Schaubild zur Datensammlung und Dateneingabe mit dem Smartphone

Social contacts as a regulator of pain sensations.

How does the social environment influence pain and its resolution? Can social contacts modulate pain processing via the peripheral nervous system? Project 5 of the Clinical Research Unit (KFO 5001) will unravel these questions. German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding ResolvePAIN.

Pain and social environment

Can positive social contacts reduce the intensity of chronic pain and will these influences be detectable in peripheral pain processing? These interesting questions about social factors on pain will be investigated in project group 5 of KFO 5001. Patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or with bortezomib- induced peripheral neuropathy (BIPN) will be examined.  


Using Ecological Momentary Assessments (EMA) – by data entry with smartphone – patients record and evaluate their social interactions in everyday life. In parallel, pathological changes in the peripheral nerves will be analyzed, and it will be determined whether social factors influence pain. A similar experiment will be performed with rats suffering from neuropathic pain. In these animal models, we will analyze social interactions in relation to pain development or resolution. 

Ecological Momentary Assessments (EMA)

This modern research method uses communication technology and social media to capture snapshots of specific events, conditions or situations. This should provide an undistorted overall view of everyday life with its social determinants. In this study, we use smartphones to query the social interactions of patients at different times of the day rating their interactions according to the categories "no interaction", "positive", "negative", "neutral" or "important". 

Social deprivation

In rodents, we will analyze to what extent social deprivation affects objective peripheral markers of neuropathy in dorsal root ganglia and skin. In parallel, we will investigate whether social deprivation influences the development of pain and hypersensitivity in rodents, as well as regeneration and pain relief.

Further goals  

In the next funding period, the effects of social contacts on pain processing in the brainstem and the so-called functional connectivity will be investigated: interconnections of the individual brain areas with each other and especially with the cerebral cortex can be studied with the help of ultra-high-field 7 Tesla MRI at 7Tesla. 

Research Team P5


Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Grit Hein
Professorship Translational Social Neurosciences
University Hospital Würzburg

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Claudia Sommer, MD
Speaker of KFO 5001
Consultant at the Department of Neurology
University Hospital Würzburg


Annalena Jachnik M.A., Researcher

Mona Hashemianahmadi, PhD Student

Emilia Lampe, PhD Student

Selected publications

Qi Y, Bruch D, Krop P, Herrmann MJ, Latoschik ME, Deckert J, Hein G (2021)
Social buffering of human fear is shaped by gender, social concern, and the presence of real vs virtual agents.
Transl Psychiatry. 2021 Dec 20;11(1):641
Go to publication

Gründahl, M., Weiß, M., Stenzel, K., Deckert, J., & Hein, G. (2023). Gründahl, M., Weiß, M., Stenzel, K., Deckert, J., Hein, G. (2023).
The effects of everyday-life social interactions on anxiety-related autonomic responses differ between men and women.
Scientific reports, 13(1), 9498 
Go to publication


Portraitfoto: Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Grit Hein

Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. nat.
Grit Hein

PI Project Social environment (P5)

+49 931 201-77411

Portraitfoto: Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Claudia Sommer

Univ.-Prof. Dr.
Claudia Sommer, MD

Speaker of the Clinical Research Unit

+49 931 201-23763