We are very grateful to announce that the Söderström-König Foundation has awarded John Wallert with a grant of 350 000 SEK for the project “PRiMED: Predicting Response after cognitive behaviour therapy in MEntal Disorders using multimodal data and machine learning”. We are excited to use this funding to continue our work at building advanced prediction models to be used as decision support in future clinical psychiatry.
We are happy to announce that Elin Lindsäter starts a post doc today in our group. She is a psychologist and PhD and has extensive experience working with and researching stress and exhaustion. Our group is now expanding into this field, supported by a grant from the Swedish Research Council. Welcome Elin!
Today Long Long Chen, psychiatrist and PhD student in our group, passed his half-time control towards his PhD with flying colors. Diana Djurfeldt is his main supervisor, with Cynthia Bulik and Christian Rück co-supervising. The titel of his PhD project is “Advances in studying OCD – from next-generation sequencing to deep brain stimulation”. The advisory board, Lisa Ekselius, Uppsala University, Björn Andersson and Rochellys Diaz Heijtz, KI provided very valuable feedback.
In a recent pre-print from our team, we report findings from an outreach initiative at our psychiatric clinic. Our objectives were to evaluate the physical and mental well-being, subjective mental health, and need for updated psychiatric management plans in patients with severe mental illness during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients who had not been in touch with their outpatient clinic between April 9 and April 23, 2020 were contacted via telephone. From the abstract:
Main Outcomes and Measures: Self-rated physical, respiratory and psychiatric symptoms according to a semi-structured interview. Subjective mental health rated on a scale from 0-100.
Results: Patients (n = 1071) were on average 45 years old (SD = 16.9), of which 570 (53%) were female. Neurodevelopmental disorders, psychotic disorders, and bipolar disorder were the most common diagnostic categories. The majority of respondents reported no respiratory symptoms (86%), and few reported light (10%) or severe (4%) respiratory symptoms. Similarly, most patients reported no worsening in psychiatric symptoms (81%). For those who reported a worsening of psychiatric symptoms (19%), the psychiatric management plans that were already in place were deemed appropriate in most cases (16.5%), whereas 22 patients (2.5%) reported a worsening of psychiatric symptoms that warranted an earlier or immediate follow-up by their psychiatric clinic. Patients rated their subjective mental health on a 0-100 scale as 70.5 [95% CI 69 – 71.9] on average (n = 841). Response rates to the questions of the structured assessment varied from 79% – 82%.
Conclusions and Relevance: The majority of patients reported no respiratory symptoms, no change in psychiatric symptoms and a rather high subjective well-being. Patients in psychiatric care with a mental health care plan experienced stability in the management of their psychiatric symptoms and general well-being, and only a minority were in need of acute support during the early pandemic phase in Stockholm, Sweden.
We are happy to announce that John Wallert just has started a full-time post doc in our group. He is a psychologist who just received his PhD from Uppsala University. You can read his dissertation here. His expertise in predictive and causal modeling, including machine learning methods, will now be a welcome addition to our team where he will be involved on projects trying to forecast who improves after treatment.
The OCD-NET platform is now also available in German! Together with our colleagues Elisabeth Kohls and Christine Rummel-Kluge at the University of Leipzig, we have worked on a German version of the treatment and will evaluate its effectiveness in future studies. The collaboration so far has been fully remote and it is our ambition to launch the treatment as soon as possible given the challenges to provide face-to-face treatments during the current pandemic.
The OCD-NET platform is also available in Portuguese, English and Swedish, and a Japanese version is underway!
We are very happy to announce that the Swedish research council for health, working life and welfare (Forte) has awarded Volen Ivanov with a grant of 3 100 000 SEK for the project ”Joining Forces: A coordinated multidisciplinary approach to evidence-based care for hoarding disorder in the community”. We look forward to continue developing treatments for hoarding disorder by coordinating the efforts of mental health care and the social services in Stockholm.
Professor Tyrka is interested in the intersection of environment and biology, and how adverse experiences can affect the development of children. Early stress has been identified as a mechanism in both psychiatric and other medical conditions (such as metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease). It has also been associated with premature death, both due to natural and unnatural causes.
What are the mechanisms responsible for this relationship? One such mechanism is through the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA-axis) which activates the stress-response by releasing glucocorticoids, affecting many regulatory systems in the body. Another proposed mechanism is through the telomere/telomerase maintenance system. The telomeres are located at the end of chromosomes, and preserve the stability of replication in new cells. Their length is reduced over time, and older individuals have shorter telomeres than younger individuals. Telomere shortening is associated with a variety of negative health consequences, and recent research has found that psychosocial stress is associated with shorter telomeres. In Dr Tyrka’s own work, the findings point to an association between childhood maltreatment and shorter telomere length.
Mitochondria are present in virtually every cell, but are particularly common in structures with high energy demand such as the brain and heart. They are involved in energy production, stress response, immune function, and cell signalling. Furthermore, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) also contains genes relevant for the regulation of glucocorticoids. Childhood maltreatment is in this case associated with higher numbers of copy numbers in the mtDNA, suggesting a compensatory mechanism.
In a recent, large scale study of maltreatment in children, Dr Tyrka’s group are studying children at 3-5 years of age. They are therefore able to compare children who have been maltreated within the last 6 months to children with no signs of maltreatment. This can overcome biases related to retrospective studies in adults. The number of traumatic life events and maltreatment were associated with telomere length and mtDNA copy numbers, but it should be noted that the maltreated children had longer telomeres than the control group! Internalising behaviours (depression and anxiety) were also associated with telomere length and mtDNA copy numbers. The same children are now being studied 6 years later, at age 9-11, and data collection is ongoing.
The effects of adverse childhood experiences are not limited to impact on biological systems, but also affect psychosocial and educational functioning. Executive functioning, attachment, self efficacy, attention, memory, and behavioral control are just a few examples where a large body of research has demonstrated detrimental effects. Having an even wider scope, there are also additional societal effects such as homelessness and crime.