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.


Czech Health Research Council

Linking Phenomenology and Neurobiology of Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia (17-32957A)
Investigator: prof. MUDr. Pavel Mohr, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NIMH
Diuration: 1.4.2017–31.12.2020
Total budget NIMH: 13 269 000 CZK
Abstract: Auditory hallucinations (AHs) are the most characteristic symptom of schizophrenia and psychosis, and they „define“ the disorder from a clinical and phenomenological point of view. To date, neural mechanisms of AHs are under debate. The most accepted theory explaining origin of auditory verbal hallucinations, is theory which explains them as alienated inner-speech relates to deficits in self-monitoring, specifically suggesting impaired usage of predictive mechanisms. Another plausible explanation of this typical feature of AHs relates to dialogical or monological inner speech. In the current study we will use a multi-modal approach based on the detailed description of phenomenology and probing the currents neural theories of AHs. Subtypization of AHs based on phenomenology and common neurobiological mechanisms as obtained by fMRI, would potentially lead to more differentiated and effective treatment of AHs and improve patient’s outcomes.

Clinical and Neurobiological Predictors of Response to Ketamine: Towards Personalized Treatment of Depression (NV18-04-00260)
Investigator: prof. MUDr. Jiří Horáček, Ph.D., FCMA
Principle investigator: NIMH
Duration: 1.5.2018–31.12.2021
Total budget NIMH: 10 078 000 CZK
Abstract: Depression is a debilitating disease with high lifetime prevalence. Despite the variety of available treatment options, three major problems remain unsolved: (1) the time lag before the onset of the effect of antidepressants, (2) the treatment resistance with 20% of patients not reaching remission after 2 years of multiple treatments, (3) the absence of personalized treatment guidelines. The discovery of rapid antidepressant effect of ketamine led to a paradigm shift in understanding depression pathogenesis and treatment. Nevertheless, studies show that up to 30–40% patients do not respond to ketamine and their difference from responders has not been established yet. The aim of the project is research on prediction of antidepressant effect of ketamine based on the intersection of its neuroplasticity potential, immunomodulation and clinical mechanisms of action. These clinical clues could determine the groups of patients to most likely benefit from the intervention and therefore bridge the time lag before the onset of antidepressant effect with consequent reduction of suicidality risk.

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.

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

From the Micro- to the Macro-level: The link between the Microbiota-gut-brain Axis and the Neuropsychological Development of the Child (Mobility 8JPL19071)
Investigator: PhDr. RNDr. Tereza Nekovářová, Ph.D.
Principle investigator: NUDZ
Co-investigator/Partner:  Uniwersytet Gdański
Duration: 1.1.2019–31.12.2020
Total budget: 148 000 CZK
Abstract: The relation between gut microbiota and brain functions is new promising area of research. However, only few studies address microbiome and neuropsychological development of children. The aim of this project is to investigate the effects of perinatal factors (pre-term birth, Caesarean section, impaired breastfeeding) on forming of child's gut microbiota, its composition and diversity. Our research will also focus on the effects of gut microbiota alteration on neuropsychological development. We will examine whether changes in gut microbiota may mediate the relationship between perinatal risk factors and child development. In addition, our aim is to gain understanding of the interaction between gut microbiota and HPA axis functioning; both these systems are affected by perinatal risk factors and may interact to affect child development. The project therefore aims at deepening the knowledge regarding the functioning of the "gut-brain axis" in the perinatal period, i.e. in the period which is of great importance for timely detection of developmental risks. Last but not least, we plan to test the effects of so called "bacterial baptism hypothesis" on child outcomes, i.e. to test whether the exposure to maternal vaginal microbiota of infants born through Caesarean section may function as a protective factor for infant's neuropsychological development.

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.



Consolidation of Emotional Memory During Sleep in Elderly (317A_2020)
Investigator: Mgr. Adéla Plechatá
Co-investigators: Mgr. Daniela Urbaczka Dudysová, MA,Mgr. Karolina Janků, Mgr. Petra Skalníková
Duration: 1.1.2020–31.12.2020
Amount of support IFC: 107 000 CZK
Abstract: The main goal of this research is to discover how the perception of reality and storage of emotional content changes during aging and correlates with the structure of sleep, namely the age specific characteristics of NREM and REM sleep and the microstructure of sleep. We will focus on healthy individuals with no cognitive disorders in order to identify the general relationship of age, sleep and emotional memory. We hope to bring more light into the topic of the existing socioemotional  hypothesis explain the shift of superior memory recall from negative to positive stimuli in elderly.

Simulation of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Examination in Virtual Reality (318A_2020)
Investigator: Mgr. et Mgr. Iveta Fajnerová, Ph.D.
Co-investigators:  Mgr. Anna Francová, Bc. Václav Sahula, Mgr. Adéla Plechatá
Duration: 1.1.2020–31.11.2020
Amount of support IFC: 110 000 CZK
Abstract: Magnetic resonance imaging is an important part of NUDZ research projects and clinical evaluation of patients. Given the time demands and financial costs associated with the MRI examination, the cooperation of the research volunteers is crucial. However, concerns or insufficient education of the participants may lead to refusal to participate in the study or complications during the examination itself (excessive movement of the examined person, misunderstanding of the task performed, premature termination of the examination due to discomfort, etc.). The aim of the project is therefore to create a simulation of the MRI examination procedure in the virtual reality environment, which can be used for the training of situations and tasks that the participant performs during the examination. The outcome of the project will be a software tool that can be used by all NUDZ employees (using MRI examination as a research or clinical evaluation method) for preparing assessed persons prior to magnetic resonance imaging.

Adaptation of AVLT Test for Population with Hearing Impairment - pilot study (319A_2020)
Investigator: PhDr. Marie Bendová
Duration: 1.1.2020–30.11.2020
Amount of support IFC: 55 000 Kč
Abstract: This project supports the PhD project of Marie Bendová which explores the relationship between language and motorics using current neuroimaging methods (especially fMRI) of both general population and the population of people with hearing impairments. In addition to the experimental part of the mentioned project, the conversion of neuropsychological methods into sign language is included. The AVLT – Auditory Verbal Learning Test – specifically. The grant project aspires to create a suitable method of administration which will respect the specific communication and consequently allow it to be used by specialists. Obtaining information in this area will support the current state of knowledge in the field of neuropsychology and in the field of information on ways of working with people with hearing impairment, one that will be applicable to the everyday practice of psychologists in both clinical and social field.

Research on Cognitive Deficit and Brain Plasticity - University of Copenhagen (321B_2020)
Investigator: Mgr. Adéla Plechatá
Duration: 1.9.2020–31.10.2020
Amount of support IFC: 68 000 CZK
Abstract: The goal of internship at the University of Copenhagen and the Department of Neurology in Copenhagen is to acquire new knowledge and skills in the field of brain plasticity, virtual reality in neurorehabilitation and in the study of cognitive functions. A stay abroad will allow the student to localize virtual cognitive tasks created in NUDZ into Danish language and validate them in neurological patients. As a result, these tools will be implemented in practice at the Department of Neurology in Copenhagen, leading to greater cooperation between the University of Copenhagen and the NIMH. During her stay, the student will join the emerging virtual reality laboratory within the Unit for cognitive neuroscience and will participate in the development of a new virtual reality application for the study of cognition and in the subsequent analysis of the acquired data.

Virtual Reality in Studying Social Cognition in Borderline Personality Disorder - a Pilot Study (324B_2020)
Invastigator: Mgr. Anna Francová
Duration 1.4.2020–31.5.2020
Amount of support IFC: 68 000 CZK
Abstract: The goal of the research internship will be gaining knowledge about conducting experiments combining virtual reality (VR) and physiological measures. Specifically, how is it possible to enhance VR device with ECG biosensors and how to manipulate an embodiment within virtual environment. This will be evaluated by a pilot experiment conducted at Berlin School of Mind and Brain and subsequently used for a PhD project exploring impulsive reactions of patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) on virtual social situations inducing social stress. During the internship, basic social situations in VR will be used to study reactions of healthy volunteers that will observe interactions of virtual avatars from both first- and third-person perspective; the reactions in these conditions will be compared. After every situation (e.g., waving, threatening) the respondent will be asked to choose a reaction in different levels of engagement (e.g., turning away, handshaking, reciprocating aggression) and/or to evaluate a context of a presented situation. Research participants will include 20-30 healthy volunteers. Participants' BPD traits and current physiological state will be assessed.



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