Dr. Helena Hartmann

Dr. Helena Hartmann

Neuroscientist, psychologist and science communicator (she/her/hers)

Bingellab / Translational Pain Research Unit, University Hospital Essen


I am interested in factors that influence how we perceive pain in ourselves and in other people. To investigate this, I use neuroimaging, neuromodulation and behavioral experiments. My approach to science strongly aligns with open scholarship principles. Next to my work as a researcher, I enthusiastically engage in and teach science communication.


  • Pain processing
  • Expectations & placebo/nocebo effects
  • Empathy & prosociality
  • Reproducible, transparent, & open scholarship
  • Science communication


  • PhD in Social Neuroscience, 2022

    University of Vienna, Austria

  • MSc in Clinical & Biological Psychology, 2017

    University of Vienna, Austria

  • BSc in Psychology, 2014

    University of Vienna, Austria


I am currently working at the Bingellab (Clinical Neurosciences) at the University Hospital Essen as a postdoctoral researcher. I did my PhD at the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Unit at the University of Vienna. During this time, I was a visiting researcher in the Social Brain Lab at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam.


ECR Representative and Speaker

DGPs - Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology, IGOR

Social Media Manager

Bingellab, SFB289, SIPS, S4SN, FORRT, & IGOR (Twitter, Youtube, Websites)

Data collection

Behavior, pain, effort, heart rate, skin conductance


SPM, FreeSurfer, Nipype, & Neuronavigation

Data analysis

RStudio, JASP, Matlab, & Python/Jupyter


My research word cloud

© Helena Hartmann using Scholar Goggler

What are the behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying pain modulation via different treatment expectations?

In my Postdoc, I am using fMRI combined with placebo hypoalgesia and nocebo hyperalgesia to investigate the cognitive modulation of first-hand pain perception. Specifically, as part of the Collaborative Research Center 289 “Treatment Expectations” I am interested in the modulating role of positive and negative expectations on real and fake treatments as well as mechanisms of open-label placebos.

More info about treatment expectations and the CRC/TRR 289 can be accessed here. You can also follow us on Youtube or Instagram, and watch our recent animated films on the placebo and nocebo effect:

How do we empathize with another person in pain? What role does our own pain perception play?

My PhD research focused on the behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying shared representations between first-hand and empathy for pain, as well as their connection to prosocial behavior. Specifically, I was interested in 1) the necessity of somatosensory brain regions for feelings of empathy, and 2) whether we need our own pain processing system to empathize with and help others in pain.

© Helena Hartmann
© Helena Hartmann

Below is a short animation of my PhD research made by Scientistt:

You can also watch a video of my PhD defense presentation:

How can we improve the openness, transparency and reproducibility of research, scholarship, and education?

I am a community manager at Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (FORRT). I am leading the replications & reversals project, which won a commendation by the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS) in 2023. I am also involved in multiple other projects, such as the glossary, neurodiversity and impact for students projects. FORRT is always looking for new contributors and collaborators, so learn how to get involved here.

© Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (FORRT)


  • Ulrike Bingel (Postdoc supervisor, Bingellab, University Hospital Essen, Germany)
  • Valeria Gazzola and Christian Keysers (Visiting PhD supervisors, Social Brain Lab, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Netherlands)
  • Claus Lamm (PhD supervisor, SCAN Unit, University of Vienna, Austria)
  • Giorgia Silani (Master thesis supervisor, Clinical Neuroscience Unit, University of Vienna, Austria)


© Helena Hartmann


Find my Google Scholar profile here and my recent publications below. I provide PDFs of my work whenever possible. If you cannot find a paper, please email me at helena.hartmann@uk-essen.de and I will send it to you.

Journal articles

The Replication Database: Documenting the replicability of psychological science

In psychological science, replicability—repeating a study with a new sampleachieving consistent results (Parsons et al., 2022)—is …

Conference contributions

The physical and mental health benefits of touch interventions: A systematic review and multivariate meta-analysis

  • Psychology and Brain conference (2023)

The effects of (psycho)pharmacological pain modulation on social emotions and behavior - a systematic literature review

  • Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies conference (2023)

Not a magic pill - Evidence of absence for cognitive enhancement after a three-week open-label placebo treatment in healthy young adults

  • Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies conference (2023)

Collaborative hackathon “Feminist Ways of Doing - A hackathon collecting resources for feminist approaches to science”

  • Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science conference (2022)

Collaborative hackathons for FORRT’s “Replications and Reversals in Social Sciences” project

  • Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science conference (2022)
  • Association for Interdisciplinary Metaresearch and Open Science (aimos) conference (2021)
  • Psychological Science Accelerator (PSACON) conference (2021)

Another’s Pain vs. my Gain: Evidence of absence for a causal role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in costly decision-making

  • Psychology and Brain conference (2022)
  • Austrian Society for Psychology conference (2022)

Another’s pain in my social brain: How does placebo analgesia affect decisions to exert effort to reduce another’s pain?

  • Psychology and Brain conference (2021)
  • Society for Social Neuroscience conference (2021)

Engaging with Open Science as Feminist Early Career Researchers: 6 Top Tips

  • Open Science conference (2021)

Effects of spatially-specific placebo analgesia on somatosensory responses during first-hand and empathy for pain

  • International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Virtual Series on Pain & Expo (2020)
  • IMPRS Neurocom Summer School (2019)
  • Organization for Human Brain Mapping conference (2019)

Is your pain my pain? Effects of localized placebo analgesia on empathy for everyday painful situations

  • MindBrainBody Symposium of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (2021)
  • Society for Neuroscience Global Connectome (2021)
  • Organization for Human Brain Mapping conference (2019)

Social pain and emotional egocentricity in high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder: Behavioral and neurophysiological evidence

  • Self-Knowing-Others Workshop (2018)
  • International Society for Autism Research conference (2018)
  • Social Brain Symposium (2018)
  • Society for Psychophysiological Research conference (2017)
  • Salzburg Mind Brain conference (2017)


I am always happy to give talks about my research, science communication and open science, both scientist-to-scientist and scientist-to-public. Contact me via helena.hartmann@uk-essen.de.

Invited talks

As part of the Feminist WonderLab I gave a talk on “NOpen science and feminist psychology – a dream team?” at the Lübeck Open Science Initiative. Find the slides here.

The Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (FORRT) presented many of their great projects at a webinar hosted by the Center of Open Science (my talk on the Replications & Reversals project starts at 8:23):

I talked about first experiences and lessons learned when preregistering an fMRI study at the Methods Meeting of the Institute of Systems Neuroscience in Hamburg. Find the slides here.

I gave a short presentation about a study where I investigated the effects of placebo analgesia on prosocial behavior at the 2021 Society for Social Neuroscience conference:

This is a talk I gave at the online lecture series OnNeuro about parts of my PhD on the role of the somatosensory component of pain processing in empathy:

Below is a short talk about the effects of placebo analgesia on interoceptive abilities that I gave as part of the symposium “From heart to brain and back: novel findings and methodological challenges in interoception research” organized by Federica Riva and myself at the 63rd Conference of Experimental Psychologists (TeaP):


Lecture “Science for Everyone! Science Communication for Beginners” - slides (University of Vienna, 2020) and updated slides (BIOME lecture series, University Duisburg-Essen, 2022).

Lectures “Doing Good/Open Science” (University of Vienna, 2019 & 2020):

Open Science


Check out my awesome-PhD GitHub repository that includes a curated list of carefully selected tools and resources I wish I knew when starting my PhD. Please feel free to contribute more resources! Also have a look at the Twitter thread where I started this list.

Have a look at the fMRI preregistration template I helped update.

Find stimuli templates for my first-hand and empathy for pain task from Hartmann et al. (2021, NeuroImage) here.

Check out the data and code associated with Hartmann et al. (2022, PsychScience) here.

Below you can find my open fMRI datasets:



Are you interested in interviewing me about my research or do you want me to write something for your media outlet? Contact me via helena.hartmann@uk-essen.de.

Written Work

  • Check out my science communication project Science & Fiction, a place where scientific results and fictional stories intersect.
© Helena Hartmann

Podcast appearances

Here’s a playlist of all the podcasts I was a part of.


  • I am a trainer for the NaWik and give workshops on science communication basics, social media, and writing. Check out my profile there.

  • I give German webinars at the VHS Vienna about “Das hilft mir bestimmt (nicht)! Wie positive und negative Erwartungen unsere Schmerzwahrnehmung beeinflussen” (slides here) and “Science und Fiction – Wissenschaft erklärt anhand von fiktiven Kurzgeschichten” (more info here).

  • I participate in Skype a Scientist, where I last met online with three school classes of 3rd graders from Memphis to present my work as a pain and brain scientist. I am also listed on Ring a Scientist.

  • I walked around the 2023 SIPS conference (Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies) together with the guys from PhysioBib and they created a video out of it (in German):

  • I organized and moderated the science slam at the 4th conference of the Society for the Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies. You can watch it below:

  • I participated at the Self Help Day 2022 and 2024 of the University Medicine Essen and educated patients and stakeholders about treatment expectations.

  • I was part of a Children’s University workshop at the University of Vienna, where we taught children about the brain, perspective taking and empathy. I also do courses for kids at the Junioruni Essen.

  • Here I explained my research on empathy for pain and prosocial behavior in German at a science communication format called Kaffeeklatsch mit Wissenschaft hosted by the amazing Franziska Sattler in February 2021. Find the slides to this talk here.

  • Pint of Science (PoS) brings scientists to share their latest research with you! I was part of 2020’s “Beautiful Mind” event manager team to organize three exciting evenings all about neuroscience that were unfortunately cancelled due to COVID. In 2021, I also helped organize online events for PoS Amsterdam in 2021 (see for example here or here). More info on the Website.
  • Together with my PhD colleagues, I organized a booth at the Long Night of Research in Vienna all about research in psychology and social neuroscience in 2018. Have you ever experienced the rubberhand illusion? How do we investigate something called affective touch? Can we put awake dogs into an MR-scanner? And can you match all brains to their corresponding species?
© LNF2018_4781 Universitaet_Wien/derknopfdruecker.com
  • Art of Neuroscience: Have a look at my application for the art competition all about neuroscience here.

  • Photo Competition “My Research in one Picture”: In 2018, my photo about my PhD research titled “Another’s Pain in my Placebo Brain” got into the Top 10 of winning photos. See the other photos or general information on the competition.

© Helena Hartmann


  • DiscoverPhDs asked me about my PhD research, what a typical work day looks like for me and what enjoyments and challenges my PhD entails. Have a look at the full interview.

  • 1 Million Women in STEM (1MWIS), a global network providing the stories of women studying & working in STEM, asked me what I do, why I chose this field of research, what I would tell my younger self and why I love working in STEM. Have a look at my answers.

  • Check out the German interview I did for my Twitter takeover at Real Scientists DE in May 2020.

Other Activities

Project Encephalon

I am part of the scientific advisory committee of Project Encephalon, an “international, trainee-led non-profit organization for neuroscience enthusiasts”.


I support Brain Hero, a startup company in Vienna, as an external scientific advisor. They are developing a neurofeedback game to improve concentration levels and relaxation capabilities in individuals with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.


I run an informal mailing list where I forward PhD and postdoc positions I come across. To join, send me an email at helena.hartmann@uk-essen.de.

Lab studies in Essen (for German-speakers)

  • Have a look at the currently running studies and trials in the Bingellab here and our collaborative research center here.

Lab studies in Amsterdam

  • Here you can sign up to stay informed about current or future studies at the Social Brain Lab.

Lab studies in Vienna