Improving mental health through precision and prevention

Munich research cooperation becomes part of the new German Center for Mental Health  

March 12, 2021

An interdisciplinary group of researchers from the LMU Hospital, the Hospital of the Technical University of Munich, the University of Augsburg, the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and Helmholtz Zentrum München will work together on earlier, personalized and preventive treatment of mental illness as part of the new German Center for Mental Health, benefitting patients in Germany and worldwide.


"We are looking forward to the tasks lying ahead of us and the cooperation", says Director Elisabeth Binder. "For the Max Planck Institute in particular, we see our role to be supporting the DZPG to bring new insights into disease mechanisms to patient care more quickly."

When the Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek announced at a specially scheduled press conference on March 10th that the PriMe (Precision in Mental Health) research network (consisting of the LMU Hospital, the Technical University of Munich, the University of Augsburg, the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and Helmholtz Zentrum) had been made part of the new German Center for Mental Health, there was great joy among all researchers involved.

However, there is also a great awareness of the tasks lying ahead of them: Due to their prevalence, early onset and still unfavorable courses, mental illnesses are among the most widespread disorders with an ever-growing burden of disease both in Germany and worldwide. For example, 75 percent of mental illnesses first occur before the age of 25, thus often denying those affected the opportunity to realize a productive and successful life.

Research has led to an improved understanding of the complex interactions between genes, environment and the brain that underlie mental illness. However, this knowledge has not yet been translated into improved diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic methods: Not only was there a lack of technology to understand this complexity in individual patients but additionally, people focused on individual aspects of mental illness thus losing sight of the bigger picture. In addition, there was a lack of structure allowing new procedures to be tested in hospital-based settings, hindering an approach that covers patients in all phases of illness equally.

"The New German Center for Mental Health addresses these weaknesses," says Prof. Peter Falkai, Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and coordinator of PriMe. "Centers that have complementary strengths were selected and therefore cover the entire spectrum of mental illnesses as well as having cutting-edge research tools. In the PriMe network, we are particularly interested in the development of more precise methods for diagnosis and prognosis in conjunction with a more precise selection and further development of therapeutic procedures through multi-center clinical studies. In particular, methods of artificial intelligence as well as basic science model systems will be intertwined in order to better understand the mechanisms of disease development, maintenance and resilience - especially in patients with psychotic and affective disorders. We expect that at the German Center for Mental Health, this better understanding will rapidly lead to new treatment options for affected patients that will fundamentally change the course of mental illness."

The selected sites will now enter a network phase in which the joint research program will be prepared. According to the BMBF, the starting date for the German Center for Mental Health is January 2022.

Source: LMU Hospital



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