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Cognitive Control as a Transdiagnostic Risk Factor for Psychopathology


Maria Voß, Larissa Wolkenstein


Elena Schreiner (University Tübingen), Jutta Joormann (Yale University)


Cognitive control comprises meta-level cognitive mechanisms that are associated with working memory and adapt thoughts and actions on internal goals despite goal-irrelevant information. The prefrontal cortex is a key region for supporting cognitive control in the brain. Over the last years, individual differences in cognitive control have been related to the development and maintenance of different psychiatric disorders. The major goal of our research is to gain a deeper understanding of the working mechanisms of cognitive control and its causal relations with symptoms of different psychiatric disorders (PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and antisocial personality disorder), emotion regulation or repetitive negative thinking. Thereby, we aim to expand etiological models and improve psychological preventions and interventions. Currently, our group is conducting a series of analogue studies that investigate the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for intrusive re-experiencing and rumination after stressful events by use of transcranial direct current stimulation. Furthermore, we are examining the effectiveness of a cognitive control training in patients with PTSD and we are comparing different components of cognitive control between PTSD-patients and healthy as well as trauma-exposed controls. Moreover, we are currently examining the association between deficits in cognitive control and deficits in emotion regulation in bipolar disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Related publications from our group

  • Voss, M., Ehring, T., & Wolkenstein, L. (2018, online publication). Does Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Affect Post-stressor Intrusive Memories and Rumination? An Experimental Analogue Study. Cognitive Therapy and Research.
  • Wolkenstein, L., Kanske, P., Bailer, J., Wessa, M., Hautzinger, M. & Joormann, J. (2017). Impaired cognitive control over emotional material in euthymic bipolar disorder. Journal of Affective Disorder, 214, 108-114.
  • Plewnia, C., Schroeder, P.A., Kunze, R., Faehling, F. & Wolkenstein, L. (2015). Keep Calm and Carry On: Improved Frustration Tolerance and Processing Speed by Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).PLoS One, 10(4):e0122578.
  • Plewnia, C., Schroeder, P.A. & Wolkenstein, L. (2015). Targeting the biased brain: noninvasive brain stimulation to ameliorate cognitive control. Lancet Psychiatry, 2, 351-356.
  • Wolkenstein, L., Zeiller, M., Kanske, P. & Plewnia, C. (2014) Induction of a depression-like negativity bias by cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation. Cortex, 59, 103-112.
  • Wolkenstein, L., Zwick, J., Hautzinger, M. & Joormann, J. (2014). Cognitive emotion regulation in euthymic bipolar disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 160, 92-97.
  • Wolkenstein, L. & Plewnia, C. (2013). Amelioration of cognitive control in depression by transcranial direct current stimulation. Biological Psychiatry, 73, 646-651.