Child and Adolescent Psychopathology


ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Children with ADHD have among other things problems in attending to cognitive tasks, sitting still and listening to others.

ADHD is often accompanied by various other symptoms or disorders. A main comorbidity of ADHD is the conduct disorder as we reserach in our Emotion & Learning study. Another observed comorbidity of ADHD is atopic dermatitis on which we focus in our Atopic Eczema-ADHD-Study (CONCENTRATE-Study).

There are many options to treat ADHD – medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, neurofeedback, self-management training and so on. These options are researched in our ADHD-Treatment-Study.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a severe, lifelong and highly cost-intensive neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction (e.g. deficits in appropriate eye contact, facial expression, emotion perception, gesture, social and emotional reciprocity) and communication (e.g. echolalia, stereotyped language, reduced reciprocal conversation), as well as restricted and repetitive behaviours (e.g. rigid preferences for routines, repetitive motor mannerisms). Currently, the prevalence of ASD in children and adolescents as well as in adults is approximately 1%. We are part of the Research Group ASD Net.

Health Care Research

In Germany, year by year the number of children and adolescents who need help from the youth welfare office increases. Additionally more and more children and adolescents show symptoms of psychiatric disorders – e. g. up to 60 % of children and adolescents in residential youth care suffer from psychiatric disorders (Engel et al., 2009 PMID: 20066855). Thus pedagogical as well as psychological requirements rise, which are researched in our VJU-Study.

Tic Disorders

Despite many efforts to date, the understanding of disease pathophysiology of Tic disorders is poor, which is reflected in the limited availability of therapeutic options to successfully manage tics and associated neuropsy-chiatric symptoms in affected individuals. All current psychopharmacological treatment options of Tic disorders may just diminish tics but cannot heal them (Robertson, 2000; McNaught and Mink, 2011). In order to discover novel treatments and effective preventative methods there is a pressing need to understand the complex disease pathophysiology of tic disorders.

For now there are two common options to treat tic disorders – medication and behavioral therapy. These options are researched in our Tic-Treatment-Study.

Our aim in the Emtics-Study is to explore the complex interaction between environment, autoimmunity and genetics in relation to the onset and clinical course of tic disorders and associated obsessive-compulsive symptoms and to translate these findings into clinical applications.

The TICGenetics-Study brings the complex genetics of tic disorders more into focus. Despite decades of evidence supporting a significant genetic contribution, progress in identifying genetic risk alleles has been slow (State, 2011).

Many patients suffering from TS report an urge or a prickle feeling shortly before their tics occur. Patients with OCD often experience their compulsions as being driven by the feeling of something being incomplete or 'not just right' ('Not Just Right Experiences' (NJRE))(Coles et al., 2005). They are particularly present if TS and OCD co-occur. Sensations of this kind can be subsumed under the term 'sensory phenomena' on which we focused in our Sensory-Study.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorders

The neuro-biological basis of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) is not fully understood yet. Comprehensive research results suggest that cortico-striato-thalamo circuits are affected (Melloni et al., 2012; Menzies et al., 2008; Saxena, Brody, Schwartz, & Baxter, 1998). With regard to the relevance of the cortico-striato-thalamo circuits in OCD the importance of the dopaminergic system for the neuropathology of OCD gets more into focus. Dopamine plays an important role in the modulation of cognitive control. The dopaminergic modulation of cognitive control is based on two antagonistic sub-processes. While stability describes the ability to maintain contents and goals in working memory and shielding them from competing stimuli, flexibility describes the ability to switch between memory contents and goals thus being able to take unexpected information into account (Durstewitz & Seamans, 2008; Goschke, 2000). In order to behave adequately in every-day situations a balance between these two processes which are mediated via different dopaminergic systems is necessary (Cools & D’Esposito, 2010; Durstewitz & Seamans, 2008). Against this backdrop we would like to investigate to what extent OCD involves impairments in cognitive control and anticipatory processes in our OCD-Study.