European Commission grants 9.7 million euros for research on youth mental health

Project at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry also supported

November 02, 2022

One out of four people will be affected by mental disorders during their lifetime, with more than three quarters affected before the age of 24. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Researchers from across the world are joining forces in the YOUTH-GEMS (Gene Environment Interactions in Mental Health TrajectorieS of Youth) project to explore the role of genetic and environmental factors in young people's mental health. The European Commission has granted 9.7 million euro from its Horizon program for this project. YOUTH-GEMS is coordinated by Maastricht University. In Germany, Elisabeth Binder from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry is leading the subproject on the neurobiological basis.

Poor mental health is by far the most pressing health problem for European young people. This makes it all the more important to identify risk factors at an early stage in order to be able to take action before the onset of a mental illness. The question is how genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors interact to cause or prevent mental health problems in young people. The researchers aim to follow the development of adolescents, identify genetic and environmental risk factors and develop predictive models.

Neuroscientist and renowned epigenetics expert Elisabeth Binder of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry is leading the subproject, which is dedicated to the neurobiological basis, together with Jonathan Mills from the British Medical School of the University of Exeter. "In order to be able to intervene before young people develop a mental disorder, we need to better understand the basis so that we can identify risk factors," summarizes the Institute´s director.

YOUTH-GEMS will not only use new methods of artificial intelligence as well as digital mobile technology, but above all create an international network to involve young people. The exchange with young people is particularly important to the scientists.

YOUTH-GEMS is funded by the program "Europe Horizon - Staying Healthy: Towards a molecular and neurobiological understanding of mental health and mental illness for the benefit of citizens and patients".

                                                           With material from Maastricht University

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