PRESENCE

Prodrome Recognition in Epilepsy and Neurophysiological Correlates

 

Led by

Prisca Bauer (Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, Germany)

Contact

Prisca Bauer <prisca.bauer@uniklinik-freiburg.de>

Funding

Berta Ottenstein Programm, Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, Germany (2020–2022)

European Varela Award, Mind and Life Europe (2020–2022)

Status

Ongoing (2020–2022)

Summary

Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition that affects about 1% of the global population. It is characterised by an enduring predisposition to epileptic seizures, and physical, cognitive, psychological, and social co-morbidities. One third of people diagnosed with epilepsy continues to have seizures despite treatment with anti-seizure medication. Epilepsy is paroxysmal; seizures are only present a fraction of the time, but their unpredictability causes high levels of anxiety. As a result, people with epilepsy report poor quality of life, depression, and social stigma. Despite continuous research efforts in the past 30 years, it is impossible to reliably predict when a seizure will occur. Novel approaches to predict seizures and deal with seizure-induced anxiety are urgently needed. It was suggested in some studies that people with epilepsy can learn to recognise seizure precursory signs, leading to a greater sense of control and less anxiety. In the current study, we aim to develop a specific training for people with epilepsy based on a combination of mindfulness and interviews (microphenomenology) to improve seizure awareness and reduce seizure-related anxiety. We will explore whether such training and first-person data can improve seizure prediction algorithms. This study will shed light on the complex relationship between conscious experience and the brain.

Micro-phenomenology and Psychedelics

A Two-fold Approach to Enhancing Psychotherapy and Consciousness Research

 

Led by

Daniel Meling (University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich, Switzerland & Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Germany)

Milan Scheidegger (University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich, Switzerland)

Contact

Daniel Meling <daniel.meling@uzh.ch>

Funding

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF; Spark Grant; CRSK-1_196833)

Status

Ongoing (October 2020–)

Summary

The aim of this project was to address the need in the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy for investigating therapy-supporting experiential aspects of drug-induced transformative experiences through direct first-personal experience descriptions. Through its unconventional, novel approach of applying the in-depth micro-phenomenological interview technique to DMT-induced experiences, this project collected descriptions of DMT’s experiential effects in high detail and high time resolution. By those means, this project responds to the urgent need in psychedelic-assisted therapy for identification of those experiential aspects which might be causally relevant for beneficial therapeutic outcomes.
 

This project aimed at conducting and analysing micro-phenomenological interviews with healthy participants (20-40 years) from ongoing randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies with DMT and harmine, two main active compounds from the psychedelic plant medicine “ayahuasca”.
 

As a result, we conducted 46 post-hoc MP interviews on DMT-induced experiences, and 31 additional “peak” MP interviews on the acute effects of DMT and harmine. This large repository of 77 in-depth experiential interviews builds the basis of developing a micro-phenomenology of psychedelic-induced transformative experiences.

Meaningful encounters in medicine

 

Led by

Judith Sieber (University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany)
Dr. Rosa Michaelis (University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany)
Dr. Prisca Bauer (Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Freiburg, Freiburg)
Prof. Dr. med Friedrich Edelhäuser (Department of Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany)

Contact

Judith Sieber <judith.sieber@uni-wh.de>

Funding

Christophorus Stiftung

Status

Ongoing (2019–2022)

Summary

How is it that some conversations or situations with patients, positive or negative, are remembered for a long time, whereas much of the daily interaction and communication fades quickly? And can overlapping content or similar patterns and emotional reactions be found when comparing these conversations or situations?
We investigated this question using the micro-phenomenological interview technique. In this interview technique, the study participants are led through an encounter that is significant to them until a so-called "evocative state" arises. In this state, the situation is re-experienced as if it were happening again, which is why the level between conscious and unconscious experience of feelings, body perceptions and thoughts can be explored in great detail.

Communications

Sieber, J. (2021, 4. Oktober). „Bedeutsame Begegnungen in der Medizin“. Ein Newsletter des Interdisziplinären Zentrums für Versorgungsforschung der Universität Witten/Herdecke. https://www.uni-wh.de/fileadmin/user_upload/03_G/04_Forschung/IZVF/IZVF-Newsletter_Ausgabe_4.pdf (S. 27/28)

Assessing the impact of Micro-phenomenology on Memory Specificity and Re-experiencing

 

Led by

Zishan Jiwani (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Evan Henritze (The New School for Social Research)

Contact

Zishan Jiwani <zjiwani@wisc.edu>

Status

Completed (2020–2021)

Summary

The link between episodic autobiographical memory and the sense of the continuous self has been well documented. Research has demonstrated that individuals diagnosed with depression and PTSD show cognitive alterations and maladaptive processes associated with autobiographical memory. One of these impairments is the tendency to recall episodic autobiographical memory with decreased specificity, also known as overgeneralized memory (OGM). OGM is likely associated with a limited capacity to mentally “time travel” or re-experience the past with vivid sensory and perceptual details. This study aims to assess whether the micro-phenomenological interview (MPI) may be effective in improving overgeneralized memory & access to sensory perceptual details. MPI assists participants in directing attention towards visual, auditory and affective dimensions of experience and focuses on a few seconds of experience within an autobiographical memory. It was hypothesized that the application of the MPI may increase the accessibility of episodic details, which in turn, would lead to the reduction of subsequently generated overgeneralized memory. The efficacy of MPI was assessed relative to the free recall of a positive memory using the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) and Autobiographical Memory Questionnaire (AMQ) with healthy adults between ages 24-30. Preliminary results indicate that the MPI led to a significant increase in memory specificity (p<.05) and increases in the re-experiencing of visual imagery (p<.05). These findings demonstrate the potential of the MPI as a clinical tool to improve memory specificity in populations suffering from disorders such as depression and PTSD.

Implicit and subjective structures of sudden, positive, transformational moments experienced by incarcerated men in England

A Moment of Insight Described

 

Led by

Jeanne Catherine

Contact

Jeanne Catherine <jeannelynnecatherine@gmail.com>

Funding

Three Principle Research and Consulting

Status

Ongoing (2019–)

Summary

The purpose of this micro-phenomenological investigation is to analyze the interviews about moments of insight from 17 incarcerated men talking about implicit, subjective experiences of change, when they stopped thinking one way and began thinking a new way, which they reported changed their behavior. This study examines a singular research question: Do experiences of insight among incarcerated men demonstrate a common implicit subjective structure that correlates to neurobiological descriptions and does this moment lead to a new specific and positive behavioral choice?

Outputs

PhD Thesis (in preparation).

Anticipating epileptic seizures

 

Led by

Vincent Navarro (Epilepsy Unit and  Laboratory of Cognitive Neurosciences and Cerebral Imaging - CNRS UPR 640 (LENA),  Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris)

Michel Le Le Van Quyen (Laboratory of Cognitive Neurosciences and Cerebral Imaging (LENA) - CNRS UPR 640, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris)

Claire Petitmengin (Mines-Telecom Institute - Telecom EM, and Ecole Polytechnique - CREA)

Contact

Claire Petitmengin <cp@clairepetitmengin.fr>

Funding

LENA, Epilepsy Unit

Status

Completed (2000–2005)

Summary

In the context of Francisco Varela's team at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, we conducted micro-phenomenological interviews with epileptic patients, which led them to become aware of early signs announcing the onset of a seizure. This result confirms on the experiential level what had been discovered at the neuronal level: epileptic seizures do not arise "like a bolt in the blue", but are the outcome of a process that begins long before. The awareness of this microgenesis is the key to new non-pharmacological therapies of epilepsy, the results of which are often better than those of the most effective pharmacological treatments.

Publications

Le Van Quyen M., Petitmengin C. (2002). Neuronal dynamics and conscious experience: an example of reciprocal causation before epileptic seizures. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1: 169-180.

Petitmengin C. (2005). Un exemple de recherche neuro-phénoménologique : l'anticipation des crises d'épilepsie. Intellectica 40: 63-89.

Petitmengin C., Navarro V., Baulac M. (2006). Seizure Anticipation: Are Neuro-phenomenological Approaches Able to Detect Preictal Symptoms? Epilepsy and Behavior 9, 298-306.

Petitmengin C. (2010). A neuro-phenomenological study of epileptic seizure anticipation. In Schmicking D. and Gallagher S. (ed.), Handbook of Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer, 471-499.

EMPHILINE

Surprise in the spontaneity of emotions: a vector for enlarged cognition

 

Led by

Natalie Depraz (UMR 8547, Pays germaniques, histoire, culture et philosophie (ENS-CNRS) Archives-Husserl)

Agnès Celle and Pascale Goutéraux (CLILLAC-ARP, EA 3967, Université Paris-Diderot)

Vincent Camus and Thomas Desmidt (INSERM U930, ERL CNRS 30106 Equipe 4, Troubles affectifs)

Contact

Natalie Depraz <pr.natalie.depraz@gmail.com>

Funding

ANR (French National Agency for Research)

Status

Completed (2012–2015)

Summary

Emphiline is a research project whose theme is surprise and depression in their emotional, cognitive, bodily and linguistic components. We correlated a methodology in the third person (experimental physiological device of generation of surprise) and a methodology in the first person (micro-phenomenological interviews).  On the basis of the analysis of 42 interviews correlated with the analysis of physiological measurements (FC, FR, cerebral pulsatility, cutaneous conductance, EEG), we aimed at testing the hypothesis that surprise, far from being reduced to a sudden shock, is part of a three-phased micro-temporal process composed of implicit anticipation, crisis and aftermath, and thus unfolds on the background of two main structures that are attention (its condition), and emotion (its implication).

The practical outcome of the project was the building of a database, the publication of interdisciplinary books and the elaboration of a protocol in cardiovascular research. It contributes to advances in the use of crossed micro-phenomenological first-person and third person methods and allows to suggest an extension of neurophenomenology in the direction of what we call a « cardiophenomenology ».

Publications

1) Desmidt, T., Lemoine, M., Belzung, C., & Depraz, N. (2014). The temporal dynamic of emotional emergence. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 13(4), 557-578.

2) Depraz, N. & Desmidt, T. (2015). Cardio-phénoménologie. In: La naturalisation de la phénoménologie 20 après, J.-L. Petit éd., Cahiers philosophiques de Strasbourg n°38.

3) Depraz, N., & Desmidt, T. (2019). Cardiophenomenology: a refinement of neurophenomenology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 18(3), 493-507.

4) Depraz N., Gyemant M. & Desmidt T. (2017) A first-person analysis using third-person data as a generative method: A case study of surprise in depression. Constructivist Foundations 12(2): 190–203. http://constructivist.info/12/2/190

5) Depraz, N. (2018). Ce que la dépression fait à la micro-phénoménologie: les émotions pathologiques, une épreuve pour l’entretien d’explicitation?. Chroniques phénoménologiques.

More detailed description of the project (in French).

Developing a micro-phenomenology of emotion for affective science

 

Led by

Emily Hammond (University of Exeter, UK)

Contact

Emily Hammond <e.r.hammond@exeter.ac.uk>

Funding

Economic and Social Research Council PhD studentship

Mind and Life Institute Francisco J. Varela Award

Status

Completed

Summary

What is it like to experience emotion? The question is a deceptively simple one. Affectivity is a fundamental aspect of how we experience the world, yet curiously, detailed experiential accounts of emotion and affect are lacking from the empirical literature in affective science. The measurement of subjective experience – the feeling of emotion - is often restricted to self-reported ratings of researcher-selected emotion terms such as ‘elation’, ‘sadness’ or ‘pleasantness’, which limits the scope for exploring phenomenological nuance and depth. This project considers how micro-phenomenology might contribute to this open question for affective science through two strands of work: empirical investigation into the fine-grained phenomenological features of emotion, and methodological work to establish concrete steps towards effectively applying the micro-phenomenological technique in experimental research. The overarching intention behind the project is to begin to identify ways in which fuller, body-mind accounts of emotion might be developed within basic emotion science for application to translational research on affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Outputs

Hammond E. (2016). Why we need a phenomenology of emotion in translational affective science. Talk given at the Mind and Life International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, San Diego, 10-13 November 2016.

Hammond E. (2016). Developing a micro-phenomenology of emotion for affective science: some reflections on methodology in practice. Talk given at advanced micro-phenomenology workshop led by Professor Claire Petitmengin, 26-30 September 2016.

Hammond E. (2016). Transcending the natural attitude? Possibilities and limitations of empirical phenomenology. Talk given at the Sussex Phenomenology Graduate Conference, University of Sussex, 23-24 June 2016.

A micro-phenomenological exploration of time-perception tasks

 

Led by

Federica Cavaletti (Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark)

Katrin Heimann (Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark)

Contact

Cavaletti Federica <federica.cavaletti@unicatt.it>

Katrin Heimann <katrinheimann@gmail.com>

Funding

Interacting Minds Centre

Status

Ongoing (2019–)

Summary

Temporal distortions in people suffering from psychiatric disorders, such as depression, have long been observed in phenomenological psychiatry, with research into this topic dating back to the first half of the last century (Straus 1928; Minkowski 1933). Depressed time, for instance, was mainly described in terms of slowness, delay or stillness arising from a lack of future orientation. Contemporary accounts tend to confirm this conceptualization, while stressing the role of the environment in shaping such temporal attitude (Fuchs 2001, 2013; Ratcliffe 2012, 2015).

With the increasing success of empirical methods of research, these and similar theoretical assumptions have started being put to test experimentally by means of a variety of tasks and procedures (e.g. Mezey and Cohen 1961; Wyrick and Wyrick 1977; Kitamura and Kumar 1982; Münzel et al. 1988; Sévigny et al. 2003; Mahlberg 2008; Oberfeld et al. 2014; Mioni et al. 2016). Strikingly, however, the resulting empirical findings are largely inconsistent. In consequence, the idea of a radically peculiar temporal experience characterizing depression has often been discarded as a commonplace belief that has failed the test of rigorous empirical validation.

The aim of our research is to challenge this skeptical view. The deviative character of depressive time, we claim, might indeed be empirically captured and specified if the tasks and procedures employed to do so undergo a serious methodological validation.

In the existing empirical studies, duration estimation and time passage perception tasks play a crucial role. The two types of task have been frequently used interchangeably in the early as well as in the most recent experimental practice (Mahlberg 2008). However, as we thoroughly argue elsewhere (Cavaletti and Heimann, accepted in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences), a rigorous theoretical reflection about the supposed equivalence of DE and TPP tasks? has been missing. At the same time, both common sense and scientific evidence suggest on the contrary that the two might correspond to different aspects of time perception, or at least interact in complex and non-trivial ways.

The lack of clarity about DE and TPP tasks respectively and about the relation of the processes they trigger as well as the processes they actually want to assess is likely to introduce uncontrolled forms of bias in the study of time perception in general. Also, and more in particular, it might be part of the problem when it comes to the inconsistency of the studies about the experience of time in depression. Therefore, a preliminary effort should be put in better defining these two types of procedures and the aspects of time perception they tackle in ordinary time perception in the first place. The experiment we designed is directed precisely at paving the way in this direction.

Publications

Cavaletti, F., & Heimann, K. (2020). Longing for tomorrow: phenomenology, cognitive psychology, and the methodological bases of exploring time experience in depression. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 19(2), 271-289.