Publications by authors named "Wolfgang Tschacher"

59 Publications

Affect-Logic, Embodiment, Synergetics, and the Free Energy Principle: New Approaches to the Understanding and Treatment of Schizophrenia.

Entropy (Basel) 2021 Dec 1;23(12). Epub 2021 Dec 1.

Department of Experimental Psychology, University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, CH-3060 Bern, Switzerland.

This theoretical paper explores the affect-logic approach to schizophrenia in light of the general complexity theories of cognition: embodied cognition, Haken's synergetics, and Friston's free energy principle. According to affect-logic, the mental apparatus is an embodied system open to its environment, driven by bioenergetic inputs of emotions. Emotions are rooted in goal-directed embodied states selected by evolutionary pressure for coping with specific situations such as fight, flight, attachment, and others. According to synergetics, nonlinear bifurcations and the emergence of new global patterns occur in open systems when control parameters reach a critical level. Applied to the emergence of psychotic states, synergetics and the proposed energetic understanding of emotions lead to the hypothesis that critical levels of emotional tension may be responsible for the transition from normal to psychotic modes of functioning in vulnerable individuals. In addition, the free energy principle through learning suggests that psychotic symptoms correspond to alternative modes of minimizing free energy, which then entails distorted perceptions of the body, self, and reality. This synthetic formulation has implications for novel therapeutic and preventive strategies in the treatment of psychoses, among these are milieu-therapeutic approaches of the Soteria type that focus on a sustained reduction of emotional tension and phenomenologically oriented methods for improving the perception of body, self, and reality.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/e23121619DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8700589PMC
December 2021

[Empirical Conceptualization of Common Factors in Psychotherapy: Factor Structure of the WEB].

Psychiatr Prax 2021 Dec 17. Epub 2021 Dec 17.

Universitätsklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Universität Bern, Schweiz.

Objective: Our goal was to explore the association pattern of 26 common factors and thereby contribute conceptually to the debate on change mechanisms in psychotherapy with an empirically derived conception of superordinate common factors (global common factors). In addition, we tested reliability and validity aspects of a new instrument to assess common factors.

Method: The activation of common factors during in- and outpatient psychotherapy was assessed in 502 patients using a weekly process measure ('Wochenerfahrungsbogen', WEB). The factor structure of the WEB was determined by exploratory factor analysis and verified by confirmatory factor analyses.

Results: The four factors Coping, Therapeutic Alliance, Cognitive Integration, and Affective Processing accounted for 59.8 % of the total variance. Subsequent confirmatory factor analyses, using in- and outpatient samples, confirmed this structure.

Conclusions: The study provided an empirically based integrative categorisation of common factors. Results on reliability (internal consistency) and construct validity indicate that the WEB is an appropriate measurement instrument to investigate global common factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/a-1673-3867DOI Listing
December 2021

Nonverbal Synchrony in Couple Therapy Linked to Clients' Well-Being and the Therapeutic Alliance.

Front Psychol 2021 11;12:718353. Epub 2021 Nov 11.

Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland.

Nonverbal synchrony between individuals has a robust relation to the positive aspects of relationships. In psychotherapy, where talking is the cure, nonverbal synchrony has been related to a positive outcome of therapy and to a stronger therapeutic alliance between therapist and client in dyadic settings. Only a few studies have focused on nonverbal synchrony in multi-actor therapy conversations. Here, we studied the synchrony of head and body movements in couple therapy, with four participants present (spouses and two therapists). We analyzed more than 2000min of couple therapy videos from 11 couple therapy cases using Motion Energy Analysis and a Surrogate Synchrony (SUSY), a procedure used earlier in dyadic psychotherapy settings. SUSY was calculated for all six dyads per session, leading to synchrony computations for 66 different dyads. Significant synchrony occurred in all 29 analyzed sessions and between the majority of dyads. Complex models were used to determine the relations between nonverbal synchrony and the clients' well-being and all participants' evaluations of the therapeutic alliance. The clients' well-being was related to body synchronies in the sessions. Differences were found between the clients' and therapists' alliance evaluations: the clients' alliance evaluations were related to synchrony between both dyads of opposite gender, whereas the therapists' alliance evaluations were related to synchrony between dyads of the same gender, but opposite to themselves. With four participants present, our study introduces a new aspect of nonverbal synchrony, since as a dyad synchronizes, the other two participants are observing it. Nonverbal synchrony seems to be as important in couple therapy as in individual psychotherapy, but the presence of multiple participants makes the patterns more complex.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.718353DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8631962PMC
November 2021

Beyond Dyadic Coupling: The Method of Multivariate Surrogate Synchrony (mv-SUSY).

Entropy (Basel) 2021 Oct 22;23(11). Epub 2021 Oct 22.

University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, 3000 Bern 60, Switzerland.

Measuring interpersonal synchrony is a promising approach to assess the complexity of social interaction, which however has been mostly limited to dyads. In this study, we introduce multivariate Surrogate Synchrony (mv-SUSY) to extend the current set of computational methods. Methods: mv-SUSY was applied to eight datasets consisting of 10 time series each, all with n = 9600 observations. Datasets 1 to 5 consist of simulated time series with the following characteristics: white noise (dataset 1), non-stationarity with linear time trends (dataset 2), autocorrelation (dataset 3), oscillation (dataset 4), and multivariate correlation (dataset 5). Datasets 6 to 8 comprise empirical multivariate movement data of two individuals (datasets 6 and 7) and between members of a group discussion (dataset 8.) Results: As hypothesized, findings of mv-SUSY revealed absence of synchrony in datasets 1 to 4 and presence of synchrony in dataset 5. In the empirical datasets, mv-SUSY indicated significant movement synchrony. These results were predominantly replicated by two well-established dyadic synchrony approaches, Surrogate Synchrony (SUSY) and Surrogate Concordance (SUCO). Conclusions: The study applied and evaluated a novel synchrony approach, mv-SUSY. We demonstrated the feasibility and validity of estimating multivariate nonverbal synchrony within and between individuals by mv-SUSY.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/e23111385DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8623376PMC
October 2021

Patients' style of emotional processing moderates the impact of common factors in psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy (Chic) 2021 Dec 2;58(4):472-484. Epub 2021 Sep 2.

Psychiatric Services.

This study examined how patient characteristics concerning processing of emotions interact with common factors in psychotherapy. We focused on common factors of emotional processing in psychotherapy with regard to depression outcome. A total of 93 psychiatric outpatients were included. Patients completed preassessments and postassessments regarding depression symptoms and emotional processing style. In addition, the subjectively perceived activation of common factors related to emotional processing in therapy was assessed by the patients after each therapy session. Depending on patients' pretreatment characteristics in emotional processing, activation of the emotion-related common factor mindfulness in treatment had varying impact on depression outcome: The perceived activation of mindfulness had a positive impact on depression reduction only in patients with pretreatment deficits in cognitive representation and communication of emotions. In patients who did not show such deficits, the perceived activation of this common factor during treatment was negatively correlated with outcome. It appears that common factors in psychotherapy must match with patient characteristics to gain therapeutic significance. Examining the interplay of patient characteristics with common factors provides a promising approach to tailor psychotherapeutic procedures in the sense of a personalized psychotherapy. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pst0000370DOI Listing
December 2021

Brief Report: Specificity of Interpersonal Synchrony Deficits to Autism Spectrum Disorder and Its Potential for Digitally Assisted Diagnostics.

J Autism Dev Disord 2021 Jul 31. Epub 2021 Jul 31.

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Faculty, LMU Munich, Nussbaumstrasse 7, Munich, Germany.

Reliably diagnosing autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in adulthood poses a challenge to clinicians due to the absence of specific diagnostic markers. This study investigated the potential of interpersonal synchrony (IPS), which has been found to be reduced in ASD, to augment the diagnostic process. IPS was objectively assessed in videos of diagnostic interviews in a representative referral population from two specialized autism outpatient clinics. In contrast to the current screening tools that could not reliably differentiate, we found a significant reduction of IPS in interactions with individuals later diagnosed with ASD (n = 16) as opposed to those not receiving a diagnosis (n = 23). While these findings need to be validated in larger samples, they nevertheless underline the potential of digitally-enhanced diagnostic processes for ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-05194-3DOI Listing
July 2021

Eye Synchrony: A Method to Capture Mutual and Joint Attention in Social Eye Movements.

Nonlinear Dynamics Psychol Life Sci 2021 Jul;25(3):309-333

Universite de Lausanne, Switzerland.

Gaze behavior represents a complex phenomenon in social inter-action. We focus here on dyadic face-to-face interaction during naturally occurring verbal exchanges, where shared attention can be operationalized by joint gazes and eye contact. A multi-step methodology for the analysis of eye synchrony is presented, exemplified by a single case. The dynamics of face-to-face interaction allows estimating the degree of interlocutors' synchrony. While there is growing evidence for interpersonal synchrony of various behavioral and physiological signals, eye synchrony has not yet been studied outside the laboratory. The method presented is based on time series of gaze behavior acquired by mobile eye tracking devices. We applied windowed cross-correlations to the data and used surrogate testing to attain effect sizes even for single interactions (Surrogate Synchrony, SUSY). SUSY thus integrates nomo-thetic with idiographic research goals: The nomothetic interest is to test hypotheses that gaze behavior may be generally synchronized and linked with psychological variables. The idiographic aspect is that effect sizes can be determined even in single-case studies owing to the surrogate analyses, which supports qualitative research. Results of the exemplary dataset suggested that proof-of-concept of this approach was attained. We describe what prerequisites are needed of a setting and technical setup for use in future studies of psychotherapy, counseling, negotiations, or work-related interactions.
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July 2021

Music Listening in Classical Concerts: Theory, Literature Review, and Research Program.

Front Psychol 2021 27;12:638783. Epub 2021 Apr 27.

WÜRTH Chair of Cultural Production, Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Performing and listening to music occurs in specific situations, requiring specific media. Empirical research on music listening and appreciation, however, tends to overlook the effects these situations and media may have on the listening experience. This article uses the sociological concept of the frame to develop a theory of an aesthetic experience with music as the result of encountering sound/music in the context of a specific situation. By presenting a transdisciplinary sub-field of empirical (concert) studies, we unfold this theory for one such frame: the classical concert. After sketching out the underlying theoretical framework, a selective literature review is conducted to look for evidence on the general plausibility of the single elements of this emerging theory and to identify desiderata. We refer to common criticisms of the standard classical concert, and how new concert formats try to overcome alleged shortcomings and detrimental effects. Finally, an empirical research program is proposed, in which frames and frame components are experimentally manipulated and compared to establish their respective affordances and effects on the musical experience. Such a research program will provide empirical evidence to tackle a question that is still open to debate, i.e., whether the diversified world of modern-day music listening formats also holds a place for the classical concert - and if so, for what kind of classical concert.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.638783DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8110713PMC
April 2021

When our hearts beat together: Cardiac synchrony as an entry point to understand dyadic co-regulation in couples.

Psychophysiology 2021 03 23;58(3):e13739. Epub 2020 Dec 23.

University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

The degree to which romantic partners' autonomic responses are coordinated, represented by their pattern of physiological synchrony, seems to capture important aspects of the reciprocal influence and co-regulation between spouses. In this study, we analyzed couple's cardiac synchrony as measured by heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV). A sample of 27 couples (N = 54) performed a structured interaction task in the lab where they discussed positive and negative aspects of the relationship. During the interaction, their cardiac measures (HR and HRV) were recorded using the BIOPAC System. Additional assessment, prior to the lab interaction task, included self-report measures of empathy (Interpersonal Reactivity Index and Interpersonal Reactivity Index for Couples) and relationship satisfaction (Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale). Synchrony computation was based on the windowed cross-correlation of both partner's HR and HRV time series. In order to control for random synchrony, surrogate controls were created using segment-wise shuffling. Our results confirmed the presence of cardiac synchrony during the couple's interaction when compared to surrogate testing. Specifically, we found evidence for negative (antiphase) synchrony of couple's HRV and positive (in-phase) synchrony of HR. Further, both HRV and HR synchronies were associated with several dimensions of self-report data. This study suggests that cardiac synchrony, particularly, the direction of the covariation in the partners' physiological time series, may have an important relational meaning in the context of marital interactions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13739DOI Listing
March 2021

Time to get personal? The impact of researchers choices on the selection of treatment targets using the experience sampling methodology.

J Psychosom Res 2020 Aug 5;137:110211. Epub 2020 Aug 5.

Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA.

Objective: One of the promises of the experience sampling methodology (ESM) is that a statistical analysis of an individual's emotions, cognitions and behaviors in everyday-life could be used to identify relevant treatment targets. A requisite for clinical implementation is that outcomes of such person-specific time-series analyses are not wholly contingent on the researcher performing them.

Methods: To evaluate this, we crowdsourced the analysis of one individual patient's ESM data to 12 prominent research teams, asking them what symptom(s) they would advise the treating clinician to target in subsequent treatment.

Results: Variation was evident at different stages of the analysis, from preprocessing steps (e.g., variable selection, clustering, handling of missing data) to the type of statistics and rationale for selecting targets. Most teams did include a type of vector autoregressive model, examining relations between symptoms over time. Although most teams were confident their selected targets would provide useful information to the clinician, not one recommendation was similar: both the number (0-16) and nature of selected targets varied widely.

Conclusion: This study makes transparent that the selection of treatment targets based on personalized models using ESM data is currently highly conditional on subjective analytical choices and highlights key conceptual and methodological issues that need to be addressed in moving towards clinical implementation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2020.110211DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8287646PMC
August 2020

Ambulatory Assessment of Psychological and Physiological Stress on Workdays and Free Days Among Teachers. A Preliminary Study.

Front Neurosci 2020 14;14:112. Epub 2020 Feb 14.

Department of Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Objective: Teachers are affected by high levels of job stress, leading to one of the highest rates of burnout. The purpose of our pilot study was to investigate the diurnal course of teachers' psychological and physiological stress responses [cortisol levels, alpha-amylase, heart rate (HR), and heart rate variability (HRV)]. Another aim of the project was to test the applicability of ambulatory assessment methods in daily teaching situations.

Methods: In a non-clinical sample of eight primary school teachers (mean age = 43, = 15.22, 6 females) in Switzerland, continuous biopsychological data on two workdays and a free day were assessed. The teachers' HRs and HRV were measured continuously using an ambulatory ECG. Additionally, eight saliva samples were collected from the teachers repeatedly throughout the day to determine the diurnal course of salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase (sAA). Perceived stress and anger ratings were assessed simultaneously.

Results: As hypothesized, the teachers' morning cortisol levels, perceived stress, and anger levels were significantly higher, and their overall HRV was significantly lower on workdays than on a free day. Conversely, sAA levels and HRs showed no significant differences between working and free days. Salivary markers exhibited the expected diurnal course, with decreasing cortisol and increasing sAA levels over the course of the day, while self-rated stress reached the maximum at midday during working days.

Conclusion: The results of the present explorative study show that physiological and psychological parameters differ within working and free days for teachers. A comparison between working and free days resulted in differences in morning cortisol levels, HRV as well as stress and anger levels. The ambulatory assessment method was found to be applicable in daily teaching situations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7033968PMC
February 2020

Exploring nonverbal synchrony in borderline personality disorder: A double-blind placebo-controlled study using oxytocin.

Br J Clin Psychol 2020 Jun 27;59(2):186-207. Epub 2019 Nov 27.

Division of Social Neuropsychiatry and Evolutionary Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, LWL University Hospital Bochum, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.

Objectives: Interpersonal dysfunction is a central feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD), and the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has been shown to impact patients' behaviour in numerous ways. Nonverbal signals such as the coordination of body movement (nonverbal synchrony) are associated with the success of interpersonal exchanges and could thus be influenced by features of BPD and by the administration of OT.

Design: We explored the effect of intranasal OT (inOT) on nonverbal synchrony in sixteen patients with BPD and fifteen healthy controls (CTL) randomly assigned to two double-blind clinical interviews under inOT and placebo (PL).

Methods: Nonverbal synchrony was assessed by automated video-analyses of subject's and interviewer's body movement. Lagged cross-correlations were used to objectively quantify coordination in dyads.

Results: Synchrony was higher than pseudosynchrony (= synchrony expected by chance), and there was a differential effect of inOT between groups: While healthy controls displayed increased synchrony under inOT, patients with BPD showed low levels of synchrony under inOT. Additionally, patient's synchrony was negatively associated with self-reported childhood trauma.

Conclusions: Nonverbal synchrony in clinical interviews is influenced by inOT, and this effect depends on subject's diagnosis. In line with previous research implying positive associations between nonverbal synchrony and relationship quality, inOT led to an increase of synchrony in healthy controls, but not in patients with BPD. Low levels of synchrony under inOT in patients and its association with childhood trauma suggest that additional mechanisms such as rejection sensitivity might mediate BPD patients' nonverbal behaviour.

Practitioner Points: Intranasal oxytocin (inOT) attenuated nonverbal synchrony - a proxy for relationship quality - in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), while it increased nonverbal synchrony in healthy controls (CTL). Available models (rejection sensitivity; social salience) suggest that inOT may alter the way patients with BPD assess social situations, and this alteration is expressed by changes in nonverbal coordination. Patients with BPD display low levels of synchrony which are even below expected pseudosynchrony based on chance. The association between self-reported childhood trauma and lower synchrony in BPD was most evident for patient's imitative behaviour: Under inOT, patients with high scores of childhood trauma refrained from imitating their interview partners. Study limitations include small sample sizes and limited data on the psychological impact of the clinical interviews.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjc.12240DOI Listing
June 2020

Causation and chance: Detection of deterministic and stochastic ingredients in psychotherapy processes.

Psychother Res 2020 11 5;30(8):1075-1087. Epub 2019 Nov 5.

Institute of Theoretical Physics and Synergetics, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany.

A novel methodology for the empirical analysis of processes in psychotherapy was developed and tested. This method is based on the Fokker-Planck equation (FPE), a probabilistic model that detects the deterministic and stochastic components of a process. The deterministic component is given by the potential function underlying the process. The FPE application can be used to visualize the attractor (or in the case of multistability, attractors) of the dynamics, and the sources of stochasticity. The FPE app can also be employed in two-dimensional systems, for example, client's and therapist's coupled processes; then the method is run on the cross-correlations of the time series. Signatures were defined that merge the functions retrieved from the methodology into numerical values, and may serve to detect associations with conventional self-report measures of psychotherapy. The method was tested in a case series where client's and therapist's heart rate, heart rate variability and respiration were monitored in 20 psychotherapy sessions. The FPE app works well with time series of high resolution and adequate observation numbers, which renders it applicable to nonverbal and physiological time series.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10503307.2019.1685139DOI Listing
November 2020

Interpersonal synchrony feels good but impedes self-regulation of affect.

Sci Rep 2019 10 11;9(1):14691. Epub 2019 Oct 11.

Inter-Self Lab, Institute of Philosophy, History of Literature, Science and Technology, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

The social benefits of interpersonal synchrony are widely recognized. Yet, little is known about its impact on the self. According to enactive cognitive science, the human self for its stability and regulation needs to balance social attunement with disengagement from others. Too much interpersonal synchrony is considered detrimental for a person's ability to self-regulate. In this study, 66 adults took part in the Body-Conversation Task (BCT), a dyadic movement task promoting spontaneous social interaction. Using whole-body behavioural imaging, we investigated the simultaneous impact of interpersonal synchrony (between persons) and intrapersonal synchrony (within a person) on positive affect and self-regulation of affect. We hypothesized that interpersonal synchrony's known tendency to increase positive affect would have a trade-off, decreasing a person's ability to self-regulate affect. Interpersonal synchrony predicted an increase in positive affect. Consistent with our hypothesis, it simultaneously predicted a weakening in self-regulation of affect. Intrapersonal synchrony, however, tended to oppose these effects. Our findings challenge the widespread belief that harmony with others has only beneficial effects, pointing to the need to better understand the impact of interaction dynamics on the stability and regulation of the human self.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-50960-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6789117PMC
October 2019

Dynamic dyadic processes in psychotherapy: Introduction to a special section.

Psychother Res 2020 06 2;30(5):555-557. Epub 2019 Sep 2.

University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

There is a growing consensus among psychotherapy theoreticians and researchers that psychotherapy processes are an interpersonal phenomenon that can be studied as a dynamic system. The aim of this special section is to highlight the importance of exploring the complex processes that emerge over time from interactions and feedback loops amongst sub-components (e.g., emotions, non-verbal behavior, physiology, voice, subjective experience) within and between clients and therapists. The articles featured in this special section discuss multiple methods and angles to study dynamic dyadic processes in psychotherapy that can better capture the complexity of the therapeutic process and the ways it can lead to favorable outcomes. Future research that focuses on dynamic dyadic processes in psychotherapy is outlined.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10503307.2019.1662509DOI Listing
June 2020

Physiological synchrony in psychotherapy sessions.

Psychother Res 2020 06 6;30(5):558-573. Epub 2019 May 6.

University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

In this proof-of-principle study, a convenience sample of 55 dyadic psychotherapy sessions conducted by one therapist was analyzed. This study aimed at exploring physiological synchrony in naturalistic psychotherapy sessions and the association of such synchrony with self-report ratings. The electrocardiograms and respiration behavior of both therapist and client were monitored simultaneously. Four clients were included, and session outcome was documented by session reports in two clients. From electrocardiograms, heart rate and heart rate variability were derived in consecutive 15-second intervals throughout sessions. Entire sessions (average duration, 51 min) were assessed for physiological synchrony of therapist's and client's respiration, electrocardiogram, heart rate, and heart rate variability. Two methods of synchrony computation were applied to the time series: windowed cross-correlation and correlation of local slopes (concordance). Both methods included surrogate controls using segment-wise shuffling. Significant synchrony of three measures, but not of electrocardiograms, was present in this dataset. In regression models, we found associations between synchronies and alliance ratings, and further self-report variables. Results support the existence of physiological synchrony in this collection of psychotherapy sessions, which speaks for the sympathetic and parasympathetic coupling between this therapist and her clients and its link with ratings of the therapy process. The feasibility of deriving signatures of synchrony of physiological signals with the described methodology was corroborated. The findings now await generalization by further research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10503307.2019.1612114DOI Listing
June 2020

Psychophysiological Synchrony During Verbal Interaction in Romantic Relationships.

Fam Process 2019 09 10;58(3):716-733. Epub 2018 Jun 10.

Experimental Psychology Unit, University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Bern, Switzerland.

Previous studies about romantic relationships have shown that the reciprocal influence between partners occurs not only at the behavioral and socio-emotional levels, but also at the psychophysiological level. This reciprocal influence is expressed in a pattern of physiological synchrony between partners (i.e., coordinated dynamics of the physiological time series). The main aim of the present study was to explore the presence of a pattern of physiological synchrony in electrodermal activity (EDA) during a couple interaction task. A second objective was to compare the synchrony levels during a negative interaction condition versus a positive interaction condition. Finally, we analyzed the association between synchrony and self-perception of empathy, dyadic empathy, and relationship satisfaction. Thirty-two couples (64 individuals) participated in this study. Each couple performed a structured interaction task while the EDA of both partners was being registered. The quantification of synchrony was based on the cross-correlation of both members' EDA time-series. In order to control for coincidental synchrony, surrogate datasets were created by repeatedly shuffling the original data of spouses X and Y of a dyad and computing synchronies on the basis of the shuffled data (pseudosynchrony values). Our results confirmed the presence of significant EDA synchrony during the interaction. We also found that synchrony was higher during the negative interactions relative to the positive interactions. Additionally, physiological synchrony during positive interaction was higher for those couples in which males scored higher in dyadic empathy. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/famp.12371DOI Listing
September 2019

Determining synchrony between behavioral time series: An application of surrogate data generation for establishing falsifiable null-hypotheses.

Psychol Methods 2018 Dec 29;23(4):757-773. Epub 2018 Mar 29.

Department of Psychotherapy, University of Bern.

Synchrony between interacting systems is an important area of nonlinear dynamics in physical systems. Recently psychological researchers from multiple areas of psychology have become interested in nonverbal synchrony (i.e., coordinated motion between two individuals engaged in dyadic information exchange such as communication or dance) as a predictor and outcome of psychological processes. An important step in studying nonverbal synchrony is systematically and validly differentiating synchronous systems from nonsynchronous systems. However, many current methods of testing and quantifying nonverbal synchrony will show some level of observed synchrony even when research participants have not interacted with one another. In this article we demonstrate the use of surrogate data generation methodology as a means of testing new null-hypotheses for synchrony between bivariate time series such as those derived from modern motion tracking methods. Hypotheses generated by surrogate data generation methods are more nuanced and meaningful than hypotheses from standard null-hypothesis testing. We review four surrogate data generation methods for testing for significant nonverbal synchrony within a windowed cross-correlation (WCC) framework. We also interpret the null-hypotheses generated by these surrogate data generation methods with respect to nonverbal synchrony as a specific use of surrogate data generation, which can then be generalized for hypothesis testing of other psychological time series. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/met0000172DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163103PMC
December 2018

Specificity of emotion sequences in borderline personality disorder compared to posttraumatic stress disorder, bulimia nervosa, and healthy controls: an e-diary study.

Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul 2017 21;4:26. Epub 2017 Dec 21.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Mental mHealth Lab, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Background: Patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) exhibit dysregulated emotion sequences in daily life compared to healthy controls (HC). Empirical evidence regarding the specificity of these findings is currently lacking.

Methods: To replicate dysregulated emotion sequences in patients with BPD and to investigate the specificity of the sequences, we used e-diaries of 43 female patients with BPD, 28 patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 20 patients with bulimia nervosa (BN), and 28 HC. To capture the rapid dynamics of emotions, we prompted participants every 15 min over a 24-h period to assess their current perceived emotions. We analyzed group differences in terms of activation, persistence, switches, and down-regulation of emotion sequences.

Results: By comparing patients with BPD to HC, we replicated five of the seven previously reported dysregulated emotion sequences, as well as 111 out of 113 unaltered sequences. However, none of the previously reported dysregulated emotion sequences exhibited specificity, i.e., none revealed higher frequencies compared to the PTSD group or the BN group. Beyond these findings, we revealed a specific finding for patients with BN, as they most frequently switched from anger to disgust.

Conclusions: Replicating previously found dysregulated and unaltered emotional sequences strengthens the significance of emotion sequences. However, the lack of specificity points to emotion sequences as transdiagnostic features.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40479-017-0077-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5738798PMC
December 2017

Embodiment and Schizophrenia: A Review of Implications and Applications.

Schizophr Bull 2017 07;43(4):745-753

The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK.

In recent decades, embodiment has become an influential concept in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Embodiment denotes the study of the reciprocal (causal) relationships between mind and body, with the mind not only affecting the body but also vice versa. Embodied cognition comes to the fore in sensorimotor coupling, predictive coding, and nonverbal behavior. Additionally, the embodiment of the mind constitutes the basis of social interaction and communication, as evident in research on nonverbal synchrony and mimicry. These theoretical and empirical developments portend a range of implications for schizophrenia research and treatment. Sensorimotor dysfunctions are closely associated with affective and psychotic psychopathology, leading to altered timing in the processing of stimuli and to disordered appraisals of the environment. Problems of social cognition may be newly viewed as disordered embodied communication. The embodiment perspective suggests novel treatment strategies through psychotherapy and body-oriented interventions, and may ultimately provide biomarkers for diagnosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbw220DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472128PMC
July 2017

Sharing the Now in the Social Present: Duration of Nonverbal Synchrony Is Linked With Personality.

J Pers 2018 04 17;86(2):129-138. Epub 2017 Feb 17.

VU University, Amsterdam.

Objective: The social present is a novel descriptor of dyadic nowness and social sharing, extending research on individual nowness (James's [1890] specious present) to the interpersonal and intersubjective domain. We wished to connect this descriptor to personality attributes.

Method: We define the social present by the duration of significant nonverbal synchrony, based on the phenomenon of movement synchrony that generally emerges in social interactions. It is thus an implicit and objective measure that can be implemented by automated video analyses. In this study, 168 healthy participants were invited to verbal conversations in same-sex dyads. We analyzed the associations of the social present with personality attributes and interaction types (competition, cooperation, fun task).

Results: The average duration of the social present was 6.0 seconds, highest in competitive interactions and in male-male dyads. People with higher Openness to Experience, higher avoidant attachment, and lower narcissistic interpersonal styles showed extended social present in their interactions.

Conclusions: The concept of the social present extends personality attributes to the interpersonal domain and to intersubjectivity. The social present may be computed based on movement synchrony but also prosodic or physiological synchronies. We foresee implications for health-related interactions such as psychotherapy, where therapeutic presence is an essential property of alliance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12298DOI Listing
April 2018

Methodological Problems on the Way to Integrative Human Neuroscience.

Front Integr Neurosci 2016 29;10:41. Epub 2016 Nov 29.

Experimental Psychology, University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern Bern, Switzerland.

Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary effort to understand the structures and functions of the brain and brain-mind relations. This effort results in an increasing amount of data, generated by sophisticated technologies. However, these data enhance our , rather than improve our of brain functions. This is caused by methodological gaps both within and between subdisciplines constituting neuroscience, and the that limits the study of macro- and mesoscopic issues. Whole-brain measurement technologies do not resolve these issues, but rather aggravate them by the complexity problem. The present article is devoted to methodological and epistemic problems that obstruct the development of human neuroscience. We neither discuss ontological questions (e.g., the nature of the mind) nor review data, except when it is necessary to demonstrate a methodological issue. As regards methodological problems, we concentrate on those within neurobiology (e.g., the gap between electrical and chemical approaches to neurophysiological processes) and psychology (missing theoretical concepts). As regards problems, we suggest that core disciplines of neuroscience can be integrated using systemic concepts that also entail human-environment relations. We emphasize the necessity of a that should entail a closer cooperation with as a discipline of systematic reflection. The atomistic reduction should be complemented by the explicit consideration of the of the brain and the of humans. The discussion is aimed at the development of an explicit methodology of , which will not only link different fields and levels, but also help in understanding clinical phenomena.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2016.00041DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126073PMC
November 2016

How to Modify Psychopathological States? Hypotheses Based on Complex Systems Theory.

Nonlinear Dynamics Psychol Life Sci 2017 01;21(1):19-34

University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, Switzerland.

In mathematical analysis based on the assumptions of complexity science, the emergence of a pattern is the result of a competition of modes, which each have a parameter value attached. In the context of visual pattern recognition, a specific connectionist system (the synergetic computer SC) was developed, which was derived from the assumptions of synergetics, a theory of complex systems. We adapted the processes of visual pattern recognition performed by the SC to a different context, psychopathology and therapeutic interventions, assuming these scenarios are analogous. The problem then becomes, under which conditions will a previously established psychopathological pattern not be restituted? We discuss several cases by using the equations of the SC. Translated to the psychopathological context, we interpret the mathematical findings and proofs in such a way that successful corrective interventions, e.g. by psychotherapy, should focus on one alternative pattern only. This alternative cognition-behavior-experience pattern is to be constructed individually by a therapist and a patient in the therapeutic alliance. The alternative pattern must be provided with higher valence (i.e. affective and motivational intensity) than possessed by the psychopathological pattern. Our findings do not support a linear symptom-oriented therapy approach based on specific intervention techniques, but rather a holistic approach. This is consistent with empirical results of psychotherapy research, especially the theory of common factors.
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January 2017

Synchrony in Psychotherapy: A Review and an Integrative Framework for the Therapeutic Alliance.

Front Psychol 2016 14;7:862. Epub 2016 Jun 14.

Department of Social Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Amsterdam, Netherlands.

During psychotherapy, patient and therapist tend to spontaneously synchronize their vocal pitch, bodily movements, and even their physiological processes. In the present article, we consider how this pervasive phenomenon may shed new light on the therapeutic relationship- or alliance- and its role within psychotherapy. We first review clinical research on the alliance and the multidisciplinary area of interpersonal synchrony. We then integrate both literatures in the Interpersonal Synchrony (In-Sync) model of psychotherapy. According to the model, the alliance is grounded in the coupling of patient and therapist's brains. Because brains do not interact directly, movement synchrony may help to establish inter-brain coupling. Inter-brain coupling may provide patient and therapist with access to another's internal states, which facilitates common understanding and emotional sharing. Over time, these interpersonal exchanges may improve patients' emotion-regulatory capacities and related therapeutic outcomes. We discuss the empirical assessment of interpersonal synchrony and review preliminary research on synchrony in psychotherapy. Finally, we summarize our main conclusions and consider the broader implications of viewing psychotherapy as the product of two interacting brains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00862DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4907088PMC
July 2016

Movement Coordination in Psychotherapy: Synchrony of Hand Movements is Associated with Session Outcome. A Single-Case Study.

Nonlinear Dynamics Psychol Life Sci 2016 Apr;20(2):145-66

University of Bern, Switzerland.

Previous work has shown that nonverbal behavior was associated with both session-level outcome and global outcome in psychotherapy. Nonverbal synchrony--here the coordination between patient's and psychotherapist's movement behavior--is a facet of nonverbal behavior that has recently been studied with video-based motion energy analysis (MEA). The present study aimed to replicate and extend these findings by using direct acquisition of movement data. In a single-case analysis, we monitored patient's and therapist's hand movements with a high-resolution accelerometric measurement system (Vitaport (r)). In addition to these behavioral data, both patient and therapist provided session-level ratings of various factors relevant to the psychotherapy process, which were assessed with post-session questionnaires. The patient-therapist coordination of hand movements, i.e. nonverbal synchrony, in (N = 27) sessions of this dyadic psychotherapy was positively associated with progress reported in post-session questionnaires. Sessions with good evaluations concerning the quality of therapeutic alliance were characterized by high movement coordination. Thus, accelerometric data of this therapy dyad confirmed previous findings gained through video analyses: The coordination of nonverbal behavior shown by patient and therapist was an indicator of beneficial processes occurring within sessions. This replication study showed that nonverbal synchrony embodies important aspects of the alliance. Its assessment and quantification may provide therapists important additional information on processes that usually occur outside conscious awareness, but that nevertheless influence core aspects of the therapy.
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April 2016

Nonverbal Synchrony in Social Interactions of Patients with Schizophrenia Indicates Socio-Communicative Deficits.

PLoS One 2015 30;10(12):e0145882. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

Division of Systems Neuroscience of Psychopathology, Translational Research Center, University Hospital of Psychiatry, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Background: Disordered interpersonal communication can be a serious problem in schizophrenia. Recent advances in computer-based measures allow reliable and objective quantification of nonverbal behavior. Research using these novel measures has shown that objective amounts of body and head movement in patients with schizophrenia during social interactions are closely related to the symptom profiles of these patients. In addition to and above mere amounts of movement, the degree of synchrony, or imitation, between patients and normal interactants may be indicative of core deficits underlying various problems in domains related to interpersonal communication, such as symptoms, social competence, and social functioning.

Methods: Nonverbal synchrony was assessed objectively using Motion Energy Analysis (MEA) in 378 brief, videotaped role-play scenes involving 27 stabilized outpatients diagnosed with paranoid-type schizophrenia.

Results: Low nonverbal synchrony was indicative of symptoms, low social competence, impaired social functioning, and low self-evaluation of competence. These relationships remained largely significant when correcting for the amounts of patients' movement. When patients showed reduced imitation of their interactants' movements, negative symptoms were likely to be prominent. Conversely, positive symptoms were more prominent in patients when their interaction partners' imitation of their movements was reduced.

Conclusions: Nonverbal synchrony can be an objective and sensitive indicator of the severity of patients' problems. Furthermore, quantitative analysis of nonverbal synchrony may provide novel insights into specific relationships between symptoms, cognition, and core communicative problems in schizophrenia.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0145882PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696745PMC
July 2016

Investigating vision in schizophrenia through responses to humorous stimuli.

Schizophr Res Cogn 2015 Jun 27;2(2):84-88. Epub 2015 May 27.

Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford CA, USA.

The visual environment of humans contains abundant ambiguity and fragmentary information. Therefore, an early step of vision must disambiguate the incessant stream of information. Humorous stimuli produce a situation that is strikingly analogous to this process: Funniness is associated with the incongruity contained in a joke, pun, or cartoon. Like in vision in general, appreciating a visual pun as funny necessitates disambiguation of incongruous information. Therefore, perceived funniness of visual puns was implemented to study visual perception in a sample of 36 schizophrenia patients and 56 healthy control participants. We found that both visual incongruity and Theory of Mind (ToM) content of the puns were associated with increased experienced funniness. This was significantly less so in participants with schizophrenia, consistent with the gestalt hypothesis of schizophrenia, which would predict compromised perceptual organization in patients. The association of incongruity with funniness was not mediated by known predictors of humor appreciation, such as affective state, depression, or extraversion. Patients with higher excitement symptoms and, at a trend level, reduced cognitive symptoms, reported lower funniness experiences. An open question remained whether patients showed this deficiency of visual incongruity detection independent of their ToM deficiency. Humorous stimuli may be viewed as a convenient method to study perceptual processes, but also fundamental questions of higher-level cognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scog.2015.04.007DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5609641PMC
June 2015

Alliance: a common factor of psychotherapy modeled by structural theory.

Front Psychol 2015 21;6:421. Epub 2015 Apr 21.

Department of Theoretical Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Amsterdam, Netherlands.

There is broad consensus that the therapeutic alliance constitutes a core common factor for all modalities of psychotherapy. Meta-analyses corroborated that alliance, as it emerges from therapeutic process, is a significant predictor of therapy outcome. Psychotherapy process is traditionally described and explored using two categorically different approaches, the experiential (first-person) perspective and the behavioral (third-person) perspective. We propose to add to this duality a third, structural approach. Dynamical systems theory and synergetics on the one hand and enactivist theory on the other together can provide this structural approach, which contributes in specific ways to a clarification of the alliance factor. Systems theory offers concepts and tools for the modeling of the individual self and, building on this, of alliance processes. In the enactive perspective, the self is conceived as a socially enacted autonomous system that strives to maintain identity by observing a two-fold goal: to exist as an individual self in its own right (distinction) while also being open to others (participation). Using this conceptualization, we formalized the therapeutic alliance as a phase space whose potential minima (attractors) can be shifted by the therapist to approximate therapy goals. This mathematical formalization is derived from probability theory and synergetics. We draw the conclusion that structural theory provides powerful tools for the modeling of how therapeutic change is staged by the formation, utilization, and dissolution of the therapeutic alliance. In addition, we point out novel testable hypotheses and future applications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00421DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404724PMC
May 2015

Nonverbal synchrony and affect in dyadic interactions.

Front Psychol 2014 24;5:1323. Epub 2014 Nov 24.

Abteilung für Psychotherapie, Universitätsklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Universität Bern Bern, Switzerland.

In an experiment on dyadic social interaction, we invited participants to verbal interactions in cooperative, competitive, and 'fun task' conditions. We focused on the link between interactants' affectivity and their nonverbal synchrony, and explored which further variables contributed to affectivity: interactants' personality traits, sex, and the prescribed interaction tasks. Nonverbal synchrony was quantified by the coordination of interactants' body movement, using an automated video-analysis algorithm (motion energy analysis). Traits were assessed with standard questionnaires of personality, attachment, interactional style, psychopathology, and interpersonal reactivity. We included 168 previously unacquainted individuals who were randomly allocated to same-sex dyads (84 females, 84 males, mean age 27.8 years). Dyads discussed four topics of general interest drawn from an urn of eight topics, and finally engaged in a fun interaction. Each interaction lasted 5 min. In between interactions, participants repeatedly assessed their affect. Using hierarchical linear modeling, we found moderate to strong effect sizes for synchrony to occur, especially in competitive and fun task conditions. Positive affect was associated positively with synchrony, negative affect was associated negatively. As for causal direction, data supported the interpretation that synchrony entailed affect rather than vice versa. The link between nonverbal synchrony and affect was strongest in female dyads. The findings extend previous reports of synchrony and mimicry associated with emotion in relationships and suggest a possible mechanism of the synchrony-affect correlation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01323DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241744PMC
December 2014
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