The following projects are currently ongoing at the research department of the University Hospital of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
AtR!Sk (dt. Abmulatoirum für Risikoverhalten und Selbstschädigung) at the University Hospital for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Bern is a specialist outpatient service for adolescents (aged 12-17 years) with risky and self-injurious behavior. All patients of the service are invited to take part in the AtR!Sk cohort study. The study aims at examining the correlates and prognostic factors of risky and self-injurious behavior and personality pathology in help-seeking adolescents. In addition, individual predictors of treatment response are examined. The findings will inform early detection and treatment of adolescents with borderline personality disorder features.
Project manager: PD Dr Corinna Reichl
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are a common phenomenon in adolescent populations with suicide still ranking as one of the most frequent causes of death in this age group. The Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP; Michel & Gysin-Maillart, 2015) has been shown to reduce suicide attempts in adults. This manualized program focusses on therapeutic alliance, early warning signs and an emergency plan and applies cognitive and exposure based interventions. In a randomized controlled trial, we evaluate the efficacy of this treatment program as compared to safety planning (Stanley & Brown, 2012), another short time intervention program to prevent suicide attempts. This study is conducted in collaboration with the University Hospital for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Zürich (PUKZH).
Project manager: Dr Christian Hertel
Suicide is the second most common cause of death in adolescents and young adults and almost 10% of this population report a suicide attempt at some point in their youth. In order to facilitate risk assessment of suicidal ideation and behavior in clinical practice, efforts to identify specific risk factors have been made, but recent research found prediction to still be only marginally above chance. Therefore, using new approaches to examine such behavior is key. The goal of the current study is to apply Ecological Momentary Assessment and Passive Mobile Sensing in an at-risk group of adolescents, as well as their parents and therapists, to identify proximal short-term predictors of suicide attempts and suicidal crises.
Project manager: M. Sc. Franziska Rockstroh
The aim of this project is to evaluate a treatment for children with acute mental disorders who require intensive therapy. Instead of inpatient therapy, however, the young patients in AT_HOME are treated with high frequency in their own homes by a team of child and youth psychiatrists, psychologists, special nurses and pedagogues. We call this “Home Treatment”. We are interested in both short-term and long-term treatment outcomes. In order to better classify and evaluate the results of home treatment, we compare them with the results of an active inpatient control group.
Project manager: M. Sc. Daniel Graf
The psychotherapeutic process is on the one hand driven by evidence-based psychotherapeutic interventions that address specific symptoms or maintenance mechanisms of mental disorders and on the other hand by specific common factors such as the therapeutic alliance and expectations regarding treatment outcome. This project aims at developing and applying an instrument that continuously monitors the psychotherapeutic process in terms of outcome ratings (e.g. changes in psychosocial functioning level during treatment) and session ratings (process variables, e.g. therapeutic alliance). The aim is to investigate how the psychotherapeutic process is influenced by common therapeutic process factors in adolescents with different mental disorders.
Project manager: Dr Andrea Wyssen
Glucocorticoids (GC) in supranormal dosing have been used for decades in the treatment of paediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemias and lymphomas. Besides their positive anti-tumoral effects, GC also have emotional and behavioral side effects in children. We aim to detect and characterize the effects of GC treatment on emotional regulation and underlying biological mechanisms in paediatric patients. We will investigate patients undergoing a minimum 15-day therapy with GC before, during and after treatment (within-subject design) with psychological measures, analysis of hormonal reaction patterns in saliva, urine and blood and GC receptor genetics. This research project is conducted in collaboration with the Inselspital Bern, University of Bern.
P.I.: Dr. Mutlu Kartal-Kaess; project manager: Dr. Ines Mürner-Lavanchy
Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) is the deliberate destruction of one’s own body tissue without suicidal intention. NSSI predicts future suicide attempts, is associated with greater mortality and increased risk for suicide, even 15 years later. Despite growing public and scientific interest in the phenomenon of NSSI, there is still little understanding of the exact psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that promote maintenance of the behavior. The aim of this study is to investigate the psychological and neurobiological stress-response in patients engaging in NSSI and healthy controls. We use a combination of clinical, experimental and physiological measures, neuroimaging and ecological momentary assessment. The results of this project may make an important contribution regarding the prevention and treatment of self-injury in adolescence. This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Project manager: Dr Ines Mürner-Lavanchy
In patients with hemophilia (PWH) A and B, the availability of clotting factor concentrates and the introduction of prophylactic home treatment in developed countries greatly improved clinical outcomes. As the life expectancy of PWH has increased, the management of comorbidities has become an area of greater focus within the hemophilia comprehensive care setting. Although most studies focused on somatic problems and complications, a small but growing body of work reports increased prevalence of mental health problems in PWH. To date, very little is known on factors that influence mental ill-health of PWH. In a Switzerland-based, multicentre, cross-sectional study, we aim to examine the relationship between hemophilia and comorbid mental health problems (including quality of life and psychosocial functioning) in different age groups using psychological interviews and questionnaires. This research project is conducted in collaboration with the Inselspital Bern, University of Bern.
P.I. Dr. Mutlu Kartal-Kaess, Prof. Dr. Johanna Anna Kremer Hovinga; Project manager: Dr Mutlu Kartal-Kaess
Since 2012, the anorexia registry has been built up as a multi-center project in Germany. The aim of the register is to examine research questions with regard to cause, clinic and development of anorexia nervosa in order to optimize diagnostics and therapy. We have contributed to this registry since 2021.
Project manager: Dr Armita Tschitsaz
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by low body weight due to restricted food intake, a severe and persistent “fear of weight gain”, and a disturbance in body weight and shape perception. Consequently, weighing as a therapeutic rationale causes high stress responses. The aim of the WASA project is to examine the physiological and psychological stress responses to weight exposure in adolescents with anorexia compared to healthy pupils. In addition, changes in stress responses in patients during treatment and their impact on the treatment effect (operationalized by BMI percentile) will be examined.
Problematic smartphone use has been associated with affective disorders and sleep problems in adults and adolescents. However, it is still unclear whether and how the intensity and type of smartphone use is related to psychopathology in children. With SPICY, we aim to investigate whether intensive smartphone use is associated with increased levels of psychopathology, i.e., greater irritability. In this crossover study, 8 to 13-year old in-patients will undergo a two-week period of unlimited and a two-week period of limited smartphone use each. Frequency and purpose of smartphone use and changes in irritability will be repeatedly assessed. In addition, saliva samples and heart rate measurements will be repeatedly taken to examine biological correlates of changes in irritability.
The aims of the study are twofold: First, to evaluate the effect of feedback on treatment outcome in adolescent inpatients with mental disorders, and second, to identify early markers of non-response. Participants are randomly assigned to either the Treatment as Usual (TAU) + feedback group or the TAU no feedback group. In the TAU + feedback group, treatment progress of the participants is reported to therapists on a weekly basis. Changes in psychopathology and biological correlates as well as in therapeutic alliance and attitudes towards treatment during the treatment are continuously assessed in both groups, using clinical interviews, questionnaires, ecological momentary assessment (EMA), Electrocardiogram (ECG), and actigraphy.
Project manager: Dr Marialuisa Cavelti
App-based interventions have the potential to improve health care situation as they entail several advantages such as increased accessibility, independence of time and location, as well as lower thresholds for accessing the health care systems. However, many existing apps do not take full advantage of technology, do not consider usability, are not sufficiently theoretically founded and do not tailor the intervention to the individual. In collaboration with the Inselspital Bern, this project aims at developing and implementing two personalized, parent-centered, guided app-based interventions to target parental behaviors related to nutrition, physical activity, and smoking. The primary endpoints are risk factors associated with asthma or obesity in children. The efficacy of the apps will be evaluated in two randomized controlled trials. Moreover, acceptance and usability of the apps will be investigated.
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Kopp (Inselspital Bern) & Prof. Dr. med. Michael Kaess (UPD Bern)
Project manager: PD Dr Andrea Wyssen