In Switzerland, psychiatric disorders are the third leading cause of death after cancer and musculoskeletal disorders, accounting for 13.6% of all deaths. Despite these alarming statistics, diagnosis and treatment remain limited. This inability to help patients reflects the lack of knowledge and data on psychiatric illnesses due, in part, to the complexity of the disorders and the gap between basic research and the clinical reality.
The Synapsy Centre for Neuroscience Research in Mental Health aims to fill these gaps by creating a state-of-the-art collaborative environment to:
- support basic and clinical neuroscience research
- encourage educational programs to help clinicians develop their neuroscience skill as well as help researchers in neuroscience enhance their knowledge in psychiatry
- transmit information to the general public and work towards destigmatisation
Psychiatry and neuroscience must collaborate closely in order to stimulate the emergence of better treatments and diagnoses for mental illness.
Basic neuroscience research can provide information on the mechanisms underlying mental disorders and on potential targets for treatment. Clinical research in psychiatry can feed basic research with data from patients and then use the information from basic research laboratories to develop and evaluate new treatments and diagnostics in clinical populations.
The National Centre of Competence in Research Synapsy (NCCR-Synapsy) has made significant progress in collaboration over the past decades. It has brought together nearly 200 researchers from the universities of Geneva and Lausanne and the EPFL to understand the synaptic basis of psychiatric diseases. This consortium produced over 900 scientific publications, supported five cohorts of clinical populations, developed cutting-edge technologies to study the human and murine brain, and trained a new generation of clinicians specialised in neuroscience research. All this knowledge, synergies and technologies are now available to the Synapsy Centre for Neuroscience Research in Mental Health.
The Synapsy Centre, heir of the NCCR-Synapsy, gathers today a community of researchers spread between Geneva (UNIGE), Lausanne (UNIL and EPFL) and grouped under the banner of the "Synapsy network". These strengths position the Synapsy Centre and its network as pioneers and world leaders in psychiatric neuroscience.
Psychiatric disorders are conditions of mood, thought and behaviour which include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorders.
The causes of these mental illnesses are not fully understood and are often complex, combining genetic, environmental and physiological factors. Mental illnesses manifest differently in each person and are often stigmatised, which often prevents people from seeking help and slows progress in understanding, diagnosis and treatment.
The Synapsy Centre aims to translate the results of basic neuroscience research into humans, and vice versa, by setting up translational research programmes. To this end, its researchers study four specific brain functions: motivation, cognition, arousal and sensorimotricity. A wide range of cutting-edge tools and technologies are used to study the brain at different scales and specific research projects to encourage collaborations are set up. Each of the Centre's research laboratories also conducts its own studies related to mental health. The Centre is supported by the resources of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Geneva, the technology service of the Campus Biotech and collaborations with other partners and universities to support its research.