Digital Phenotyping: Early Recognition of Depression and Anxiety in the Young using Digital Biomarkers
This research project aims for an early identification of anxiety and depression symptoms in adolescents and young adults using a smartphone app (EMA + audio analysis; AI-assisted).
The prevalence of mental disorders in adolescence has been on the rise for years, particularly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early onset is associated with chronic trajectories into adulthood, highlighting the need for timely diagnostics, prevention, and intervention. However, there's a significant shortfall in child and adolescent psychiatric care. This project aims to rapidly identify vulnerable adolescents and young adults, enabling effective intervention irrespective of location or infrastructure. Through a participatory approach, a novel AI-powered diagnostic early recognition tool will be adapted and evaluated. Psychopathological parameters (e.g., stress, emotions) will be captured in daily life using a smartphone app, automatically analysed, and relayed back to participants in an easily comprehensible manner. This innovative tool aims to address critical gaps in mental health care by 1) automating the diagnosis of mental disorders and 2) providing personalised (preventive) treatment recommendations.
Learn more about the Brain Explorer here: https://brainexplorer.net/
In Cooperation with: Prof. Tobias Hauser (University Hospital Tübingen), Prof. Björn Schuller (TU Munich)
Funding: German Center for Mental Health/BMBF
Study period: May 2023 - April 2025
Risk and Resilience of Mental Health over the Lifespan TWIN STR2ESS– a TWIN HEALTH Study
This research project aims to decipher the multifaceted interplay of risk and resilience factors in mental health development, focusing on various genetic and environmental factors as potential influences. Leveraging cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, this study aims to uncover the critical factors underlying mental disorder onset and progression while elucidating the impact of risk and resilience factors on lifelong mental health. Additionally, the project seeks to unravel transgenerational transmission mechanisms of parental mental health issues and assess whether parental emotional competence predicts similar traits in their offspring. By employing innovative methodologies including ambulatory assessments, digital technology-based measurement, time-series analysis, AI voice analysis, and epigenetic analyses of DNA methylation patterns this study aims to capture the nuanced interplay of psychological and biological variables under ecologically valid conditions. The insights from this research are poised to contribute to the refinement of risk assessment methods, identification of pivotal mechanisms, and personalized strategies for preventing mental disorders over time.
In Cooperation with Prof. Caterina Gawrilow, Prof. Vanessa Nieratschker and the Twin Health Cohort in Tübingen
Funding: German Center for Mental Health/BMBF
Study period: May 2023 - April 2025
The bidirectional effect relationship between emotions and immune system activity is a central research topic in PNI. Previous research has established links between negative emotions such as fear and sadness and systemic inflammation. In this regard, if not properly regulated, negative emotions can cause biological wear and tear in the body that may increase the risk for morbidity and mortality. In this study, the influence of emotional states on the concentration of immunoglobulin-A in saliva will be investigated in an outpatient monitoring over a period of one week, thus providing evidence on the importance of psychological variables on immune system activity in the daily life of the subjects.
Funding: University of Tübingen
Study period: January - November 2023
This project happens in a cooperation with the "Frühe Hilfen" of the department "Familie und Familienpolitik" at the German Youth Institute (DJI). The aim of the research project is to investigate 1) the experienced daily parenting stress in real time by means of an Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) and 2) the role of parenting stress for the well-being of children. In addition, 3) to examine the role of subjectively experienced parenting stress on parent-child interactions. To this end, parents with children aged 6 months to 3 years, will be studied in a mixed-methods design over a two-week period using questionnaires and saliva samples. In addition to testing the instruments and the feasibility of the study design, the results will provide initial indications of the interactions between parental and child psychophysiological states and how early intervention services can be adapted to meet the needs of parents who experience high levels of stress in their parenting role.
Former related project at the German Youth Institute:
Funding: University of Tübingen
Study period: January - December 2023
The transition to parenthood is accompanied by a host of biological, behavioural, social, as well as psychological changes (Saxbe/Rossin-Slater/Goldenberg 2018). During the perinatal period, the risk for sleep disturbances, increased psychosocial stress, mental illness, and changes in physical health, including unhealthy weight gain, increases (Endres et al. 2015). These factors can negatively affect parent-child interaction, which in turn is instrumental in shaping the child's later health (Olson/Bates/Bayles 1990).
With this in mind, it can be summarised that the perinatal period (from pregnancy to one year after birth) is a critical life stage for parent and child health. Digital approaches, such as apps or digital consultation hours, which have also gained importance in prevention research in recent years, are a way of offering families low-threshold support that is available at all times.
trial registration completed, coming soon: http://apps.who.int/trialsearch/
See latest TV clip of a participating mother and her health professional here: https://shorturl.at/eyBLU
In Cooperation with: University of Bamberg, Brussels, and Graz
Funding: ERA Net, Horizon 2020
Study period: March 2021 - April 2024
What would I have like to have known, before I developed a mental disorder?
What were the most helpful parts for me in psychotherapy?
Based on these key questions, the Mental Health Crowd has developed a smartphone and web-based app to promote mental health and well-being - the Mental Health Guide ( link: https://www.mentalhealthcrowd.de/mentalhealthguide/). The goal here is to strengthen Mental Health Literacy in the general population. This refers to knowledge about mental illness and health. The acceptance and effectiveness in terms of improving Mental Health Literacy of the Mental Health Guide will be tested in this research project.
The aim is to enroll 150 young people aged 14 years and older in a randomized controlled trial (pre-post assessment, 3- and 6-month follow-up). Over six months, the training group will use the Mental Health Guide and finally be compared with the comparison group receiving no additional mental health information (treatment as usual).
in Cooperation with:
Funding: University of Tübingen, App provided by the MHC
Study period: October 2022 - tbd
Preprint of study protocol:
Nationwide representative study after the Corona pandemic. Data will be collected on the stresses and resources of families with children up to three years of age and the use of support services.
The research project aims to determine how children and families in Germany are doing after far-reaching contact-restricting measures have been taken repeatedly since the spring of 2020, which also greatly changed the everyday lives of families. In the online survey, which was launched in March 2022, it was possible to include questions about the experience of the situation due to the war in Ukraine at short notice.
In 2022, the NZFH will again collect data on psychosocial stress among families with 0- to 3-year-old children in Germany and on their knowledge and use of universally accessible support services as well as specific early help services, analogous to the KiD 0-3 study from 2015. For the study, the NZFH cooperates with pediatricians' and adolescents' practices to recruit parents to participate in the study. In addition to the information provided by the parents, a pediatric assessment of the child's health status and developmental stage is obtained.
The results are used to identify children and parents who are particularly affected, to make their need for help visible, and to further develop both early help and pediatric care and adapt them even better to the needs of families.
The study is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as part of the Federal Foundation for Early Help from the German government's action program "Catching up with Corona for children and adolescents". We are in the process of publishing our findings.
Funding: Bundesstiftung Frühe Hilfen, BMFSFJ
Study period: 2022
The ECoWeB Project aims to develop and disseminate a mobile application (App) to provide engaging and personalized tools and psychological skills to promote emotional wellbeing and prevent mental health problems in adolescents and young adults.
The project team involves 8 European nations (the UK, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Switzerland) working together in order to improve mental health care and access for youth:
ECoWeB aims to:
WE HAVE OVER 3,800 PARTICIPANTS ACROSS THE UK, GERMANY, SPAIN, AND BELGIUM!
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE INVOLVED IN OUR STUDY!
The consortium is in the process of publishing the findings.
Funding: Horizon 2020
Study period: January 2018 - December 2022
Since the children of parents who have depression are at greatest risk of developing depression themselves, prevention programmes for this population are a major public health priority. The PRODO study was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a family- and group-based CBT prevention program for offspring of parents with depression. We translated and adapted the prevention program Raising Healthy Children (Compas et al., 2009) to the German language and culture. We included children and adolescents (aged 8-17) who have no history of psychiatric disorder and their parents. After the baseline assessment, families are randomised to either the prevention intervention or usual care control condition. The intervention consisted of 8 weekly and 4 monthly sessions in groups of 3-4 families based on three modules: Psychoeducation about parental depression, Coping Strategies for children and Parenting training. Follow-up assessments took place at post-intervention, 9- and 15- months after baseline. Assessments include semi-strcutured clinical interviews with parents and child and questionnaires assessing psychopathology, knowledge of depression, cognitive and emotional factors as well as parenting style. Our hypothesis was that in comparison to the control group who receive no intervention, participants in the experimental group will show a reduced risk of depression as indexed by fewer cases of a depressive episode at 15 months follow-up and fewer psychopathological symptoms at 9- and 15-month follow-up. We are in the process of publishing the last findings.
Study period: 2014-2018
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