Many mental disorders are based on underlying genetic deviations; this makes it relevant to measure biologically underlying factors closer to the underlying biology than the relatively distal clinical symptoms. It has also become clear that genetic liability of several psychiatric disorders overlap, which means that psychiatric disorders might occur more frequently in disadvantaged families. This makes it relevant to study mental illness trans-diagnostically, across diagnoses, and to focus on the underlying processes, which may be disturbed in children with different diagnoses.
A deeper understanding of the underlying features will offer new perspectives on the opportunities for early identification, prevention and treatment in a developmental context and in longitudinal studies. Our trans-diagnostic research framework uses categorical and dimensional clinical measures (diagnostic interviews, questionnaires), methods of brain mapping (anatomical and functional MRI, EEG), as well as basic biological measures to characterize children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as for individuals at risk for developing a psychiatric disorder - either due to a familial predisposition or due to emerging symptoms.
Child and adolescent psychiatry is a field dominated of symptoms, disorders and diagnoses that often have major impact on the patients’ lives and influences the closest relatives too. Early identification of signs of mental illness among children and adolescents is an emerging area that seems promising for identifying individuals at increased risk and for increasing our understanding of how different kinds of mental illness origin. By studying individuals born with a familial risk for specific, severe disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, we will learn more about etiology and vulnerability and also about resilience and protective factors.
Likewise, we consider the further investigation into self-regulation and identifying compensatory (self-healing) processes, in the brains of children with neuropsychiatric disorders an important task in the present and future. It is, however, only possible to understand the relevance of individual study results when examining the same processes in relation to other disorders as contrasts and in relation to typical development in a transdiagnostic approach. Understanding these processes is the premise for designing therapeutic methods that can directly promote the development of self-regulatory control in children.