TRIMAGE Investigates Innovative Diagnostic Methods for Schizophrenia
Photo: PD Dr. Irene Neuner is a senior physician at the Department for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic at University Hospital RWTH Aachen and also works at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-4) at Forschungszentrum Jülich.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness which can manifest itself in many different forms. This makes accurate diagnostics even more important: it is the only way for the best possible, individually defined therapies to be selected for each patient. But according to JARA-BRAIN scientist PD Dr. Irene Neuner, there is still some room for improvement: “Around 30 % of therapies are currently ineffective.” She adds that vague diagnoses are one of the reasons for this. The European research project TRIMAGE, which the psychiatrist is involved with, will help change this. As part of the Seventh EU Framework Programme, medical scientists, physicists, computer scientists, engineers, and other experts from countries such as Germany, Greece, Italy, and Switzerland, are researching innovative diagnostic possibilities to make therapies more individual and thus more successful in the future.
Unique: modern imaging techniques from MRI, EEG, and PET for schizophrenia diagnostics
“In hospitals, schizophrenia is currently almost exclusively diagnosed by clinical symptoms. Imaging the brain is done primarily in order to rule out other causes, such as brain tumours or strokes,” explains Irene Neuner. The scientist, who is a senior physician at the Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Disorders at University Hospital Aachen and also works at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-4) at Forschungszentrum Jülich, however, sees diagnostic opportunities in modern imaging. This is why the psychiatrist studies innovative opportunities of applying modern imaging techniques such as MRI, PET, and EEG.
With her expertise, she is among the leading German scientists within the TRIMAGE research project. The aim of the ambitious EU project is to study biomarkers in schizophrenia patients, which may point to individual therapies when used as part of a multimodal imaging technique. In future, it is hoped that these biomarkers can be measured with the aid of an innovative, unique device which pursues a trimodal approach, creating MRI, PET, and EEG images of the test subjects’ brains.
Jülich scientists developing combination device in cooperation with international consortium
The numerous components of the device are being developed and constructed at different locations around the globe, but the head and gradient coils are being devised and assembled at Jülich. JARA-BRAIN director Prof. N. Jon Shah and his team at INM-4 are in charge of assembling the prototype at Jülich. “We hope that the prototype will be finished in early 2017,” says Irene Neuner. “Afterwards, we will start preliminary studies on identifying the biomarkers.”
Photo: JARA-BRAIN director Prof. N. Jon Shah and his colleagues are developing the prototype of a unique combination device which will create MRI, PET, and EEG images of the test subjects’ brains.
Schizophrenia is far from being rare. At least one in 100 adults around the world will suffer from it at some point. In Germany alone, it is currently affecting around 800,000 people. The symptoms of the illness are diverse: they range from initially unspecific symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, lack of concentration, and insomnia to hearing voices no one else can hear, and finally also to intensive agitation and paranoia.
Information to TRIMAGE