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Biomarkers and underlying mechanisms of vulnerability to depression

Final Report Summary - VULDE (Biomarkers and underlying mechanisms of vulnerability to depression)

The main aim of the project VULDE was to complement questionnaire-based data collected by Masaryk University in the Czech Republic for the European Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ELSPAC) with neuroimaging (structural and functional MRI), hormonal, anthropometric and behavioral data from 120 clinically healthy individuals (60 males, 60 females) and study the biomarkers and underlying mechanisms of vulnerability to depression. This main aim of VULDE has been fulfilled. We have collected data from 131 individuals (61 males, 70 females) recruited from the ELSPAC cohort and showed that early life stress has long-lasting effects on the brain as well as mood dysregulation in young adulthood. Our results suggest that individuals who went through early life stress might benefit from early intervention that would reduce the odds of mental health illness in later life.

Another important aim of the Marie Curie grant was the career development of the research fellow. This has been achieved through two secondments (Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, Toronto, Canada and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States) and a number of training courses extending both the hard skills (FSL, Imaging genetics, and Brain Connectivity courses) and the soft skills (ACNP and OHBM mentoring courses, 1-year long Mentoring course of the Czech Academy of Sciences, including workshops on project management, time management, grant writing, communication skills and identification of personal strengths) of the researcher. The secondment at Prof. Goldstein’s team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School resulted in two publications on the transdiagnostic impact of dysphoric mood and sex on neural and hormonal responses to negative affect (published in Human Brain Mapping and Journal of Affective Disorders). During the Marie Curie grant, the research fellow also started to teach a new course at the Psychology Department of the Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University (Introduction to Contemporary Neuroscience), supervised several PhD and Bc students, and served in the Committee for PhD Life Sciences Curriculum at CEITEC MU. In addition, the research fellow also submitted several national and international grant applications, including both a large collaborative H2020 Health grant as well as an ERC Starting grant. Professional maturity of the research fellow has been also supported by active participation in the evaluation of articles for peer-reviewed journals, abstracts for international conferences (OHBM 2015, OHBM 2016), and Marie Curie grant applications (2016, 2017).