Center of reference for behavioral sciences and mental health

Responsible: Dr. Gemma Calamandrei
phone: (+39) 06 4990 2106


Center activities

Between genes and behavior an observatory to study mental health

There is no health without mental health. The activity of the Center for behavioral sciences and mental health is based on this assumption, and in line with the Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 of the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to improve the health of people suffering from mental disorders, their families and the general population. The researchers of this Center study the biological and psychosocial bases and interactions of specific mental disorders, while access to large population cohorts, databases and biological samples allows directing research on risk factors and biomarkers. Not only research, but also planning of interventions: models of prevention, and treatment and promotion of mental health to be adopted in the practice of services and in the community to contrast the stigma associated with mental suffering. Reference conditions and diseases include neurodevelopmental disorders (autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Rett and Tourette syndrome, learning disorders), schizophrenia, mood disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxious syndromes, epilepsy, impulse control disorders and pathological aggression, adaptation disorders, reactive depression, emotional, cognitive and mnemonic stress disorders. Particular emphasis is given to the critical phases of accentuated vulnerability such as pregnancy, postpartum, neonatal infant development, adolescence and senescence. Furthermore, studies on the delicate relationships between mental health and physical health (clinical psychosomatics and psychobiology) are foreseen, including twin studies to evaluate the relationship between psychophysical well-being (stress levels, optimism, resilience) and pathologies such as obesity, atherosclerosis, psoriasis, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, and define the role of genetic and environmental factors underlying the observed associations. Particular attention is paid to promoting the active participation of citizens in scientific research.

Organization of the center

The center includes:

Clinical-epidemiological research unit in mental and behavioral health

Director: Dr. Maria Antonietta Stazi
phone: (+39) 06 4990 4155

The Unit carries out research activities aimed at improving the understanding of the determinants and mechanisms underlying mental health and mental and physical well-being, according to a global epidemiological approach that includes prevalence, etiological and prognostic studies, clinical and genetic epidemiology studies, studies on effectiveness of psychosocial interventions in the areas of prevention and treatment, and applied research in mental health services. Some of the Unit's activities concern the development and validation of standardized assessment tools in the psychological and psychiatric fields and the analysis of the intersubjective aspects of psychiatric diagnosis. Mental health promotion interventions are also developed and validated, especially in schools, and priority recommendations and guidelines for the treatment of mental disorders are disseminated.
The Unit conducts epidemiological investigations on patients, on the general and twin population both in a cross sectional perspective and in an epidemiology life course. Other activities concern data modeling for estimating the genetic component (heritability) and its interactions with the environmental component in etiological studies. Furthermore, it manages the biobanking of epidemiological studies and the related ethical-legal aspects.