Four Vall d’Hebron mental health projects awarded in the 2021 TV3 La Marató charity event

The studies focus on neurodevelopment disorders, suicide prevention, bipolar disorder and depression.


The television channel TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio 2021 La Marató charity event raised €12,147,989 for research into the comprehensive approach to mental health to improve quality of life and life expectancy for patients and their families. The Ministry of Health Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia coordinated an international assessment process to rate the studies for their quality and methodology, scientific, health and social relevance, and innovative and transformational value. Among the 150 projects presented this year and the 36 winners are four projects involving researchers from the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions group, two as leaders and two as collaborators.

Intervention and prevention treatment in suicide attempts: controlled randomised trial

Suicide has become a major health problem after the negative impact of COVID-19 on mental health among the general population. Until now, few studies have analysed the effect of early intervention on people who have previously attempted suicide, even though the greatest risk factor for suicide is previous attempts, especially during the first year.

The purpose of this trial is to assess the efficacy of individual psychological treatment in hospitalised patients after a serious suicide attempt. The trial will also assess the trend in the incidence of serious attempts during the pandemic and the impact of psychological intervention using biological, psychosocial and clinical variables.

Dr María Dolores Braquehais Conesa, a researcher with the VHIR Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions group, is leading this project, in which the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona is also participating.

Impact of neurodevelopment disorders on school performance: genes and environment

School performance is an indicator of future quality of life. Nevertheless, around 20% of children in developed countries have learning difficulties, and there is an urgent need to understand the factors that lead to a predisposition to poor school performance. Different studies support the influence of genetic and environmental factors on school performance and educational success. Furthermore, neurodevelopment disorders, which have a major genetic component, are also closely associated with poor academic levels.

This project aims to explore the effect of genetic factors associated with these disorders and different environmental factors (demographic, psychosocial and lifestyle factors and atmospheric pollution and lack of green spaces) on school performance in 6,000 children in Catalonia. The study will contribute to increasing knowledge of poor school performance and its relation to neurodevelopment disorders and will identify the underlying risk factors, with the end goal of translating the results into predictive and preventative strategies to benefit vulnerable students and promote positive development throughout the population.

Dr Marta Ribasés, a researcher with the VHIR Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions group and with the Mental Health Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERSAM), is coordinating the project, in which the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute SJD MIND Escoles group is also participating.

A phase III, controlled, randomised clinical trial with an active comparator to study the safety and efficacy of the REMediació Cognitiva Integral (INCREM) programme in patients with depression

The symptoms of depression range from mood disorders, extreme sadness, apathy and inability to feel pleasure to sleep problems, effects on eating habits and physical problems, among others. Some of the most frequent yet largely unrecognised symptoms are those that affect memory, concentration and self-organisation and problem-solving skills. The latest scientific findings show that these so-called cognitive symptoms are the ones that most interfere with daily life, even when the other mood-related symptoms improve. All this opens a new line of research worldwide whose objective is to find effective treatments for the cognitive symptoms of depression.

The research team for this proposal designed a comprehensive cognition and daily functioning rehabilitation programme for depression, INCREM (INtegral Cognitive REMediation for depression), which includes cognitive training and therapy sessions focussing on rehabilitation of daily functioning. The initial results show an improvement, and the study aims to demonstrate the efficacy and benefits of INCREM for depression in a larger, more varied sample of patients and ascertain its effect on the brain using biomarkers. The eventual aim is to implement this type of therapy in mental health centres to treat patients’ cognitive symptoms and enable them to return to their personal, working and social life.

Dr Amanda Rodríguez Urrutia, a psychiatrist of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital Mental Health Service and researcher with the VHIR Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions research group and CIBERSAM, is participating in this project with the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau Research Institute, the Lleida Biomedical Research Institute (IRBLleida) and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM).

Deciphering clinical, neurobiological and genetic correlations from the first manic episodes in bipolar disorder: NOTION project

Bipolar disorder is a severe mental health disease characterised by extreme mood swings, including emotional highs and lows, which impede functioning in society. The disorder is associated with persistent cognitive deficiencies such as memory and concentration problems, high mortality rates and a deterioration in the quality of life. Understanding the course of bipolar disorder from the start of the disease is essential to minimising its impact.

The objective of the project is to identify, in the first phases of the disease, the relation between symptoms, daily functioning, neurocognitive performance, genetics and brain images to improve understanding of the disease and identify factors associated with a worse prognosis. Two assessments will be carried out in this project, one at the start of the study and the other two years later, to assess the course of each patient. Once all the data has been collected, studies will be performed using innovative methods that help identify people at risk of suffering from mania and different disease pathways and to create personalised treatment plans.

Dr Silvia Amoretti, a researcher with the VHIR Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addictions research group and CIBERSAM, is participating in the project with the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), the IRBLleida and the University of Barcelona.

The studies have been rated for their quality and methodology, scientific, health and social relevance, and innovative and transformational value.

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