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Research mission

 

The Neuromodulation of Emotion (NEMO) Research Group is a team of medical psychologists and clinician scientists with a background in psychiatry who work together in understanding emotion and improving the treatment of psychiatric disorders characterized by a lack of emotional equilibrium, including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Unfortunately, up to 30% of patients with depression and anxiety do not respond to psychotherapy and standard medication. Unravelling the pathophysiological substrates of depression and anxiety, and developing new treatments targeting these substrates, thus is of tremendous importance to us. Converging evidence suggests that there are specific brain circuits that mediate stress responsiveness and regulate emotional and cognitive functions. Depression and anxiety represent brain-based disorders that lead to dysregulation of these neural circuits. Our work has its focus on developing innovative neuromodulatory and neuroendocrine therapies addressing these networks in order to establish more rapid and robust methodologies for treating depression and anxiety. A particularly promising new lead for translation into the clinic is the peptide hormone oxytocin, which penetrates the brain after intranasal administration and subtly modulates emotional and social functions in a context-dependent manner. By pursuing clinical studies in patients as well as preclinical studies in healthy volunteers, NEMO combines translational research strategies and integrates key insights from diverse methodological sources, including behavioral neuroscience, functional neuroimaging, and a broad range of brain stimulation techniques from neuronavigated TMS to DBS. In the past decade, clinical research into the early course of schizophrenia has demonstrated prodromal symptoms that are common to both depression and schizophrenia. It is not until so-called positive symptoms emerge that depression and schizophrenia become distinguishable from each other. In both disorders the prodromal stage is associated with emotional, social and cognitive impairment. As a consequence, early recognition and intervention represent relevant clinical targets of our work. Taken together, our research activities are centered around three core themes:

(i) Oxytocin Neuroscience Research Program

(ii) Brain Stimulation for Depression Research Program

(iii) Schizophrenia Early Recognition & Intervention Research Program