Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Neural processes underlying the social regulation of emotion and pain

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
3.03.00  Medical sciences  Neurobiology   

Code Science Field
3.01  Medical and Health Sciences  Basic medicine 
Social support, Social emotion regulation, Social pain modulation, Romantic partner support, Hierarchical pain processing, Large-scale brain networks, Mechanistic brain analysis, fMRI, EEG, Computational modelling
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on September 21, 2023; A3 for period 2017-2021
Data for ARIS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender, archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  201  4,048  3,476  17.29 
Scopus  202  4,377  3,792  18.77 
Researchers (10)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  23415  PhD Jurij Dolenšek  Medical sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  216 
2.  28405  PhD Marko Gosak  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2020 - 2023  277 
3.  37830  Marina Horvat  Social sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  74 
4.  54046  PhD Satja Mulej Bratec  Social sciences  Head  2020 - 2023  33 
5.  52215  Nejc Plohl  Social sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  84 
6.  39524  PhD Viljem Pohorec  Medical sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  61 
7.  29565  PhD Maša Skelin Klemen  Medical sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  140 
8.  32132  PhD Andraž Stožer  Medical sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  401 
9.  26487  PhD Vita Štukovnik  Social sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  124 
10.  38264  PhD Saša Zorjan  Social sciences  Researcher  2020 - 2023  78 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  2334  University of Maribor, Faculty of Medicine  Maribor  5089638048  16,085 
2.  2565  University of Maribor Faculty of Arts  Maribor  5089638050  33,004 
Our negative feelings are highly influenced by people around us. As such, various forms of social support can attenuate aversive emotions, reduce pain, and beneficially affect our body’s physiological systems. Social emotion and pain regulation are prevalent in our lives, but above and beyond the use of social support for daily emotional and physical challenges, this simple and natural phenomenon could eventually be used to facilitate treatment of major depression and chronic pain, debilitating and exceedingly prevalent conditions. The overarching aim of the proposed project is to significantly extend our knowledge of neural systems underlying the social regulation of emotion and pain. Specifically, the project will examine mechanistic behavioural and neural correlates of the two processes, using advanced analyses, such as graph-based and multilevel mediation analyses and Bayesian computational modelling. Concerning emotion, social emotion regulation is an integral part of psychotherapy – an effective treatment for major depression. However, only a few neuroimaging studies investigated the neural underpinnings of social emotion regulation, and the studies focused solely on local brain activation changes. Specific neurobiological theories suggest that emotional processing with or without emotion regulation is realised via larger interconnected functional brain networks. However, knowledge of global interaction changes during social emotion regulation is still missing. The first objective of the proposed project is to illuminate global brain interaction patterns during two types of social emotion regulation, social reappraisal and supportive social presence. With this, we will provide a complementary picture of brain changes during social emotion regulation. Furthermore, gaining a deeper understanding of social reappraisal and supportive social presence can eventually help to facilitate the psychotherapeutic treatment of major depression. Concerning pain, social support represents a potential low-cost, non-pharmacological natural analgesic. However, to eventually use social support for pain therapy, we need to first better understand the process by which social support influences pain. Does the supportive presence of a romantic partner attenuate pain via attentional distraction or by increasing positive emotions? What is more, partner’s support occasionally makes pain worse (both chronic and acute pain), and the proposed reasons for this might be personal and partner characteristics and/or behaviours. With regard to neurobiology, studies offer first clues about the neural underpinnings of social support effects on pain, but they either used a proxy of social support (i.e., viewing partner’s pictures), or manipulated physical presence instead. Thus, a rounded account of how social support by a romantic partner affects the experience of acute pain is currently still missing. The second, third and fourth objectives of the proposed project together focus on providing a comprehensive depiction of how romantic partner support affects pain. Specifically, we will perform a study with romantic couples, in which the male partner will support the female one during pain stimulation while we concurrently measure her brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG). We will then 1) contrast positive and negative effects of romantic partner support on the perception of pain, 2) determine whether a romantic partner affects pain via attentional and/or emotional mechanisms, and 3) construct a Bayesian computational model of how the support of a romantic partner influences the experience of pain. Better understanding how social support affects pain can help us select and construct situations and circumstances in which individuals would benefit most from social support. Looking to the future, such understanding represents an important first step to eventually developing targeted primary and/or adjuvant treatments for chronic pain.
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