Publications by authors named "Dominik Meißner"

3 Publications

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Feasibility of a Software agent providing a brief Intervention for Self-help to Uplift psychological wellbeing ("SISU"). A single-group pretest-posttest trial investigating the potential of SISU to act as therapeutic agent.

Internet Interv 2021 Apr 24;24:100377. Epub 2021 Feb 24.

Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Institute of Psychology and Education, Ulm University, Lise Meitner Straße 16, 89081 Ulm, Germany.

Background: Software agents are computer-programs that conduct conversations with a human. The present study evaluates the feasibility of the software agent "SISU" aiming to uplift psychological wellbeing. Methods: Within a one-group pretest-posttest trial,  = 30 German-speaking participants were recruited. Assessments took place before (t1), during (t2) and after (t3) the intervention. The ability of SISU to guide participants through the intervention, acceptability, and negative effects were investigated. Data analyses are based on intention-to-treat principles. Linear mixed models will be used to investigate short-term changes over time in mood, depression, anxiety.

Intervention: The intervention consists of two sessions. Each session comprises writing tasks on autobiographical negative life events and an Acceptance- and Commitment Therapy-based exercise respectively. Participants interact with the software agent on two consecutive days for about 30 min each.

Results: All participants completed all sessions within two days. User experience was positive, with all subscales of the user experience questionnaire (UEQ) M > 0.8. Participants experienced their writings as highly self-relevant and personal. However, 57% of the participants reported at least one negative effect attributed to the intervention. Results on linear mixed models indicate an increase in anxiety over time (β = 1.33,  = .001). Qualitative User Feedback revealed that the best thing about SISU was its innovativeness (13%) and anonymity (13%). As worst thing about SISU participants indicated that the conversational style of SISU often felt unnatural (73%).

Conclusion: SISU successfully guided participants through the two-day intervention. Moreover, SISU has the potential to enter the inner world of participants. However, intervention contents have the potential to evoke negative effects in individuals. Expectable short-term symptom deterioration due to writing about negative autobiographical life events could not be prevented by acceptance and commitment therapy-based exercises. Hence, results suggest a revision of intervention contents as well as of the conversational style of SISU. The good adherence rate indicates the useful and acceptable format of SISU as a mental health chatbot. Overall, little is known about the effectiveness of software agents in the context of psychological wellbeing. Results of the present trial underline that the innovative technology bears the potential of SISU to act as therapeutic agent but should not be used with its current intervention content.

Trial-registration: The Trial is registered at the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform via the German Clinical Studies Register (DRKS): DRKS00014933 (date of registration: 20.06.2018). Link:
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April 2021

Study protocol of a randomised controlled trial on SISU, a software agent providing a brief self-help intervention for adults with low psychological well-being.

BMJ Open 2021 02 8;11(2):e041573. Epub 2021 Feb 8.

Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Institute of Psychology and Education, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.

Introduction: Only a minority of people living with mental health problems are getting professional help. As digitalisation moves on, the possibility of providing internet/mobile-based interventions (IMIs) arises. One type of IMIs are fully automated conversational software agents (chatbots). Software agents are computer programs that can hold conversations with a human by mimicking a human conversational style. Software agents could deliver low-threshold and cost-effective interventions aiming at promoting psychological well-being in a large number of individuals. The aim of this trial is to evaluate the clinical effectiveness and acceptance of the brief software agent-based IMI SISU in comparison with a waitlist control group.

Methods And Analysis: Within a two-group randomised controlled trial, a total of 120 adult participants living with low well-being (Well-being Scale/WHO-5) will be recruited in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. SISU is based on therapeutic writing and acceptance and commitment therapy-based principles. The brief intervention consists of three modules. Participants work through the intervention on 3 consecutive days. Assessment takes place before (t1), during (t2) and after (t3) the interaction with SISU, as well as 4 weeks after randomisation (t4). Primary outcome is psychological well-being (WHO-5). Secondary outcomes are emotional well-being (Flourishing Scale), psychological flexibility (Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II), quality of life (Assessment of Quality of Life -8D), satisfaction with the intervention (Client Satisfaction Questionnaire-8) and side effects (Inventory for the assessment of negative effectsof psychotherapy). Examined mediators and moderators are sociodemographic variables, personality (Big Five Inventory-10), emotion regulation (Emotion Regulation Questionnaire), alexithymia (Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20), centrality of events (Centrality of Events Scale), treatment expectancies (Credibility Expectancy Questionnaire) and technology alliance (Inventory of Technology Alliance-Online Therapy). Data analysis will be based on intention-to-treat principles. SISU guides participants through a 3-day intervention.

Ethics And Dissemination: This trial has been approved by the ethics committee of the Ulm University (No. 448/18, 18.02.2019). Results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at conferences.

Trial Registration: The trial is registered at the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform via the German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS): DRKS00016799 (date of registration: 25 April 2019). In case of important protocol modifications, trial registration will be updated. This is protocol version number 1.
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February 2021

Oxytocin and vasopressin levels are decreased in the plasma of male schizophrenia patients.

Acta Neuropsychiatr 2014 Dec 7;26(6):347-55. Epub 2014 Oct 7.

1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy,Ludwig Maximilian University,Munich,Germany.

Objective: Impaired social functioning and autistic symptoms are characteristics of schizophrenia. The social hormones oxytocin (OT) and arginine-vasopressin (AVP) both modulate social interaction and therefore may be involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. We investigated whether men with schizophrenia show altered OT and AVP levels compared with healthy controls (HC) and whether autism symptoms are associated with OT levels.

Methods: Forty-one men with non-acute schizophrenia and 45 matched HC were enrolled. Schizophrenia was assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Blood samples were collected on 2 days, and plasma OT and AVP levels were measured by ELISA immunoassay.

Results: The schizophrenia patients had significantly lower plasma OT levels than the HC; a similar trend was found for AVP. Plasma OT levels were associated with severe life events, fewer important attached persons, and a higher score on the PANSS negative scale; the most dominant PANSS items were 'preoccupation', 'emotional withdrawal', and 'passive/apathetic social withdrawal'.

Conclusion: These findings support an association between the social hormones OT and AVP and schizophrenia. We suggest that OT metabolism may be altered in schizophrenia, but other possible causes for decreased plasma OT levels in schizophrenia patients include decreased OT synthesis, mRNA expression, and translation. Especially the 'autistic' symptoms of schizophrenia seem to be closely linked to an altered metabolism of OT, the 'attachment' hormone.
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December 2014