Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Christine Heim

Head of department, University professor, Principal investigator

Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Luisenstraße 57
10117 Berlin

Campus / internal address:
Luisenstraße 57

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Expertise

  • Developmental psychobiology, i.e. consequences of early adverse experience
  • Neurobiology of depression & anxiety disorders, i.e. posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Psychoneuroendocrinology of functional somatic syndromes
  • Neural correlates of stress and emotion
  • Interactions of stress and dispositional factors across development

 

Contact:


Additional information

Research Statement:

My interests combine research on the psychobiology of stress and trauma with a developmental and
clinical perspective. I am particularly interested in elucidating the mechanisms involved in the
developmental programming of health and disease as a function of early experience, in order to derive novel pathophysiology-driven targets for the prevention and intervention of disorders related to early life stress (ELS). Over the past years, I have employed a retrospective multidisciplinary approach, integrating psychological, neuroendocrine, immunological and neural measures in humans, in order to identify the mechanisms that may translate exposure to ELS into increased risk for psychiatric and medical disorders across the lifespan. Our findings were the first to demonstrate that ELS in humans is associated with long-term sensitization of stress response systems that in turn predicts psychopathology. In subsequent studies, we identified manifold neurobiological changes that contribute to stress sensitization and disease risk after ELS. These studies part of the Emory Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental Disorders and, therefore, I have extensive experience with running large-scale clinical studies. I further expanded my methodological expertise to neuroimaging during a National Institutes of Health K01 Research Career Development Award. Additional collaborative research focused on gene x environment interactions in the consequences of ELS. Collectively this research shows that ELS, in concert with genetic factors, induces a fundamental change in stress regulatory systems, with consequences for brain development, immune function, and behavior, leading towards clinical manifestations. Understanding the immediate mechanisms that lead to such long-term biological ‘scars’ will enable the development of early targeted interventions that block, reverse or compensate these processes and use developmental plasticity to prevent the detrimental consequences of ELS across the lifespan. At present, I focus on longitudinal studies in children, aimed at mapping processes of biological embedding of ELS at neural, physiological and molecular levels, as well the moderation and prevention or reversal of such embedding. Taken together, the impact of my work is reflected in more than 20,000 citations. I am the recipient of more than 10 honors and awards, including the 2004 Chaim Danieli Young Professional Award of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, the 2007 Curt P. Richter Award of the International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology, and the 2015 Patricia Barchas Award in Sociophysiology of the American Psychosomatic Society. I am an elected as a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. In 2015, I was appointed as a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, where I now serve as Vice Secretary of the Biomedical Class. I am the recipient of multiple federal grants and foundation grants and serve on numerous national and international scientific review committees regarding research on the consequences of childhood trauma. I am a member of Penn State’s newly established Child Maltreatment Solutions Network.

 

Research Impact:

  • Impact Factor: 495
  • Citations (Google Scholar): >21,400
  • H-Index (Google Scholar): 57
  • H-Index (Web of Science): 41
  • H-Index (Research Gate): 54
  • RG Score: 42.2 (>97.5th percentile)

 

Selected publications:

 

External location:

Pennsylvania State University
109 Biobehavioral Health Building
University Park PA 16802
814-863-7256


Functions / offices

  • Head of Department, University professor, Institute of Medical Psychology, Charité Berlin
  • Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health, College of Health and Human Development, Pennsylvania State University
  • Principal Investigator, NeuroCure
  • Faculty member, Berlin School of Mind & Brain
  • Member, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW)
  • Faculty Member, Network on Child Maltreatment Solutions, Social Science
    Research Institute, College of Health and Human Development, The Pennsylvania
    State University, University Park, PA, USA


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