Chantal Martin Sölch
Research and publications
The (neuro)-science behind resilience: A focus on stress and reward
Clinical Psychology in Europe (2023) | Journal article
Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Interaction of the Ayahuasca Constituents Harmine and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in the Rat Brain
Klemens Egger, Frederik Gudmundsen, Naja Støckel Jessen, Christina Baun, Sandra Pötzsch, Vladimir Shalgunov, Matthias M. Herth, Boris B. Quednow, Chantal Martin-Soelch, Dario Dornbierer, Milan Scheidegger, Paul Cumming, Mikael Palner, (2023) | Preprint
The first session matters: Therapist responsiveness and the therapeutic alliance in the treatment of borderline personality disorder
Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy (2023) | Journal article
Internet-based treatment for depression in India and Switzerland: a randomized controlled trial comparing therapist support and peer-support using an online forum
Start 01.03.2023 End 28.02.2026 Funding SNSF Open project sheet Depression is one of the most frequent mental health disorders that cause personal suffering and is considered a leading cause of disability worldwide. However, many cases of depression are untreated despite effective treatments being available, the so-called treatment gap, because of difficulty of treatment access, of a lack of mental health specialists, or of fear of stigmatization, among other. The treatment gap for depression is found worldwide including developed countries like Switzerland but more prevalent in Non-Western countries such as India. A way to reduce the treatment gap is the use of technology, e.g., with Internet-based self-help, which is a low-threshold, flexible and easy to access treatment alternative for depression. A large body of evidence indicate that Internet-based self-help programs are efficacious to reduce depressive symptoms as this is the case for instance for the HERMES program, an Internet-based self-help developed and validated in German at the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Bern. To the best of our knowledge, only very few evidence-based Internet-based self-help programs for depression are available in India. While there is growing evidence that human support in the form of guidance seems beneficial for the outcome in internet-based self-help interventions, the added value of peer support in internet-based interventions is less clear. Peer-support, however, could increase treatment adherence and increase the effect of internet-based self-help and also be a particularly interesting tool for collectivist societies such as India. The main aim of this project is to culturally adapt and test the efficacy of an internet-based program for depression (HERMES) for English-speaking individuals in India. A second aim is to translate the program to French and test its efficacy for French-speaking individuals as HERMES only exists in German, but its use could be extended to the French-part of Switzerland and to French-speaking countries. Finally, a third aim is to investigate the effect of peer support provided in an online forum within the self-help program and compare its effect in India and in Switzerland. The study will be conducted as a randomized controlled trial. A total of 200 participants reporting mild to moderate depressive symptoms will each be recruited in India and Switzerland. Participants will be randomly assigned to the active conditions (85 participants in the group with peer support and 85 participants to the group without support) and the waiting-list control group (30 participants). Peer support will be provided by adding a discussion forum in one of the active conditions. The discussion forum is intended for mutual exchange between the participants, i.e., they can ask questions, discuss difficulties and support each other. Participants will be recruited through social media, depression-related websites, and a study website. The primary outcome will be depressive symptoms at 8 weeks post-assessment measured with the Patient-Health-Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Secondary outcomes will be adherence to the program, changes in anxiety, stress, health-related quality of life, possible negative effects, and treatment satisfaction, as well as the primary outcome variables at 6 months follow-up. This project is relevant at clinical but also at populational levels to reduce the gap between the high prevalence of depression, demand for treatment, and access to mental health care in India and French-speaking countries. Internet-based self-help programs have the potential to complement existing mental health care because they are easily accessible, provide a high degree of anonymity, and can be provided to many people simultaneously. This project will only address English-speaking individuals in India but may be adapted for other linguistic groups in India afterward. The project is innovative as it will test whether peer support in internet-based treatments enhances efficacy, wich will allow for comparisons between the more collectivist society in India and the more individualist society in Switzerland. The comparison might yield information about how to adapt an internet-based intervention for different cultures. Performing this research in both countries will therefore represent a major strength for this project. We strongly believe that our project fulfills the framework of the current call as it addresses a major societal problem, i.e. the burden associated with depression using technologies. By providing large-scale interventions, we expect beneficial aspects at population level leading to a stronger societal integration of individuals with mental disorders yielding indirectly to a stronger social cohesion.
TIMe experience in Europe’s Digital age (TIMED)
Start 01.11.2022 End 31.10.2025 Funding SNSF Open project sheet The recent mass proliferation of digital technologies means that people now live in a state of permanent connectivity. The effects of this on the availability of time, the use of time and experience of temporality for the individual and for society are presently unknown. The TIMED project will establish, for the first time, the specific effects of digitalization on time experience and the sense of temporality across Europe. WP1 will determine what digitization means to people, using a qualitative and quantitative methods. WP2 will use questionnaires to establish how the forms of digitization identified in WP1 affect the passage of time, time pressure and time perspective. In WP3 interviews will explore what constitutes free time in the digital age. WP4 will use real-time behaviour analysis to establish how digitization affects time usage and the passage of time during daily life. WP1-4 will be conducted in 6 European countries: UK, Germany, Spain, Poland, Switzerland & Czech Republic enabling comparisons across countries and cultures, and between people of different ages, genders, employments, levels of digital engagement. Finally, WP5 will use lab studies to establish the psychophysiological mechanisms through which digital engagement affects time experience. The TIMED project will provide a ground-breaking account of how and why the perception, use and allocation of time are affected by personal levels of digitization and cultural norms, and how this then impacts on quality of life. The information generated will enable us to, for the first time, establish how digitalization affects individual temporal experience and whether it is aiding the development of unified European temporal experience or enhancing existing cultural differences. The evidence generated will have significant implications for the promotion of health, wellbeing and economic outcomes through the mitigation or enhancement of the consequences of increased digitalization on temporal experience.
Development of novel Mindfulness-based approaches for mental health: From roots to the future
Start 01.05.2022 End 31.07.2022 Funding SNSF Open project sheet Mindfulness-based interventions have been successfully implemented in field of mental health. Besides the well-established program of Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), new concepts show promising results. However, many of these developments are not known and used in Switzerland. In addition, there is no scientific event reuniting clinicians and scientists and providing an overview of the state of research on mindfulness-based applications in the field of mental health. A specificity of our event is the focus on approaches based on neuroscientific and psychological research. The aims of this scientific event are: 1) To provide an overview on the scientific research on the effects of mindfulness interventions in mental health, 2) To present new evidence-based developments in Mindfulness-based approaches including, a) the Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), b) the Compassion-focused therapy (CFT), and c) the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), and 3) to stimulate the exchange between scientists and clinicians and to promote new research collaborations as well as the development of a research network in this field. This workshop is open to (neuro-)scientists, clinical scientists, clinicians, mental health professionals and students. Women are actively involved in the main talks and in poster presentation. Poster presentations and poster prizes will give young scientists the opportunity to present their research and interact with international experts. This event, conjointly organized by the Unit of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University Fribourg and the Fribourg Mental Services is directly related to research projects of both institutions.
Understanding and restoring dopaminergic function in Fibromyalgia patients using a mindfulness- based psychological intervention: A raclopride PET-study
Start 01.10.2019 End 31.03.2025 Funding SNSF Open project sheet Chronic pain, defined as a pain lasting for more than 6 months, is regarded as a major health problem in western European countries. Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is one of the most prevalent chronic pain conditions, with a widely unknown etiology and is difficult to treat. A better understanding of FMS and the development of new treatment strategies for this disease are therefore very relevant issues in healthcare. The current guidelines for the treatment of fibromyalgia consider psychological interventions, in particular cognitive-behavioral methods a treatment of choice. Mindfulness is regarded as an interesting approach for FMS, however without conclusive empirical evidence so far. A recent promising intervention, the Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) intervention that was originally developed to treat substance dependence has shown beneficial effects in chronic pain patients with opioid abuse. The MORE intervention is a cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness based group training of 8 weeks. Interestingly, preliminary results indicate that this intervention is able to restore the neurophysiological and behavioral responses to reward. The present project is a continuation of a previous SNF-funded project of the PI on FMS that evidenced impaired dopamine (DA) function and altered DA response to reward in FMS in comparison to age and gender matched healthy participants. This innovative new project aims to build on these previous findings and to generate additional important clinical and scientific knowledge by investigating the ability of MORE to restore the DA function in FMS patients, in particular with regard to the DA responses to reward, and to reduce pain and mood symptoms in FMS. More specifically, we expect the FMS participants to show altered DA responses to reward before MORE; and we expect these alterations to be reduced after the MORE intervention compared to a wait-list group. In addition, we expect the MORE intervention to reduce clinical pain and FMS symptoms. Finally we expect a significant reduction of negative effects and stress and a significant increase of reward experience and positive affects in the daily life after the MORE intervention. To test these hypotheses, we will include 80 women with FMS, who will be randomly assigned to the MORE intervention or to a wait-list control group. The FMS participants will be compared at baseline with a group of age-matched healthy women. Before and after the intervention, participants will undergo [11C] Raclopride Positron Emission Tomography (PET) while they perform a reward monetary task. [11C] Raclopride PET measures are sensitive to endogeneous DA changes. With this method, we were able in our previous project to evidence significant differences in DA responses between FMS and healthy women. To measure pain and FMS-related outcomes, we will use standardized clinical measures related to pain intensity, sleep quality, level of functioning, depressive and anxiety symptoms as defined in the Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Clinical Trials recommendations before and after the intervention. Finally, we will test whether the MORE intervention can change self-reported measures of momentary pain, mood, stress and reward experience in everyday life measured by the Experience Sampling method (ESM) as well as biopsychological measures of stress, including cortisol and alpha-amylase. Pain and FMS outcomes will be repeated after 3 months to assess the short-term effects of the intervention. This innovative project aiming at investigating the effects of a newly validated intervention combining CBT and mindfulness for the first time in FMS, and at measuring its ability to restore DA function at a neurochemical level and to reduce FMS symptoms at behavioral level is very timely and relevant for the treatment and understanding of FMS. At a clinical level, the MORE intervention is an easy to learn group therapy and could therefore be used in several clinical settings and at a larger scale. The use of standardized outcomes will allow us to compare our results with other RCT’s and increase the validity of our results for comparisons in future meta-analyses. At a scientific level, a further cutting-edge aspect is the use of multidisciplinary methods, combining specific neural measures with clinical outcomes and measures in everyday life. This combination will allow us to understand basic mechanisms underlying the clinical changes associated with the MORE intervention on one hand and to investigate the transfer of these changes in everyday life of the patients. Finally, these state-of-the art methods will permit to explore the relationship between neural processes and the psychological and subjective experience of the participants, by linking for instance the DA responses to monetary reward with the daily experience of reward. Measures in everyday life of the participants will increase the ecological validity of the results, and allow us to test the transfer of the intervention’s effect in the daily life of participants. Finally, this highly multidisciplinary project combining psychological, and medical sciences with neurosciences will promote young researchers and give them access to very innovative methods and train them at a scientific and clinical level.