Connections between social stress, immune dysregulation and psychosis: a virtual reality study

Jacqueline Counotte

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

    173 Downloads (Pure)


    Connections between social stress, immune dysregulation and psychosis.
    A virtual reality study.

    Childhood trauma, ethnic minority position or growing up in an urban environment increase the risk for psychosis. The social environment, combined with genetic susceptibility, is important in the development of psychosis.
    We examined if an altered reaction to social stress is involved. We used a virtual reality (VR) environment, a VR café. The VR café was quiet or crowded. Virtual humans had similar or different skin colour as participants and reacted in a friendly or hostile way. Participants felt more stressed and paranoid and their physiological stress levels increased in reaction to VR stressors. This reaction was similar for persons with and without a psychosis. However, as psychosis patients were more stressed to begin with, their stress levels ended up higher. In contrast, participants with a history of childhood trauma reacted stronger to social stress.
    We also examined a possible role for immune dysregulation. Previous studies found altered immune markers in psychosis patients and after childhood trauma. We did not find altered immune markers in our study. Immune dysregulation may occur mainly in combination with obesity. Obesity is more common in psychosis patients. However, the psychosis patients in our sample had an healthy weight on average.
    Our results highlight that childhood trauma and life style warrant attention in psychosis patients.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Veling, Wim, Supervisor
    • Hoek, Wijbrand, Supervisor
    Award date25-Oct-2021
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Print ISBNs978-90-77877-27-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Cite this