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European research on the biological causes of social withdrawal

19 April 2016
Martien Kas

Socially withdrawing from friends, family and colleagues is a common early symptom of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. The biological causes are still unknown, however. The PRISM project intends to uncover these reasons using the latest research methodology. This European research project has a budget of € 16.5 million and is a collaboration among 23 organizations, including six Dutch university research institutes and seven major pharmaceutical companies.

Most psychiatric disorders are still being diagnosed solely on the basis of observed symptoms. This is because the underlying cause of a psychiatric disorder is not easy to determine using biological factors, as is the case for diabetes with the blood glucose level test.

Slow drug development

Because many psychiatric disorders have similar symptoms, it is difficult to find the underlying biological causes of each specific disorder. ‘Mental healthcare thus has to look beyond mere diagnostics for the biological causes of specific domains, including social withdrawal’, says Prof. Martien Kas, coordinator of the PRISM project (Psychiatric Ratings using Intermediate Stratified Markers). ‘By increasing our understanding of the biological causes of social withdrawal, we hope to contribute to swifter development of new drugs for neuropsychiatric disorders.’

From fMRI to app

The PRISM project is going to use the most up-to-date methods to gain insight into exactly which biological factors are linked to clinical symptoms. The brain activity of a group of patients with various neuropsychiatric disorders will be measured using a variety of new and existing technologies, ranging from fMRI, EEG and blood tests to a behaviour app on a smartphone. The research will initially concentrate on schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, but will also examine depression.

€ 16.5 million for research

The new PRISM project is being supported by the European Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and has a budget of € 16.5 million. The project’s design is unique: at least six Dutch universities will be conducting the research, which will link preclinical research to different kinds of clinical research. The project will be coordinated by Prof. Martien Kas, who will become Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences of the University of Groningen on 1 May 2016. The six Dutch universities and one SME that will be directly involved in the PRISM project are: the University of Groningen, the University Medical Center Utrecht, the VU University Medical Center, the Leiden University Medical Center, the Erasmus University Medical Center, the Radboud University Medical Center and Drug Target ID.

More information

Contact: Prof. Martien Kas, m.j.h.kas rug.nl , +31 6 34745746

Last modified:12 March 2020 9.41 p.m.
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