EU-GEI Newsletter 2 (August 2012)
   
   

INTRODUCTION by Bart Rutten
   
   

OUR RESEARCH: TwinssCan
   
   

PUBLICATIONS: Clinicopathological significance of psychotic experiences in non-psychotic young people: evidence from four population-based studies
   
   

YOUNG RESEARCHERS IN EU-GEI: Matthew Kempton, blood, sweat and brain scans
   
   

EU-GEI PARTNER IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Mediamens
   
   

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF: Bologna's research unit
   
   

1329 KILOMETERS FOR PSYCHOSIS
   
   

MEETINGS: The Maudsley Forum
   
   

EU-GEI PARTNERS and affiliated partners
   
   

EU-GEI CONTACT
   


 

 
INTRODUCTION by Bart Rutten

Dear readers,

Welcome to the second EU-GEI annual Newsletter!

The EU-GEI project took off in May 2010 and has now reached its succesful completion of the second project year. Within these first 2 years, the EU-GEI consortium has established a high-quality and well-running research infrastructure for our multicenter, multinational investigations on gene-environment interactions in schizophrenia. Data collection in EU-GEI is now fully up and running, and all our partners are currently very active in including large amounts of valuable data on genetic, environmental and clinical variables  in patients, family members and control subjects.

The original consortium of 26 partners in 11 European countries, China and Australia, funded under the theme Health of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development of the EU, has expanded over the last two years with 8 affiliated partners in Brazil, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain and Serbia.

EU-GEI is thus fully alive, reaching full maturation and is thriving well!

This Newsletter will highlight some of the research projects and scientists centrally involved in EU-GEI.

One very valuable asset for EU-GEI is the study on twins as conducted by Jeroen de Coster and others in Belgium.

Findings from another very interesting EU-GEI study, by Mary Cannon, Ian Kelleher and colleagues in Dublin, on children with psychotic-like experiences are also discussed and these findings received already a lot of attention in the media.

The EU-GEI consortium also consists of small-to-medium sized entreprises (SMEs), and EU-GEI work by one of these SMEs, the company called Mediamens, is illustrated in the Spotlight article of the Newsletter

Dr. Matthew Kempton is the star of the Newsletter’s young investigator article as he has received a very prestigious award for his EU-GEI related work and obtained funding for extending EU-GEI’s research on individuals with prodromal signs of psychosis.

You can furthermore get a glimpse on a day in the life of Luigi Chiri en Thomas Marcacci, two EU-GEI scientists working at the University of Bologna in Italy, and you can read about the fantastic endeavor by prof. dr. Inez Myin-Germeys who has cycled all the way from Maastricht, the Netherlands, to the summit of the Mont Ventoux in France to increase public awareness on psychosis.

The Newsletter will also give you some insight in one of our world-reknown educational courses, the Maudsley forum, that is organized by EU-GEI scientists and provides researchers and health professionals in the field of psychiatry with state-of-the-art education.

I hope you will enjoy reading this second annual Newsletter, and please feel free to contact us if you want to make a contribution in the future; input from all kinds of stakeholders and audiences is much appreciated!

Bart Rutten
Vice-coordinator of EU-GEI



 

 

 
OUR RESEARCH: TwinssCan

by Jeroen Decoster and Ruud van Winkel
University Psychiatric Centre - KU Leuven
Maastricht University - Department of Psychiatry and Psychology

It is known that genetic as well as environmental factors underlie complex mental disorders like depression and schizophrenia. Moreover, the interplay between genetic and environmental factors can no longer be ignored. However, practical, theoretical and ethical problems can hamper research of causal factors of psychiatric disorders. Experimental paradigms in non-clinical samples offer an elegant approach to overcome these problems.

In the Experimental Work Package of EU-GEI, 3 different studies are conducted: two in Mannheim under the supervision of Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg (WP leader) and Marcus Leweke (co-leader), and one at Leuven University in Belgium (TwinssCan).

For TwinssCan, a well documented general population twin cohort (the East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey [EFPTS]) could be accessed. Experimental designs were developed to test (aberrant) salience attribution and sensitivity to social stress and rejection, both candidate psychological risk mechanisms for the development of psychosis. Also reward sensitivity, to be considered as a protective mechanism for psychiatric illness, was experimentally conceptualised. Symptomatology is being assessed using structured interviews, questionnaires and an electronic momentary assessment technology device (PsyMate®) that samples experiences in the context of daily life.

Examining above-mentioned characteristics in a group of adolescent twins allows for the study of the role of genes and environment. In addition, (aberrant) psychological mechanisms and subclinical symptoms can be studied without the influence of the one on the other, using cross-twin, cross-trait designs. And finally, the young age of the twins (15 to 18 years) makes it possible to gather information during a very important period in life for the possible development of psychological problems. Our planned follow-up measurements can help to elucidate the pathway from mild psychological problems to psychotic disorders.

As of August 2012, already more than 250 twin pairs (500 individuals) participated in TwinssCan. They all completed the experimental tasks, diagnostic interviews and provided extensive information on relevant environmental exposures. All twins also donated genetic material (saliva) and participated in the PsyMate® data collection over the course of six consecutive days. A year after the first contact with the twins, they are contacted again for follow-up measurements. From May 2012 the first included twins already participated in the second of four yearly follow-up waves. The TwinssCan protocol will also be applied in a twin study in Hong Kong, under the supervision of Dr Timothea Toulopoulou, allowing for an even larger data collection using this protocol.

Thanks to a big organizational effort of our research team and, above all, the willing cooperation of the young twins, we will be able to collect a very informative dataset. Analysis of these data will help in reaching a better understanding of the etiology of schizophrenia and will hopefully lead to improved prevention, detection and treatment.

Photo top: Jeroen Decoster
Photo bottom: Ruud van Winkel



 

 

 
PUBLICATIONS: Clinicopathological significance of psychotic experiences in non-psychotic young people: evidence from four population-based studies


Published in       The British Journal of Psychiatry
                        (DOI 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.101543)
EU-GEI authors   Ian Kelleher, Mary Cannon
                        P24 - Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

While hallucinations and delusions have classically been viewed as symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, it is now known that these symptoms occur relatively commonly in the population. Literature reviews have reported that about 5% of adults and 8-17% of children and adolescents in the community report these symptoms. Because psychotic symptoms are associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia-spectrum illness later in life, they provide a valuable high risk paradigm for psychosis researchers. However, despite a relatively increased psychosis risk, the majority of young people who report psychotic symptoms will never develop a psychotic disorder.  What, then, are the clinical implications of psychotic symptoms in childhood and adolescence beyond a relative increased risk for psychotic disorder in adulthood?

Now, members of the EU-GEI consortium Ian Kelleher and Mary Cannon, together with colleagues at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Dublin and the Irish National Suicide Research Foundation have reported on research in 4 community samples looking at the prevalence of psychotic symptoms as well as the rates of co-occurring psychiatric disorders in young people in the general population. In line with previous community studies, the prevalence of psychotic symptoms in the population was high – about 1 in 5 young people aged 11 to 12 years reported experiencing psychotic symptoms, compared to about 1 in 15 young people aged 13 to 15 years. This work, however, showed for the first time that the majority of young people in the population who reported psychotic symptoms had at least one (non-psychotic) psychiatric disorder, including high prevalences of mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder, and behavioural disorders, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. What is more, this work demonstrated that these symptoms were strongly associated with multimorbidity – that is, having 2 or more disorders. In fact, in all four samples, the likelihood of reporting psychotic symptoms increased in line with the number of psychiatric disorders. For example, in the mid adolescence study, 8% of the young people with 1 psychiatric disorder reported psychotic symptoms, compared to 30% of young people with 2 disorders and 40% of young people with 3 or more disorders (see Figure). These results highlight that when a patient reports psychotic symptoms there is high risk that he or she will have more than 1 diagnosable disorder and this, in turn, should prompt treating clinicians to consider the potential importance of multiple therapeutic targets and/or approaches in treating patients with psychotic symptoms. From a theoretical point of view, the high prevalence of psychotic symptoms found in young people with non-psychotic disorders further blurs the line historically drawn between neurotic and psychotic disorders in psychiatry.

 

 

Figure: Prevalence of psychotic symptoms in young people with 0, 1, 2 and 3 or more Axis-1 psychiatric disorders. The green and blue lines show results from 2 studies of young people aged 11 to 13 year olds. The black and red lines show results from 2 studies of young people aged 13 to 16 years. All four samples showed that the prevalence of psychotic symptoms increased in a dose-response fashion with the number of psychiatric disorders. An individual with 3 disorders might have, for example, major depressive disorder, social phobia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


Photo: Ian Kelleher (left) and Mary Cannon (right)



 

 

 
YOUNG RESEARCHERS IN EU-GEI: Matthew Kempton, blood, sweat and brain scans

I often check MRI brain scans are the correct quality, but this was the first time I recognised the profile of a face in the image - it was a researcher I had met a few days before in an EU-GEI conference in London. Part of my job is to ensure MRI data acquired at each centre in our work package has the same parameters allowing us to combine the images. Before centres start scanning patients, I check the MRI data quality from images of staff volunteers, however in this case I was pleased to be able to put a name to the brain!

I help coordinate a talented and extremely hard working team of researchers spread across Europe, Australia and South America recruiting people who are at risk of developing psychosis as part of EU-GEI. The work package is led by Philip McGuire and Lucia Valmaggia and in London I have been working with Gemma Modinos who manages data collection locally (spot us in the WAIS training video!). In addition to MRI scans, the rapidly growing dataset includes clinical, environmental, neuropsychological and genetic data.

The centres in our work package interview patients in French, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, German and English. The huge job of translating the questionnaires has been coordinated by Wendy Beuken and colleagues in Maastricht with a network of dedicated researchers in each country. I was involved in translating the verbal fluency task. In the English version, participants name objects starting with the letters F, A, then S. Rather than use the same letters in the translations, we tried to match the first letter frequency for each language. This isn’t as simple as it sounds; EU-GEI researcher Charlotte Rapp in Switzerland enlisted the help of a professor in computer science to calculate the frequencies from German text, and Lasse Randers in Denmark contacted the Danish Language Council to determine their first letter frequencies.

Blood unlike questionnaire data and MRI scans cannot yet be sent electronically! so one antidote to sitting at the computer all day, is assembling the genetic packs which I send out in boxes to each group in our work package. Each pack includes 8 blood sampling tubes per participant which are processed at each centre and then sent in batches back to London. To ensure nothing gets misplaced individual bar codes are printed for each subject and attached to each and every tube used in processing the samples (38000 labels so far).

EU-GEI is a great starting point for future projects and I am grateful for the opportunity to build on the study after I obtained a fellowship to acquire follow-up MRI scans. To ensure the comparability of MRI data I will travel with 4 colleagues to have our brains scanned at each centre, needless to say I have plenty of volunteers.

Outside work I am happily adjusting to fatherhood, as our first child was born in June. She is stuck with my genes but I hope to give her the very best environment.

Photo: Matthew and his daughter in front of London Bridge



 

 

 
EU-GEI PARTNER IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Mediamens

 

On November 24th 2008 Mediamens got a mail on behalf of EU-GEI: "We are glad to let you know that your proposal is the one that better fits our necessities. Welcome on board!"

After a few meetings with the project team coordinated by Jim van Os we began implementing in 2009. First of all a project logo for EU-GEI and GET-THERE. After this was completed, we continued with the real challenge: a website to provide researchers all over the world with information and training for the instruments to be assessed in the EU-GEI project.
The training website - named GET-THERE - is an interactive website, a joint virtual practice, training and reliability area. In order to achieve good reliability, a researcher will find practice tapes (with feedback options) and tapes to determine inter-rated reliability. Besides web design and programming, Mediamens translated (some) and subtitled the audiovisual material for the presented most advanced instruments. We also implemented questionnaires and programmed the necessary embedded tests. Based on the given answers the website automatically informs researchers if they have passed the test for inter-rater reliability and that they are thereby allowed to continue with the next test.

Mediamens is a Dutch agency for communication, design and new media. We have a special interest and experience in new media and internet communication, with a focus on digital customized applications in particular. We like to share our knowledge with our (potential) clients worldwide! For example by this digital annual newsletter, also made by Mediamens.

At www.eu-gei.eu you can see a part of the result of our efforts on this challenging project. If you are a registered member you can also experience GET-THERE. And don't forget to check our own website at www.mediamens.nl

 

Mediamens is one of five SMEs participating in the EU-GEI project

 



 

 



 
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF: Bologna's research unit

We are so involved in the EU-GEI evaluations  and instruments that all our life is marked by them

8:30 - BCSS: Breakfast: Coffee, Sacher and Sandwich  

8:45 – Bologna Migration History admistration:

         Thomas (EU-GEI researcher):  Did you obtain family agreement with
         your decision to migrate this morning?

         Luigi (EU-GEI researcher and internal migrant, Parma - Bologna): No,
         my little son told me “uh,uhh, ueh, ueehh!”

        Thomas (EU-GEI researcher):  Did you spend more time than you
        expected travelling to this city?

        Luigi (EU-GEI researcher and internal migrant, Parma - Bologna): No,
        just 1 hour delay…as usual!!!

9:00 – White Noise: a strange noise from the door… ooops, it’s our BOSS! Let’s start working very hard!

10:00 – PAS: Patient Assessment Syndrome: an urgent impulse to assess a patient floods us…let’s run to CMHS…let’s take the EU-GEI laptop!

12:00 – SIS-R: Sudden Ilaria’S Return. “Today is the deadline for abstract submission” and “There is a very important meeting” and “We have to do the data-entry” and “We have to send an email to our clinicians” and …. 

13:00 – Degraded Faces moment:

            Thomas: What kind of expression do you read on my face?

            Luigi: Are you angry?

            Thomas: Look carefully!

            Luigi: Oh no, you are hungry!  

13:05 – CAPE: Cream of Asparagus  Pasta Experience: the most velvety moment of the day!

13:30 – SDS: Short Data-entry Session: with the help of our students and young doctors, Fabio, Federico, Raffaele, Viviana, Laura, all the research’s efforts come to the “final step”.

15:00 – GAF: Genetic Assessment Freight: we cross the city with our legs … we give “blood” for the research!

16:00 – WAIS: Which Article Is to Send?: intensive work for the last revision of the paper!  

17:50 – OPCRIT moment: Bizarre behavior? YES. Loss of energy/Tiredness? YES. Incoherent? YES. To prevent our first episode of psychosis we decide to stop here!

18:00 – Tobacco and Alcohol List session …….
            For this confidential information,
            write to LUIGI (luigichiri@libero.it)
            and THOMAS (thomasmarcacci@gmail.com)

Photo's of the team of Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna (UNIBO)
Photo in the middle: Domenico Berardi and Ilaria Tarricone



 

 





 
1329 KILOMETERS FOR PSYCHOSIS

Psychiatric symptoms are one of the few remaining taboos in the 21st century. The illness is easily condemned by outsiders, relatives often feel guilty, and patients keep silent 'it is hard enough as it is'. The media is not really helping either. Research in Belgium in 2011 showed that in 66% of the times that the term schizophrenia was used in the media, it was used in a negative way.
Still, psychiatric disorders are amongst the most prevalent and most invalidating health problems.

EU-GEI partners MUMC and the University Psychiatric Hospital Kortenberg (third party to KU Leuven) have decided to make a start with breaking this taboo in the Netherlands and Belgium and they have sent Inez Germeys (WP7) on a bike trip to raise awareness. The trip was a mere 1329 kilometers to the Mont Ventoux in France.

While the bike tour was being planned in 17 stages including a day’s rest by Bob Germeys (Inez’ father), both MUMC and Kortenberg organized meetings and lectures, baked muffins to be sold, put together a vernissage, visited schools and sent out PR-teams to various activities and happenings: a positive campaign to announce the bike-event, to start the discussion on psychiatric disorders and to create awareness.

Inez was sent off on two official occasions with speeches, a number of activities and accompanying cyclists during the first two stages of the trip: on June 27 from Kortenberg and on June 28 from Maastricht. From the third stage onwards she was on her own, only accompanied on bike by her father.

In successful stages of approximately 95 kilometers each and a total of 14.921 meters in altitude, Bob and Inez reached the foothills of the Mont Ventoux on July 11.  The Giant of the Provence was ascended twice: on July 12 from Sault and on July 13 via the tough climb from Bédoin.

MUMC and the University Psychiatric Hospital Kortenberg can look back on a successful campaign and raising awareness to openly discuss psychiatric disorders. This initiative is only a beginning, but both institutes are committed to continue!

Inez was the first to accept this sports challenge, and invites you to follow her footsteps or rather, her bike tour!

Photo top: Marc de Hert addresses Inez and Bob in Kortenberg
Photo middle: the start in Maastricht
Photo bottom: mission accomplished!



 

 

 
MEETINGS: The Maudsley Forum

The Maudsley Forum, 16th-19th October 2012

The Cutting Edge in Psychiatry Research and Practice

The annual Maudsley Forum offers psychiatrists, psychologists and others interested in mental health, the opportunity to learn about the most current advances in clinical and academic psychiatry, and to meet and network with dynamic, like-minded colleagues from around the world.

16th -19th October 2012

Location:  Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, United Kingdom

More information: www.MaudsleyForum.iop.kcl.ac.uk more

 

 

 
EU-GEI PARTNERS and affiliated partners

PROJECT COORDINATOR
Universiteit Maastricht

EU-GEI PARTNERS
King’s College London
Cardiff University
Ankara Universitesi
Servicio Madrileño de Salud
Academisch Medisch Centrum – Universiteit van Amsterdam
Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM)
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
University Mental Health Research Institute
Medizinische Universität Wien
Universität Basel
Universität zu Köln – Universitätsklinikum
SERMES Planificacion
Wingz b.v.
E.C.S. International BV
Omega Pro Proje Arastirma Gelistirme ve Danismanlik Ltd Þti
Mediamens B.V.
The University of Hong Kong
Universidad del Pais Vasco
The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Alma Mater Studiorum – Universita di Bologna
Universita Degli Studi di Palermo
University of Melbourne

For contact details see HERE

Affiliated partners
EU-GEI's affiliated partners are external parties participating in the project.
As conditions of participation, affiliated partners have agreed to meet the EU-GEI standards with respect to the identification, recruitment and assessment of subjects. All related costs will be met by the new affiliated centers (with no funding being available from EU-GEI)

Universidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil) 
University of Verona (Italy)
University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
UPC Kortenberg / Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)
Centre Hospitalier Sainte Anne - Paris (France)
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain)
Federal University of Sao Paulo (Brazil)
University of Belgrad (Serbia)
 

 



 

 

 
EU-GEI CONTACT

EU-GEI contacts:

Project Management:
Karin Quanten
Maastricht University Medical Centre
Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology
Location Vijverdal
Vijverdalseweg 1 | 6226 NB | Maastricht – The Netherlands
PO Box 616 (VIJV-SN2) | 6200 MD | Maastricht - The Netherlands
T +31 43 3883600 | F +31 43 3884122
Karin.Quanten@maastrichtuniversity.nl


Wendy Beuken
Maastricht University Medical Centre
Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology
Location Vijverdal
Vijverdalseweg 1 | 6226 NB | Maastricht – The Netherlands
PO Box 616 (VIJV-SN2) | 6200 MD | Maastricht - The Netherlands
T +31 43 3883702 | F +31 43 3884122
W.Beuken@maastrichtuniversity.nl

 

This newsletter was produced as part of EU-GEI dissemination activities.
Contact: Karin Quanten

Design by MediaMens

EU-GEI: European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks studying Gene-Environment Interactions
www.eu-gei.eu

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