Center for Psychosocial… Department of Child and… Research Current research…


Section of Translational Psychobiology in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry / Section for Experimental Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Study title

Neurobiogenetic predictors of the development and course of self-damaging and risky behavior (SRV) in adolescents

Project description

Self-damaging and risky behavior (SRV) often occurs in adolescence and is associated with mental health problems and the development of mental illness. Early detection and treatment of such behaviors is particularly important to prevent a threat to physical and psychological development. The Heidelberg Special Outpatient Clinic for Risk Behavior and Self-Harm (AtR!Sk) offers specific treatment for affected young people. The young people who take advantage of the AtR!Sk offer are regularly invited to participate in a clinical assessment of the course of SRV and the response to therapy. The previous surveys within the AtR!Sk accompanying research are based on classical psychological methods (questionnaires) and clinical-psychiatric interviews. Neurobiological and genetic methods have become increasingly important in recent years - also in psychosocial medicine. However, the systematic collection of biological markers has not yet found its way into clinical practice. Therefore, within the framework of the project, all participants of the AtR!Sk cohort will be offered an additional appointment for comprehensive neurobiogenetic diagnostics. The collected neurobiological and genetic markers will be investigated and analyzed as predictors of the course of SRV and the response to therapy in combination with psychological-psychiatric diagnostics. The study will therefore cover a broad field of potential biological markers. These include genetic and epigenetic markers, immune parameters but also neuropeptides, hormones and catecholamines. Furthermore, in neurobiological diagnostics we investigate the autonomic nervous system, pain sensitivity, the body's own stress response and the activity of the prefrontal cortex under cognitive performance. In addition, we perform routine neuropsychological testing of intelligence and attention performance. In combination with psychiatric-psychological diagnostics and the annual follow-up of patients, the project promises to provide important information on the neurobiological basis of SRV development in adolescence. In addition, the project opens up the possibility of better predicting the clinical course of SRV and identifying high-risk groups earlier and more reliably.


Head of Research project

Project Coordinator

M.Sc. Psych. Patrice Van der Venne


  • M. Sc Saskia Höper

Funding / Sponsorship

Dietmar Hopp Foundation

Project duration

2016 - 2020