Cardiovascular psychobiology

Cardiovascular diseases are not only the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in industrial nations, but often also responsible for absences from work due to illness, including the inability to work.

In our research, we investigate individuals with increased cardiovascular risk, such as individuals suffering from essential hypertension, i.e. high blood pressure that has no identifiable cause. We are particularly interested in the potential psychobiological mechanisms that influence the cardiovascular risk associated with hypertension or other risk factors. Besides at-risk individuals, our research is also geared towards persons who are already suffering from illness, e.g. patients with coronary heart disease or chronic heart failure. Here, too, we are particularly interested in the psychobiological factors associated with changes in morbidity and, potentially, also mortality.

To examine the complex psychobiological processes behind the evolution and progress of cardiovascular disease, we use both basal measurements as well as standardised psychological, physiological and pharmacological stimulation tests. We measure potentially relevant psychological parameters (e.g. type D personality or vital exhaustion), as well as potentially mediating physiological parameters such as intermediary-biological, cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. blood lipids, clotting factors, inflammation activity) or the activity of immune cells (e.g. monocytes or macrophages) that play an important role in the arteriosclerotic process.