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Research at the Department of Psychiatry

With our research at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, we aim to contribute to the development of innovative and personalized therapies for patients with mental health problems, and to the prevention of these disorders.

To achieve these goals, research must be interdisciplinary and transgenerational. It must take into account developmental psychiatric aspects and develop preventive approaches. Close cooperation with the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy and the Institute of Psychology is essential for this and has a long tradition in Würzburg with shared topics and research facilities.

Interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation

In order to facilitate and promote interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperations, the Würzburg Center of Mental Health was founded in 2014 as an interdisciplinary research and treatment center. Psychiatrists, psychologists and biologists work here to identify the causes of mental disorders and develop new therapy approaches. Through this interdisciplinary cooperation, the Center can maintain a broad methodological spectrum from mass spectrometry for high-throughput genotyping and therapeutic drug monitoring to experimental models such as induced pluripotent stem cells and animal models to high-field MRI (3- and 7-Tesla) and experimental therapies such as non-invasive brain stimulation and virtual reality. The different research platforms are represented by two W2 professorships in Translational Social Neuroscience, Developmental Psychiatry and Clinical Anxiety Research as well as W1 professorships in Prevention of Dementia and Dementia-Related Diseases. The scientists of the Center for Mental Health work closely together with non-university research institutions in Würzburg such as the Fraunhofer Institute.

Furthermore, they are included in national and international research networks such as of the Research Training Group RTG 2660, the BMBF networks (Nationale KohorteNapKon, the European Union (Cost-Engage), but also in the worldwide Psychiatric Genomics and Enigma consortia.

Core areas of research

Our core areas of research, as represented in our working groups as well as in our grant-funded projects, are anxiety disorders and depression. Consequently, in 2018, the Comprehensive Anxiety Center Würzburg was founded with a W2 professorship for Clinical Anxiety Research as A Centre, serving as an umbrella for researchers from both departments of psychiatry, the institute of psychology, the institute of neurobiology, but also from the department of education science and the department of epidemiology who are investigating anxiety disorders and their prevention. Main areas of research are, amongst other things, anxiety disorders of children and adolescents, and the personalized treatment of depression.

The former are investigated by the SFB TR 58 „Fear, Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders“ and the BMBF network Protect-AD, the latter in the scope of national and international studies like INDEPTH and Predict, and in close collaboration with the core facility "Heart and Brain" of the BMBF  Comprehensive Heart Failure Center.

Research focuses include anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence and the personalised therapy of depression. These are investigated within the framework of DFG (SFB TRR58 Z02 Follow-up, GK 2660 Approach and Avoidance), BMBF (P4D), Innofond (ZSE-Duo) and EU-funded projects and in close cooperation with the German Centre for Heart Failure (Comprehensive Heart Failure Center), the Centre for Rare Diseases and the Centre for Geriatric Medicine. As an interdisciplinary research and treatment A center, the Comprehensive Anxiety Center is linked to other centers and hospitals in order to ensure, locally and cross-regionally, interdisciplinary and transgenerational treatment of anxiety disorders according to the respective guidelines. As a consortium of leading German university departments in research on affective disorders the National Centre for Affective Disorders (NCAD) has been established as a cooperation partner for international consortia and research institutions on translational and clinical research in the field of affective disorders.“

Further main areas of research are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), rare diseases such as the chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, schizophrenic psychoses, and neurodegenerative diseases. The research area on ADHD in particular emerged from a DFG funded Clinical Research Group (KFO 125). The 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome Center (ZEDE) is a B center within the Rare Disease Center (ZESE). In the field of dementia research, we are searching for biomarkers for early diagnosis and the course of neurodegenerative diseases in the Vogel study.

New focal points, which are represented primarily by the W2 professorships for Translational Social Neuroscience and the W1 professorship for Prevention of Dementia and Dementia-Related Diseases, but also by the Rehabilitation Sciences working group, are the primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of mental illnesses with special consideration of artificial intelligence approaches in close cooperation with the German Centre for Prevention Research and Mental Health (DZPPP) and the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science (CAIDAS).

Young researchers

The training and promotion of young researchers is an essential part of our research. We achieve this goal through an English language elite master study program „Translational Neuroscience“ funded by the Bavarian State Government, the Clinician Scientist Program „Union-CVD“ funded by the DFG, and the PhD classes Neuroscience and Clinical Science within the Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) of the German Excellence Initiative in the context of which the PhD students of the Research Training Group RTG 2660 acquire their PhD. Internationality is a core feature of our doctoral and post-doctoral programs.