A major proposal for a future psychiatric research funding strategy in Sweden has been launched this year at the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (Stiftelsen för Strategisk Forskning):

 

Strategic Funding in Cognitive Neuropsychiatry

Predrag Petrovic 


2016-02-29 


The disease burden of psychiatric disorders is a major challenge for both the society and the individual. It is therefore surprising that psychiatric research has severely lagged behind research advancements in somatic disorders. One reason is that the traditional categorical psychiatric diagnostic system is based only on behavior and has little relation to underlying biology and pathological processes. This probably also explains the lack of development of new treatments for psychiatric disorders. Such fundamental problems in psychiatric research are mirrored in Sweden where research in the psychiatric domain has been under-financed as compared to somatic disorders. The present proposal identifies a research area in which a strategic funding has the potential to fundamentally change the scene: Cognitive Neuropsychiatry. Cognitive Neuroscience may be defined as research of all the processes that take place in the brain and create behavior. The core of cognitive neuroscience is to understand how networks including different brain areas process information on a system level. It is translational as it brings many different research fields together. For example, cognitive neuroscience mixes psychological cognitive models of behavior together with brain imaging and computational models. The advances in imaging technology development and theoretical models of cognition have contributed to an exponential increase the last decades in the understanding of how the human brain processes information and shapes behavior. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry aims to apply the knowledge from cognitive neuroscience to psychiatry and thereby better understand what induces and maintains clinical disorders on a system level. Early models of psychiatric states, such as the dopamine hypothesis of psychosis or the serotonin model of depression, have often been oversimplified - and have therefore not had the potential to explain the underlying pathological mechanism. The main criticism is that these theories did not take into account the complexity in the brain networks that underlie behavior, and how an information processing dysfunction in these networks induce and contribute to different mental disorders. Cognitive neuropsychiatry is a promising research field precisely since it is focusing on the brain systems- and network level. In other words, it offers complex models of psychiatric disorders allowing for the diversity of single symptoms and individually connecting those along the translational axis from molecule to behavior. Although this area is quickly growing internationally, only few research groups in Sweden perform such research currently. In the present project we want to build the most advanced psychiatric research environment in Sweden based on cognitive neuropsychiatry. The core scientific idea is that the disconnection between the knowledge development in basic science and clinical praxis harms the ability to improve the results of treatments and prevention of psychiatric disorders. The point of embarkation is a systematic construction of a center for studies from molecule to patient. It will have its base in cognitive and computational neuroscience - and include advanced imaging techniques such as functional and structural MRI (fMRI/sMRI), receptor imaging with positron emission tomography (rPET), magnetic encephalography (MEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and direct transcranial current stimulation (dTCS). The research center will work closely together with already well-established psychiatric research areas in Sweden including cognitive psychology, psychopharmacology, epidemiology, genetics, animal research and clinical research. Its closest collaboration will be with the established projects in Stockholm and Gothenburg based in research-focused out-ward departments with well characterized patient populations (such as the S:t Göran Bipolar project). The proposed institute will be able to bridge theoretical and advanced preclinical research in neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience with clinical research. Thereby, it will have the potential to impact psychiatric disorder characterization and treatment. It may also advance Swedish research in the area to an internationally leading position and foster the next generation of researchers and clinicians in the field.