The ZTF banner shows the ZTF logo, an operating room, a rescue helicopter, a sad girl embracing another person and a woman looking through the eyepiece of a microscope.

Center for Trauma Research – University of Ulm

Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience. Physical trauma comprises physical injuries of any kind – including, for example, injuries sustained through traffic and work-related accidents, and any other kind of violent impact on physical health. In Germany alone, more than 8 million people annually suffer from some kind of physical injury. Accordingly, the socioeconomic burden generated by physical trauma is considerable. It is estimated that every year a staggering 40 billion Euros are spent on treatment and rehabilitation following physical trauma.

Furthermore, traumatic physical injuries often also have considerable psychological consequences. These may involve strong emotions, including fear, horror and a sense of extreme threat. In a survey assessing a representative sample within the German population, 2.3% fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for Acute Stress Reaction or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Moreover, 15 – 20% of the German population are affected by some psychological consequences of trauma. The resulting costs are comparable in magnitude to those of physical trauma. Consequently, the combined socioeconomic burden of physical and psychological trauma amounts to the burden generated by major public health issues, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, research efforts into the causes and effects of physical and psychological trauma lag far behind that which would be expected when considering its socioeconomic impact. Many important issues remain unaddressed, particularly with regard to the interaction between physical injury and psychological trauma. Empirically, there are clear connections between these two. For example, not only can physical injury have psychological consequences, but also, predisposing psychological factors can determine reaction to and recovery from physical injury. Therefore, in future research, a holistic approach to the investigation of the consequences of trauma as well as to the assessment and treatment of trauma victims will be crucially important. However, both nationally and internationally, cross-disciplinary approaches to trauma research are rare.

In recent years, the University of Ulm has gone from strength to strength in building an excellent reputation in physical and psychological trauma research. Its research covers a broad range of areas, from prevention to exploration of mechanisms of physical and psychological trauma, through to treatment and rehabilitation of trauma victims.

To further support and strengthen trauma research at the University of Ulm, the virtual Centre for Trauma Research (Zentrum fur Trauma Forschung (ZTF)) was founded in December 2015. Nationally and internationally, the ZTF is a unique interdisciplinary research centre that endeavours to integrate research on physical and psychological trauma. The overarching aim of this umbrella organisation is to advance research into the interaction between physical and psychological trauma as well as to promote strong interdisciplinary collaborations. 

A result of this successful collaboration is the procurement of the research building "Multidimensional Trauma Sciences", which will provide around 5000mof joint research areas for trauma scientists by 2024.

Foundation of the Centre

18 January 2016, Ulm: The Minister for Science, Research and Art, Theresia Bauer hands over a cheque in support of the newly founded Center for Trauma Research (ZTF) (left: President Prof. Dr. Michael Weber, right: Dean of the Medical Faculty Prof. Dr. Thomas Wirth).