Visuocortical correlates of sensory processing during aversive learning

How does aversive learning shape sensory mechanisms to adapt to changing environments? Attention to threat is vital for supporting defensive behavior in threatening situations. Here, we use direct measures of brain activity to index attentional processing of threatening stimuli. Our major goal is to contribute to the understanding of how threatening stimuli are processed in the brain and to elucidate sensory mechanisms underlying defensive behavior. We assume that adapting sensory mechanisms to the characteristics of the environment is a fundamental function of the brain. However, a dysruption of this function could contribute to the development and maintenance of psychiatric disorder, in particular of mood and anxiety disorders, which are characterized by a dysfunctional processing of emotional stimuli.

In this project, we try to develop, test and establish new methods and paradigms to investigate sensory mechanisms in healthy individuals. We record brain activity via EEG to index sensory processing during aversive learning paradigms. To assess defensive responding on a multimodal level, we also measure behavioral and psychophysiological components of the human defense system.

Recently, we have begun using online methods.

Yannik Stegmann
Scientific Researcher

My research interests include fear, anxiety and anxiety disorders, as well as how aversive learning shapes perception.


Investigating sustained attention in contextual threat using steady-state VEPs evoked by flickering video stimuli

Anxiety is characterized by anxious anticipation and heightened vigilance to uncertain threat. However, if threat is not reliably …

The effect of inherently threatening contexts on visuocortical engagement to conditioned threat

Fear and anxiety are crucial for adaptive responding in life-threatening situations. Whereas fear is a phasic response to an acute …

Social aversive generalization learning sharpens the tuning of visuocortical neurons to facial identity cues

Measures of visuocortical activity during aversive generalization learning revealed sharpened representations of facial identity, …

The effect of trait anxiety on attentional mechanisms in combined context and cue conditioning and extinction learning

In this study we compared steady-state visual evoked potentials during the NPU-threat task between high and low anxious individuals. …