2021 Innovator Award

How disease and medication shape the brain, and how the brain predicts individual treatment response: Learning from global collaboration

Odile van den Heuvel, MD, PhD; Chris Vriend, PhD

Amsterdam UMC (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Award Amount: $300,000

Brain imaging has revolutionized our understanding of mental health disorders like OCD by revealing important information about which parts of the brain are impacted by OCD and informing treatment approaches. Research through brain imaging becomes more reliable through the availability of higher sample sizes, as they allow for greater confidence about minor differences observed between people with OCD and healthy people – minor differences that may have important meanings.

This study by Drs. van den Heuvel and Vriend will continue the ENIGMA-OCD collaborative working group’s brain imaging research, using data pooled from multiple institutions around the world to create a much larger sample of people with OCD than any one researcher would be able to study on their own. The working group has already discovered small changes in brain structure that may exist in people with OCD. This Award’s support will help the team look at new questions, such as: Does the length of time that a person has had OCD have an impact on brain function? How does medication for OCD alter brain function? And can differences in brain function observed using brain imaging technology predict how well a person will respond to OCD treatment? Currently the team is working on brain imaging data visualizing the brain’s function during emotional processing. In the next stage, they will focus on cognitive functions, such as inhibition of responses and higher order cognitive functions.