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Strategy 2.3

Develop tools to better define and identify risk and protective factors for mental illness across the lifespan.

A major goal of Strategic Objective 2 is the creation of a set of standardized tools to identify, early in the development of major mental disorders, mutable and potent risk and protective factors that implicate specific causal pathways and guide the use of preemptive interventions. To realize this aim, it is necessary to increase knowledge of multiple and interacting risk and protective factors for mental disorders, and accelerate the translation of this knowledge to the development of novel and effective interventions. Studies that examine the one-to-one correspondence between isolated risk factors and mental illness are well represented in the field and would not be considered responsive to this objective.

Research Priorities

  1. Identify novel, mutable, and robust risk and protective factors, and the mechanisms underlying them, for different phases of disease trajectories in both treated and untreated populations.

    Priority areas include:

    1. Examining sequential, additive, and/or interactive combinations of multiple risk and protective factors measured across multiple modalities (e.g., genetic, neurobiological, environmental, and behavioral) that affect disease trajectories at specified developmental time points.
    2. Developing behavioral assessment tools that can be used across ages, species, and cultures to evaluate dysfunction in domains relevant to mental disorders (e.g., mood dysregulation, deficits in executive function).
    3. Identifying early symptomatic (prodromal) manifestations that predate and predict the onset of a mental disorder and delineate the pathophysiological trajectory leading to mental illness.
    4. Using multiple modalities and standardized methods (e.g., combinations of genetic, neurobiological, and behavioral measures) to identify robust predictors of intervention response throughout the life course and across the trajectory of illness.
  2. Develop clinical assessment tools, methods, and novel and personalized interventions based on documented risk factors, neurobehavioral trajectories, and predictors of intervention response.

    Priority areas include:

    1. Developing clinical risk assessment instruments that encompass multiple domains (e.g., genetic, neurobiological, and environmental), are sensitive to developmental stage, and have high predictive power for the onset or recurrence of mental illness.
    2. Developing and testing novel interventions that are targeted at pre-symptomatic or prodromal stages of illness, are designed to preempt syndrome development, and include biomarkers as both stratification and outcome criteria.
    3. Developing and testing novel interventions that target specific genetic, epigenetic, cognitive, affective, or motor/sensorimotor developmental processes that underlie multiple disorders.
    4. Charting the effects of psychotropic medications and psychosocial interventions on the developing human brain, including identification of effects specific to particular developmental stages, and determination of effects of long-term treatment or treatment begun early in life.

Back to Strategic Objective 2 Overview