Improving mental health through precision and prevention

A group of researchers forms new German “Centre for Mental Health” to work on early, personalised and preventive treatment of mental illness.

Interdisciplinary research group joins forces to form the "German Centre for Mental Health” (Deutsches Zentrum für Psychische Gesundheit)

An interdisciplinary group of researchers from the LMU Klinikum München, the Klinikum rechts der Isar of the Technische Universität München, the University of Augsburg, the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry and the Helmholtz Zentrum München will in future work within the framework of the new German “Centre for Mental Health” on earlier, personalised and preventive treatment of mental illness - for the benefit of patients in Germany and worldwide.

When Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek announced at a specially arranged press conference on 10 March that the PriMe (Precision in Mental Health) research network - consisting of the LMU Klinikum München, the Technical University of Munich (co-coordinator Prof. Dr. Josef Priller), the University of Augsburg, the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry and the Helmholtz Centre - had been accepted into the new German Centre for Mental Health, there was great joy among the researchers involved.

But there is also a great awareness of the tasks ahead: Due to their frequent occurrence, their early onset and their still unfavourable courses, mental illnesses are among the widespread diseases with a growing burden of disease - in Germany and internationally. For example, 75% of mental illnesses occur by the age of 25 and thus deny those affected the opportunity to realise a productive and successful life plan at a very early age.

Developing more precise methods for diagnosis and prognosis through multi-centre clinical studies

Research has led to an improved understanding of the complex interactions between genes, environment and brain that underlie mental illness. However, this knowledge has not yet been translated into improved diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic procedures: On the one hand, there was a lack of technology to understand this complexity in individual patients, and on the other hand, people concentrated on individual aspects of mental illnesses, often losing sight of the bigger picture. In addition, there was a lack of structures that would allow new procedures to be tested in an environment close to the clinic - and this precisely in an approach that covers patients in all phases of the illness equally.

"The New German Centre for Mental Health addresses this weakness," says Prof. Peter Falkai, Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and coordinator of PriMe. "Centres were selected that have complementary strengths and therefore cover the entire spectrum of mental illnesses as well as the currently available research tools. We at PriMe are particularly interested in the development of more precise methods for diagnosis and prognosis in connection with a then more precise selection and further development of therapeutic procedures through multi-centre clinical studies. Here, above all, methods of artificial intelligence and basic scientific model systems are to be interlinked 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 Centre 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 programme will be prepared. According to the BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, German Federal Ministry for Education and Research), the German Centre for Mental Health will start in January 2022.

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