RP3 Applied Neuroscience and Neuroimaging – Running Grants and Projects


The Czech Science Foundation

Prevalence of High risk Symptoms for Psychosis and Their Relationship to Neurocognitive Performance and Daily Functioning in Population of Adolescents (18-03125S)
Investigator: PhDr. Mabel Virginia Rodriguez Manchola, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH 
Duration: 1.1.2018–31.12.2020
Total budget NIMH: 5 208 000 CZK
Abstract: Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that usually develops during adolescence. Fully developed disease is usually preceded few years earlier by the prodromal phase, which is characterized by typical symptoms like attenuated psychotic symptoms or mild disturbances in perception and thinking. They can interfere with the normal life of young people and affect their daily functioning and cognitive performance. The aim of this study is to determine to what extent these risk symptoms are present in the population of high school students and how they affect their life in comparison with adolescents without symptoms and adolescents after the first psychotic episode. This study is the first to provide information about functioning of people in risk for psychosis in Czech adolescents and thus creates the basis for further longitudinal´research in this area. Czech versions of internationally recognized diagnostic tools for the detection of prodromal symptoms will be used for the first time. Another benefit of this study is education on mental health for high school students.

Inter-individual Differences in Subjective Time (19-15728S)
Investigator: prof. MUDr. Jiří Horáček, Ph.D., FCMA
Principle investigator: NIMH 
Duration: 1.1.2019–31.12.2021
Total budget NIMH: 6 995 000 CZK
Abstract: Subjective time perception is an essential part of human's experience, which allows a continuous perception of oneself and surrounding reality. Time perception is influenced by a various situational variables, as the type of stimulus, but also the individual characteristics of each participant. We will test whether there are stable inter-individual differences in time perception, and whether these differences are related to individual characteristics, especially cognitive performance in various domains. We focus also on EEG parameters, which are strongly genetically determined, show inter-individual variability, and which are relatively stable in one person. We will focus particularly on individual alpha activity and on theta-gamma coupling, which is closely connected with short-term memory performance and became an excellent model for explanation of inter-individual differences in time perception.

Aversive Response to Spiders and the Underlying Emotions (19-07164S)
Investigator: RNDr. Eva Landová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH 
Duration: 1.1.2019–31.12.2021
Total budget NIMH: 8 690 000 CZK
Abstract: Deregulated emotions evoked by various spiders are typical for arachnophobia, one of the most common phobias. The emotional experience associated with spiders, the context of encounter, and experience of negative imagination and over-generalization of fear is still not fully understood, nor are the physiological and neural correlates. First, we designed an experiment testing whether the context of other emotionally salient stimuli (disgust- and fear-evoking) influences the specificity and intensity of emotions elicited by spiders in high- and low-fear respondents. To monitor the emotional arousal, we will use physiological measures and fMRI. Next, imagination of spiders with and without preceding specific stimuli presentation should activate emotional circuits in high-fear respondents more than visual stimuli presentation. Specific regions of the brain involved in the cognitive-emotional control of spider phobia should be activated. Finally, a new hypothesis about transferred fear from scorpions on spiders will be tested. Our work should contribute to understanding of arachnophobia.

Psychology of Male Intra-sexual Competition and Associated Neural Correlates (19-11822S )
Investigator: Mgr. Vít Třebický, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH 
Duration: 1.1.2019–31.12.2021
Total budget NIMH: 6 482 000 CZK
Abstract: Conflicts with conspecifics play an important role in our everyday lives. Since physical confrontations carry substantial risks and have taken place throughout our history, one can expect that there are adaptations which help individuals assess fighting ability and make appropriate decisions in agonistic interactions. Competition in humans is a frequentlyinvestigated subject. Studies have confirmed the existence of specific morphological traitsassociated with success in confrontation and demonstrated that people are attentive to thesecues. Nevertheless, little is known about the neurological processes involved in the recognition and processing of morphological cues from faces and bodies and about focusing visualattention on particular morphological regions. To investigate the psychophysiological processes involved in the assessment of male-male competition, we want to study the activation of specific brain regions involved in formidability assessments triggered by visual stimuli by employing functional magnetic resonance imaging and simultaneous recording of eye movements.

Influence of Girls’ Expressiveness and Nonverbal Communication Towards Peers on Their Social Functioning During Ontogenesis (19-17540S)
Investigator: Mgr. et Mgr. Jitka Lindová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH 
Duration: 1.1.2019–31.12.2021
Total budget NIMH: 4 640 000 CZK
Abstract: Female social functioning throughout all life is influenced by their nonverbal communication skills. The ontogeny of nonverbal expressiveness and regulation in females is an understudied topic. Cross-sex peer interaction could be an informative source regarding communication skills relevant for adult relationship functioning. The strong association between nonverbal communication skills and social functioning in relationships might be distorted by the common use of social networking sites, which offer additional opportunities to initiate relationships, and do not require (allow limited) nonverbal signaling to be used during communication. We will approach this topic using a) observation of group dynamics and social networks in school classes, b) laboratory testing of girls’/women’s interactions with an unfamiliar opposite-sex peer and c) rating of nonverbal behavior of girls/women projected on computer avatars using motion capture. We will compare female behavior in 6 age cohorts from 5 to 25 years, and seek for association of nonverbal behavior with online social networking.

The Role of Inferior Parietal Lobe in Self-Agency (20-24782S)
Investigator: prof. MUDr. Pavel Mohr, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Duration: 1.1.2020–31.12.2022
Total budget NIMH: 7 731 000 CZK
Abstract: The ability of identifying and distinguishing one's own actions from the external processes (Self / Other Agency) is a key prerequisite for one's orientation in the world and society. Proposed project builds upon results of our previous fMRI experiments both on healthy participants and schizophrenia patients. Here, using the combination of dynamical causal modeling (DCM) and noninvasive brain neuromodulation (tACS), we aim for confirming the causal role of inferior parietal lobe (IPL) in Self / Other Agency discrimination. Project is divided into five steps, starting with identifying the candidate subregion within IPL based on contrast analysis and DCM on the MRI data obtained in experiments realized earlier. Following will be an explorative and confirmatory neuromodulation experiments, aiming for confirming the causal role of identified region by targeted external neuromodulation. Comparison of pre- and post-neuromodulation resting state MRI will verify the effective locus of neuromodulation protocol.

Impact of Media News on Mental Health: Cognitive and Neural Mechanisms (20-13458S)
Investigator: doc. PhDr. Ladislav Kesner, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Duration: 1.1.2020–31.12.2022
Total budget NIMH: 6 740 000 CZK
Abstract: It has been long recognized that media news are capable of generating and exacerbating stress, anxiety, depression and other negative mental states. However, it is not well understood how exposure to a broad range of media news, from affectively highly salient to mundane, impacts mental states and mental health of news consumers. In particular, there are huge gaps in understanding the psychological and neuronal mechanisms, through which perception and assimilation of media news affect mental states of perceivers. The project has three, mutually linked objectives of high relevance for today’s information society surrounded by media: (i) to establish the connection of psychological traits and states with use of media and political orientation on a population-scale level, (ii) to explore the connection of psychological traits and states with subjective, behavioral and neural responses to media representations of highly salient news topics, and (iii) to determine the effect of two different cognitive assimilation strategies (reframing and rumination) on neural and behavioral processes.

Relationship between Neurocognitive Profile and Cognitive Reserve in Patients with a First Episode Schizophrenia Disorder (21-03615S)
Investigator: PhDr. Mabel Virginia Rodriguez Manchola, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Duration: 1.1.2021–31.12.2023
Total budget NIMH: 7 054 000 CZK
Abstract: The aim of this project is to deepen the knowledge about cognitive heterogeneity in schizophrenia with two related concepts: cognitive and brain reserve assessed by neuropsychological and imaging techniques. Results may also contribute to a greater understanding of reserves in a healthy population. The expression of cognitive deficit in schizophrenia can be heterogeneous in its depth and trajectory, suggesting the role of under-researched environmental and neurobiological factors. This project introduces two factors that potentially influence the character of the deficit, namely the cognitive and brain reserve. Cognitive reserve - the difference between brain pathology and its clinical manifestation- is measured using premorbid IQ and other proxies. Brain reserve, a passive model, is quantified as intracranial and gray matter volume. We aim to assess the relation between the reserves and cognition in individuals with a first-episode schizophrenia spectrum disorder and matched healthy controls. A neuropsychological examination will follow the characteristics of cognition, complemented by an MRI assessment of resting-state functional connectivity. The results might contribute to a broader theoretical understanding of the reserves, and clarify their relation to cognitive heterogeneity in schizophrenia. To the best of our knowledge, such research has not been conducted yet.



Czech Health Research Council


Deficits in the Sociosexual Functioning of Patients with First Episodes and Early Onset Schizophrenia: Impact on Disease Progression and Sexological Remediation Strategies (NU21J-04-00024)
Investigator: Mgr. Renáta Androvičová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Duration: 1.5.2021–31.12.2024
Total budget NIMH: 6 901 000 CZK
Abstract: Schizophrenia, a severe psychiatric disease with typical onset in early adulthood, is a major cause of disability and suicidality in young adults. Currently, only 13% of the disease burden is averted by standard treatment procedures. It is recognised that there is a pressing need of treatment optimisation based on patients’ individual needs that would go beyond the suppression of positive symptoms. Sociosexual functioning, especially engagement with opposite-sex peers during adolescence, has long been overlooked as a potential factor in schizophrenia and therefore rarely targeted in therapy. Recent studies, however, indicate that sociosexual functioning may be a domain-specific and reliable marker of disease onset, progression, and functional outcome, a factor that operates independently of neurocognitive deficits (e.g. processing speed and working memory) and social-cognitive deficits (e.g. general recognition of emotion and attribution of intentionality). Still, experimental evidence on specific sources of deficits in sociosexual functioning is missing and clinical need for evidence-based targeted strategies of sexual remediation remains unaddressed.
In the proposed project, we will conduct a case-control investigation in first episode and early stages patients with schizophrenia (N=80), who will be re-evaluated for functional outcomes 12-months after disease onset. Our aims are: 1. to determine specific sources of deficits in sociosexual functioning using two targeted sexological experiments developed in our laboratory; 2. to analyse the role of sociosexual deficits in 12-months functional outcome assessment while controlling for neurocognitive deficits, social-cognitive deficits, and negative symptoms; and 3. based on our findings, to develop evidence-based guidelines for sociosexual remediation in early stages of schizophrenia in collaboration with international experts in sex medicine and therapy.

Predicting Functional Outcome in Schizophrenia from Multimodal Neuroimaging and Clinical Data (NU21-08-00432)
Investigator: MUDr. Filip Španiel, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: Institute for Computer Science CAS
Co-investigator/Partner: NIMH
Duration: 1.5.2021–31.12.2024
Total budget: 13 897 000 CZK
Total budget NIMH: 8 481 000 CZK
Abstract: Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and profoundly disabling disorder. For every 100 individuals with schizophrenia, only 1 or 2 individuals per year meet the recovery criteria, and approximately 14% recover over 10 years, with poor functional outcome for 27% of patients. There is an urgent need to develop predictive models of outcome to be applied in the initial stages of illness and thus optimize and intensify intervention programs to avoid an aversive outcome. Functional outcomes are difficult to predict solely on the basis of the clinical features, but Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), particularly multi-modal, holds promise for improved stratification of patients. The aim of this project is to develop tools to predict the functional outcome of schizophrenia from neuroimaging, clinical and cognitive measurement taken early after the disease onset. To overcome the limitations due to high dimensionality of MRI data, we shall apply a combination of robust machine-learning tools, data-driven feature selection as well as theory-based constraint to key brain networks characteristics.

Obesity as a Risk Factor for Adverse Brain, Cognitive and Clinical Outcomes in Schizophrenia – Prospective Study (NU20-04-00393)
Investigator: MUDr. Filip Španiel, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Duration: 1.5.2020–31.12.2023
Total budget: 11 774 000 CZK
Abstract: Obesity frequently co-occurs with schizophrenia and typically presents with similar neurostructural and cognitive impairments as schizophrenia. We propose to test whether obesity is a risk factor for brain/cognitive/clinical deterioration over time in schizophrenia. Participants from our previous cross sectional study will undergo a follow up diagnostic interview, cognitive testing, MRI scanning, anthropometric measures and will give a blood sample at least 1 year after the baseline testing. We expect that and obesity will be each independently associated with (1) regional brain atrophy, (2) cognitive decline, over time. (3) Among schizophrenia participants, obesity will be associated with worse cumulative clinical outcomes. We will control for known confounders and explore their contribution to the variance in the outcome measures. Identifying obesity as modifiable risk factors for adverse brain/cognitive and clinical outcomes in schizophrenia could expand therapeutic options and improve prognosis.
The aim of this study is to investigate whether obesity causes regional brain atrophy and cognitive deterioration over time in subject with schizophrenia and whether the obesity associated neurobiological alterations contribute to poor clinical outcomes. We will also investigate which of the obesity related metabolic alterations, including dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation are the strongest contributors to deterioration of brain/cognitive/clinical outcomes over time in schizophrenia. The proposed study has highly translational, practical and potentially transformative impact, which could markedly improve the outcome and prognosis of participants with schizophrenia. Identifying obesity as a specific risk factor for brain, cognitive and clinical changes in schizophrenia would be the first step toward the prevention or treatment of such alterations.



The Technology Agency of The Czech Republic

Virtual City - Serious Game Battery for Cognitive Training and Daily Activities Practice in Ecologically Valid Virtual Environement (TL01000309)
Investigator: Mgr. et. Mgr. Iveta Fajnerová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Co-investigator/Partner: 3dsense, s. r. o. (Ing. Jan Hrdllička)
Duration: 1.3.2018–28.2.2021
Total budget: 9 704 706 CZK
Total budget NIMH: 4 261 706 CZK
Abstract: The aim of the project is to create a complex SW training in VR city environment with high ecological validity that will enable a comprehensive exercise of cognitive abilities (working memory, declarative memory, attention and executive functions such as decision making, planning, mental flexibility, etc.). The program resulting from the successful project can be later applied in the prevention of the development of cognitive deficits in healthy aging individuals. The designed SW could be thus implemented not only in clinical and day-care programs organized in NUDZ clinical facility, but also in collaborative workplaces (Center MEMORY Bratislava, CDZ Karviná, see Letters of intent) and other centers aimed at daily programs for healthy aging and mental health prevention in general.

Development of tools for predicting school success at pre-school age: the Cumulative Risk Index and Screening of Cognitive Functions Using Interactive Computer Games (TL02000561)
Investigator: RNDr. PhDr. Tereza Nekovářová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Co-investigator/Partner: 3dsense, s. r. o. (Ing. Jan Hrdllička)
Duration: 1.1.2019–31.12.2021T
Total budget: 6 389 295  CZK
Total budget NIMH: 2 352 750 CZK
Abstract: Development of tools for predicting school success at pre-school age: the Cumulative Risk Index and Screening of affective and cognitive functions using interactive computer games.

BrainTech: Innovative Technologies for Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience (BrainTech) (TP01010062)
Investigator: RNDr. Karel Valeš, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Dutarion: 1.1.2020–31.12.2022CZ CZK
Abstract: The BrainTech project aims to a comprehensive system to support individual projects proof-of-concepts in the field of psychiatry, aging and clinical neuroscience. Through the selection of partial projects in the fields of digital health, telemedicine and drug research and development, projects with commercial potential will be developed and the transfer of results of research and development to the application sphere, both in the Czech Republic and abroad, will accelerate.
Bass Assay: Development, Evaluation, and Validation of a Blood Circulating Biomarker Assay to Subtype Schizophrenia
Investigator: MUDr. Filip Španiel, Ph.D.
Duration: 1.8.2020–31.12.2021 
Total budget NIMH: 2 200 000 CZK
VR House - Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Obsessive-Compulsive Diorder  
Investigator: Mgr. et Mgr. Iveta Fajnerová, Ph.D.   
Duration: 1.8.2020–30.10.2022 
Total budget NIMH: 1 431 000 CZK   
Portable Eye-brain Pupillometric Diagnostic Device (PEBDI)
Investigator: Ing. Eduard Bakštein, Ph.D. 
Duration: 1.9.2020–31.8.2022 
Total budget NIMH: 1 352 000 CZK

Exposure to stresful situations in a virtual city enviroment  (TL03000223)
Investigator: Mgr. Mgr. Iveta Fajnerová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Project partner: Czech Technical University in Prague (Ing. Jan Husák)
Duration: 1.4.2020–31.12.2023
Total budget: 14 069 388 CZK
Total budget NIMH: 5 627 188 CZK
Abstract: The aim of the project is to create a therapeutic software VRETcity situated in a complex virtual city environment for the purpose of exposure therapy, focused mainly on social phobias, agoraphobia and specific phobias related to situations typical for the city environment (transportation system including metro and airplanes, elevators and other limited space environments, skyscrapers and hospitals). The resulting therapeutic software will be enriched with the biofeedback. This biological feedback in the form of cardiac and breath recording effectively helps in the exposure therapy process by automatically responding to the current state of the person's anxiety and increasing the severity of the displayed stress situation only after resting state is achieved in the current conditions.




OP Employment

Paraphile Project (CZ.03.3.X/0.0/0.0/15_018/0011540)
Investigator: Mgr. Kateřina Klapilová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Duration: 1.9.2019–31.12.2022
Total budget NIMH: 38 389 181 CZK



The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of The Czech Republic

European sexual network – Česká sexuální medicína a výzkum (Cost Action CA18124)
Investigator: Mgr. Kateřina Klapilová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: Austrian Academy for Sexual Medicine
Co-investigator: NUDZ
Cost members: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, The Netherlands, The Republic of North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom
Cooperating member: Israel
Duration: 5.4.209–4.4.2023
Abstract: In the Czech Republic, there are two major clinical sexological societies (The Czech Sexological Society, the Czech Society for Sexual Medicine) connected with a professional sexological research group (The Laboratory of Evolutionary Sexology and Psychopathology) at the National Institue of Mental Health Klecany, Czech Republic. All organizations share common values and aims with the European Sexual Medicine Network. This is why they want to participate in the COST-Action CA18124.




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