This is very important for the diagnosis and treatment of PWS. Professor L.M.G. (Paul) Curfs, professor of biological developmental psychology in the Faculty of Psychology has specialized in special syndromes that involve mental handicaps, amongst which PWS. Under his leadership UM participates in a multidisciplinary research project for which the EU recently granted a subsidy. The international cooperation in this project already produced an interesting dissertation: on 24 November 2004, Harm Boer (of the University of Birmingham, Great Britain) will receive his doctorate at UM for his research into the connection between behavioural disorders and genetic causes of PWS.

”Psychological research into brain damage caused by PTSD is unsound”

Long-term stress leads to brain damages, which in turn leads to memory problems. This view has become current amongst a lot of researchers. However, psychologist dr. Marko Jelicic casts serious doubts on this theory. "It might be the other way around," he says.

Dr. Marko Jelicic, university senior lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Psychology is unhappy about the existing research into the influence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the brains. The study of literature he recently published in the 'Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease' wipes the floor with the prevailing opinion that post-traumatic stress first leads to brain damage en subsequently to memory problems.

The pain that we dread...

In Body
Monday, 28 June 2004 00:00

Fear and avoidance in patients with back pain

In a Euregional cross-border project called Euro Back Unit psychologists drs. Els Gheldof (research trainee at Limburg University Centre Diepenbeek, Belgium) and dr. Johan Vlaeyen (university senior lecturer in the Department of Medical, Clinical and Experimental Psychology and EPP, UM) investigate the factors that determine the duration of work-related back pain and of sick leave. Their conclusions provide new insights in the origin of back pain, but especially in the reasons why back pain becomes chronic.

Sleeping danger on the road

In Mind
Wednesday, 12 May 2004 00:00

Innovative research into impact of medicinal drugs on driving behaviour

Vuurman compared the driving with and without the use of medication. One of the things he wanted to find out was if the risk perception ("Can you see the risk?") and the risk acceptance ("You see the risk, but your level of acceptance is different after the use of medicinal drugs or alcohol.") of the test subjects changed. "Usually, this kind of research consists of reaction time tests or driving in a simulator. The drawback of that is that the participants hardly experience any risk: making mistakes has no consequences. That is why I developed a method that enables us to measure the effects of drugs on risk perception and acceptance of road-users. To be able to do that, the test subjects had to take part in traffic on the public roads."

Promising research into ways to contain energy consumption

The daily hot shower and home appliances such as the dishwasher and the dryer cause a considerable increase in energy and water consumption. That way, family households greatly add to environmental problems in the western industrialized world. No wonder governments try to stimulate the use of alternative energy sources such as solar energy and good isolation of houses. However, according to Dr. Trijntje Völlink that is not enough. "You can give people well isolated houses, but if they are not conscious about the way they use energy, ultimately the savings will be much less than they could be according to estimates. Saving can only be realized when people actually change their behaviour as well."

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