Developmental Psychopathology and the Gene-environment Interaction

  • End date
    Dec 25, 2021
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    IRCCS Eugenio Medea
Updated on 25 January 2021


The present is a followup study that aims at investigating the effect of genetic and environmental factors on the possible development of psychopathological conditions in a longitudinal perspective.

The final goal is to understand those factors that causing vulnerability to mental illness, eventually allowing better prevention and early detections of those persons with mental illness.


The developmental psychopathology aims at studying the possible paths that psychiatric conditions may take from childhood, through adolescence till early adulthood. This developmental perspective has the final goal of allowing prevention and early detection of mental illness, which in turn should translate into better prognosis and outcomes.

Longitudinal research allows a better grasp on the illness etiology as it gives the opportunity of directly investigate the possible causal mechanisms and of defining the origins of psychopathological condition in adults.

Many factors of risk interact, across neurodevelopment, in determining the person's vulnerability to mental illness. For instance, temperament and psychopathological factors were proved to have a role. However, the existing knowledge is still fragmented and should be integrated by new knowledge on genetic and environmental factors. Thus, combining observations of neurodevelopment, as measured with neuro-imaging techniques at subsequent timepoints, with psychopathological and neuropsychological evaluations, as well as with detailed information on genetic, environmental and temperamental indexes, is crucial, as no similar exhaustive investigations are still available.

Furthermore, it must be bared in mind that the gene by environment interaction generates complex epigenetic effects on neurodevelopment, which should be monitored through a longer time lapse.

This topic has been studying this topic for years, by research groups with sites in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Bosisio Parini (Lecco, Lombardia), by mean of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, involving samples of children and adolescents at risk of psychopathology and referred because of behavioral and/or emotional difficulties, experienced in the past or still ongoing. Also, the research involved a cohort of Twins recruited from the normal population and whose data would allow more fine tuned analyses of the bene by environment interaction.

In those first phases of study, instruments assessing the psychopathological risk were adapted to the Italian population and the associated cognitive marker were identified.

Also, some analysis investigated the effect of the environment on the psychopathological risk. Moreover, the influence of genetic factors is under now study, mainly focussing on epigenetic factors.

The research that is presented here is the followup of the previous investigations. In the previous year (2019) 33 participants underwent the follow up from the sample of children at psychopathological risk and who were chidden/adolescents at the time of the baseline evaluation.

During the current year the Twins cohort will be followed up. Half or more of the participants tested ad the baseline are expected to participate, which correspond to about 30 couples (60 participants). The subjects will undergo i) a magnetic resonance, including structural MRI, DTI, resting state fMRI, fMRI (during the fMRI sequences a concurrent task, tapping attention and emotional processes, is presented); ii) a psychopathological evaluation; iii) a self-rating evaluation, filling questionnaires measuring temperaments and assessing the possible presence of behavioral problems; iv) a neurocognitive evaluation; v) a drawing of biological-genetic sample (saliva).

Condition Developmental Psychological Disorder
Treatment MRI, Clinical and Neuropsychological evaluations, Drawing DNA sample
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04489069
SponsorIRCCS Eugenio Medea
Last Modified on25 January 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Is your age between 15 yrs and 35 yrs?
Gender: Male or Female
Do you have Developmental Psychological Disorder?
Do you have any of these conditions: Do you have Developmental Psychological Disorder??
participants who already took part to the previous baseline evaluations carried out in our centers and signed consent to be contacted for future follow up

Exclusion Criteria

Current or previous neurological illness or trauma that involved the brain
Sensory impairments that can hamper the correct execution of the neurocognitive tasks and interviews
Intellectual disability (i.e. IQ<70 as estimated with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children)
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