Frankfurt-based fMRI/EEG Depression Study – FRED

Prof. Tamara Fischmann (IPU/SFI)
in Kooperation mit: Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber (SFI)
Funded by HOPE for Depression Foundation with $10,000 and the Research Advisory Board (RAB) of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) with $4,080

2008-2020 (completed)

Short Project Description

In cooperation with the LAC Study (Long-term Therapies of Chronically Depressive Patients: LAC Study), chronically depressive patients are being examined here neuro-physiologically.  The operationalised psychodynamic diagnosis (OPD) interviews conducted in the LAC Study form the basis for the development of a compatible, patient-specific stimulus to be utilised in fMRI. With the help of the OPD, repetitive dysfunctional relationship patterns can be diagnosed psychodynamically, from which individual core-conflict sentences can then be formulated for each patient, which are presented visually as a stimulus in fMRI.

The brain activities activated in this way, together with the related regions of the brain, are recorded and scrutinised for changes across the three measurement time points. Furthermore, these brain activities are contrasted with a general stimulus (traffic) at each measurement time point, in order to assess whether such individually conflictual stimuli activate different areas of the brain than do generally emotional stimuli.

In this fMRI arm of the FRED Study, we are also examining changes in brain activities as a reaction to an individual dream-word stimulus extracted from a significant dream that the patients report to us in a special dream interview intended for this purpose. We take 30 words from this significant dream, which are presented visually to the patient in the fMRI session. By contrasting this dream-word stimulus with a so-called "neutral" word stimulus – one taken from "everyday stories" words that have nothing to do with the patient – we are able, on the one hand, to record dream-specific brain regions and, on the other hand, to document changes in the dream-specific brain activity over the course of the therapy.

In a second study, we are examining the sleep and the dreams of patients by utilising EEG. Doing so, on the one hand, the sleep patterns are being assessed in the medical sleep centre of our cooperation partner in Krankenhaus Hofheim hospital and, on the other hand, the dreams of the patients and their changes over the course of the therapy. The patients’ dreams are being surveyed in the sleep lab, on the one hand, by means of REM wake-ups and, on the other hand, the morning dreams are being recorded. These are subsequently evaluated contextually-analytically utilising the dream-generating model from U. Moser.


  • Fischmann, T., Russ, M., Baehr, T., Leuzinger-Bohleber, M. (2012): Changes in Dreams of chronic depressed patients. The Frankfurt fMRI/EEG Depression Study (FRED). In: P. Fonagy, H. Kächele, M. Leuzinger-Bohleber, D. Tyalor (Eds.): The significance of dreams – bridging clinical and extraclinical Research in Psychoanalysis. London: Karnac, 159-183
  • Fischmann, T., Leuzinger-Bohleber, M., Kächele, H. (2012): Traumforschung in der Psychoanalyse: Klinische Studien, Traumserien, extraklinische Forschung im Labor. Psyche, 66, 833-861
  • Fischmann T, Russ M.O. and Leuzinger-Bohleber M. (2013): Trauma, dream and psychic change in psychoanalyses: a dialogue between psychoanalysis and the neurosciences. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:877. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00877.
  • Fischmann, T. Leuzinger-Bohleber, M., Schött, M. & Russ, M.O. (2015): Traum und psychische Transformationsprozesse in Psychoanalysen: ein Dialog zwischen Psychoanalyse und Neurowissenschaften. In: M. Leuzinger-Bohleber, T. Fischmann, H. Böker, G. Northoff, M. Solms (Hrsg). Psychoanalyse und Neurowissenschaften. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 181-214
  • Fischmann, T., Russ, M., Schoett, M. & Leuzinger-Bohleber, M. (2017): Trauma, dreams and transformations in psychoanalysis: Combining clinical and extra-clinical research in an EEG/fMRI study. In: M. Leuzinger-Bohleber, S. Arnold & M. Solms (eds). The Unconscious. A bridge between psychoanalysis and cognitive neuroscience. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 165-188
  • Fischmann, T., & Leuzinger-Bohleber, M. (2017). Veränderungen von Träumen als Indikatoren für Therapieerfolg. Trauma - Zeitschrift Für Psychotraumatologie und Ihre Anwendungen, 15(2), 80–89