Fall 2018

Meet the Lab: GO-LAB

Meet the Behavioral Physiology Lab (GO-LAB) at Tilburg University, the Netherlands

The Behavioral Physiology Lab (GO-LAB) at Tillburg University, The Netherlands. The GO-LAB is a collaborative group who regularly attend the American Psychosomatic Society Annual Conference. We were fortunate enough to interview lab director, Dr. Nina Kupper. Please read below to hear about the exciting research the GO-LAB is currently pursuing.

APS: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you study in your lab?

NK: I am Associate Professor at the department of Medical & Clinical Psychology at Tilburg University, the Netherlands and lab director of GO-LAB. I have a background in psychophysiology, and I did my PhD at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, on the behavioral genetics of cardiovascular risk factors, such as heart rate variability and blood pressure, in the early 2000's. About five years ago, I initiated the build of a new lab facility, called the Behavioral Physiology lab (GO-LAB). This lab facility hosts researchers from the department of Medical & Clinical Psychology and the research institute CoRPS. In this lab and in our local teaching hospital, I study individual differences in psychophysiological processes associated with stress and emotions in health and disease. Particularly, I am interested in explaining the observed increased cardiovascular risk associated with depression and Type D personality, by focusing on psychobiological processes and mechanisms in lab and field experiments. For example, I recently examined cross-system profiles of cardiovascular stress reactivity with latent class analysis, and studied these profiles' relatedness to personality traits and mood. In another line of work, I also investigate the physiological correlates of emotion regulation strategies. To me, it is very important to conduct research in both medical settings as well as in structured laboratory environments.

APS: Can you give us a sneak peek on the types of questions your lab is tackling in the near future?

NK: GO-LAB is a fizzing workplace, where both staff and trainees are working on many new experiments. To give you an idea of what we are doing right now, these are some key words: * positive affect induction to reduce pain and catastrophizing * hormonal and cardiovascular effects of a virtual reality stress test * the cardiovascular effects of mindfulness after stress * the interaction of mood and physiology following physical exertion.

APS: How is the lab structured?

NK: GO-LAB was established in 2015. Differently from how things go in the US, in the Netherlands, GO-LAB functions as a collaborative group of staff, PhD students and trainees, with staff pursuing their own research lines within the broader mission of the lab, the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology and the CoRPS research institute. Moreover, PhD students here are not students but academic employees, with educational duties as well. The overarching mission of GO-LAB is to (1) Develop and expand the understanding of the fundamental behavioral and biological processes through which psychological factors increase the risk of chronic medical and psychological disorders; and (2) To employ experimental manipulations to identify the fundamental behavioral and biological responses as related to individual differences in trait and state psychological phenomena.

GO-LAB is unique in that we accommodate a very broad range of psychophysiological measures. My own research involves cardiovascular psychophysiology, brain activity (fNIR, EEG), markers of autonomic nervous system activity (e.g. EDA, ECG, ICG, continuous BP, respiration). My colleagues use these techniques as well, which creates very productive collaborations. Other researchers in the lab investigate (neuro-) hormonal markers such as oxytocin and cortisol. We combine these measures with behavioral and facial expression coding, as well as bodily balance measures, and live exercise performance. We also conduct studies linking these laboratory measures to ambulatory measures to enable lab-field experiments.

APS: Your lab is also part of the Center of Research on Psychological and Somatic disorders (CoRPS). Members of the center include many familiar APS faces (including the Editor-in-Chief, Willem Kop). What are the biggest advantages you find working as part of a center of researchers committed to Psychosomatic Medicine research?

NK: Working in such a large group of researchers within one interdisciplinary institute has many benefits. We benefit from the wide variety of expertise (from clinical psychology to cardiology and oncology) that is present within the center, and the possibility to combine fundamental lab work with clinical research. As for Psychosomatic Medicine, we get a different editor handling our manuscripts: One thing is sure, the journal treats us with the same level of scrutiny as everyone else, probably worse (haha).

APS: During APS in Seville, your lab performed a tech demo on emotion expression software. What's that all about?

NK: Yes, we recently purchased a very cool and sophisticated software and camera system that reads the face for emotional expression, summarizing them in the basic emotions (Noldus FaceReader®). It actually identifies 20 of Ekman's action units. Through a digital neural network, it keeps track of the movements of these points across time. Each action unit provides information on trace amounts until full-blown activity. We are finishing a validation study to compare action unit activity with the facial muscle activity as measured with EMG. We are using FaceReader® to examine emotion expression in emotion regulation experiments, or anger recall tasks. Other research lines include the analysis of emotion expression during (non-)cardiac chest pain, doctor-patient interaction, and in children.

APS: Your lab is often seen as a large group at APS. What has been a favorite APS conference location of the lab? What would be a location the GO-LAB would like to see in the future?

NK: Haha, yes. Look for our green CoRPS posters and presentations! APS is one of the main conferences for our group. Also for young scientists, it is important to build your network, and we think it is very valuable to let as many people attend as possible. I think I have been to all but two meetings since 2007. If I would have to choose... I liked San Francisco the best, and Chicago is a good second! We would love to visit APS in Boston or New York.

APS: Meet the lab, brief bios and pictures of all laboratory members.

Staff members at the GO-LAB
Prof.dr. Willem Johan (Wijo) Kop is Full Professor of Medical and Clinical Psychology at Tilburg University. Currently, Dr. Kop investigates cardiovascular diseases and other disorders where fatigue and depression play a major role. His research focuses on the associations of acute mental stress, exercise, fatigue, and depression with the autonomic nervous system, immunological processes, and neuro-hormones. The general scope of his research program is to identify the biological mechanisms by which psychological factors affect disease outcomes, and to what extent these relationships are mediated by health behaviors, such as physical activity. In the GO-Lab, Dr. Kop focuses on acute mental stress responses, mood and physical exertion, and lab-field associations using ambulatory monitoring.

Dr. Ivan Nyklíček obtained his PhD in Psychology in 1997 at Tilburg University, Netherlands. Currently, he is Associate Professor at the department of Medical and Clinical Psychology at this university and is mainly involved in research on effects, mechanisms, and moderators of mindfulness interventions and manipulations. Nowadays, an important part of this research is conducted in the GO-LAB, mainly on potential buffering effects of various brief mindfulness and acceptance manipulations on subjective, cardiovascular (e.g., heart rate variability, blood pressure), and central nervous (EEG, fNIRS) system responses to various psychosocial stressors. In addition, potential moderating effects of psychological traits and episodic cognitive tendencies are examined.

Dr. Hester Trompetter: I work as an Assistant Professor at our department of Medical and Clinical Psychology. Prior to coming to Tilburg, I earned my PhD in Psychology at the department of Psychology, Health and Technology (University of Twente, The Netherlands). My research aims to understand if and how protective psychological factors - primarily positive emotion(s) (regulation), acceptance and self-compassion - contribute to mental health in the context of stress, and chronic pain and illness. In addition to experience sampling studies and observational studies I perform experimental studies at our GO-LAB. Together with Nina I currently focus on the role of positive emotions in physiological and cognitive stress responses to CPT-induced pain. I love cooking, reading novels that have nothing to do with my research or with science in general, and being outdoors.

Dr. Annemiek Karreman is Assistant Professor at the department of Medical & Clinical Psychology. Her research focuses on the role of emotion regulation in mental health problems in both children and adults. She has a special interest in studying multiple aspects of emotions, such as emotional facial expressions, physiological responses, and emotion experience. In recent experiments in the GO-LAB she examines the effects of emotion regulation on individuals' emotional responses when dealing with stressful situations. For example, she studies whether instructions to use specific emotion regulation strategies can diminish children's sadness feelings and facial expressions.

Dr. Madelon Hendricx-Riem is Assistant Professor at the department of Medical & Clinical Psychology, with a background in fMRI research. She obtained her PhD at the Centre for Child and Family Studies at Leiden University. In her research, she aims to understand neurobiological mechanisms related to attachment and childhood trauma. In current studies in the GO-LAB she focuses on effects of intranasal oxytocin administration on cortisol and autonomic reactivity during stress, taking into account moderating effects of childhood experiences. In addition, she examines the role of emotion regulation strategies in mothers' responding to infant crying, together with Dr. Annemiek Karreman.

PhD students
Stefanie Duijndam: Hello! I'm a fourth year PhD student at the Medical and Clinical Psychology department of Tilburg University. I earned my BSc in Psychology and MSc in Clinical Neuropsychology at Leiden University. My research focuses on the individual differences in emotional and physiological stress reactivity, and whether these differences are associated with social inhibition. I am particularly interested the psychophysiology of social evaluative stress and emotion regulation. Besides conducting my own experimental research, I supervise undergraduate and Master students for their research internships, in which I teach them how to conduct experiments, and process and analyze the collected (physiological) data. When I'm not working in the GO-Lab, I spend my time singing in a Rock Choir (yes, that's a thing and we only sing Rock songs), going to music festivals, biking, playing golf, and watching a bunch of TV shows.

Tom IJdema: I'm a third year PhD student at Medical and Clinical psychology at Tilburg. I did both my master's and bachelor's at Utrecht University in Utrecht, where I also live. In my free time I like to go to concerts, listen music, play games, play guitar, fitness and last but not least, brew beer. My research looks at the efficacy of dual tasking (the working mechanism of EMDR) treatment in addiction and anxiety. Specifically, I am interested to see whether the model of EMDR can be refined by adding a component of valence, and to explore electronic delivery of such an intervention. In my most recent project, we developed an app to treat craving in smoking pregnant women in the hospitals in Tilburg, which we thoroughly piloted in the GO-LAB.

Laura Kunst: Laura Kunst completed her Research Master's in Clinical and Health Psychology at Leiden University and subsequently worked there as a teacher and researcher. Presently Laura is working on her PhD at Tilburg University. Her main research interests lie in treatment strategies for anxiety disorders. As a PhD project, Laura is investigating the comparative (cost-)effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy and autonomy enhancing treatment for anxiety disorders, in a multi-center randomized controlled trial. In the GO-LAB she additionally carries out on experimental research on stress reactivity and vulnerability for anxiety disorders.

Master students
Several research master students work in GO-LAB to help with our projects as a test leaders and with data processing. In addition, they may write their first year paper and Master's thesis on data collected in the lab. This is one of our second year students.

Robin van der Linde (Research Master Student):
Hello! My name is Robin and I am in my second year of the Research Master in Individual Differences and Assessment. For my masters, I had to do internal traineeships at Tilburg University, which I did last year at the GO-Lab. Together with Stefanie Duijndam and Nina Kupper I worked on the Inhibit project as a test leader. Inhibit is a research project that looks at the psychobiology of interpersonal interaction, and with the focus on individual differences in this process. The Inhibit study very much suited my research interests, as I am highly interested in physiological processes and especially individual differences in these processes (which you can probably already tell from looking at the title of my Master program :)). I very much enjoyed helping out in the GO-lab, and hopefully you will see me there again this year!