Etiopathogenesis and treatment of severe mental disorders (MERITT)

Where we are

Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu

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An estimated 2.8% of the population currently suffers from severe mental health disorders. Our group is made up of a multidisciplinary team (psychiatrists, psychologists, nursing staff, biologists, social workers, etc.) committed to conducting research centred around persons suffering from severe mental health disorders. The focus of our work is very broad, ranging from gene expression factors to psychosocial interventions.

The group forms part of the Centre for Biomedical Network Research on Mental Health (CIBERSAM), funded by the Carlos III Health Institute and is recognised by AGAUR as a consolidated group (Government of Catalonia, 2017 SGR 964).

Research lines

  1. Mental health interventions; led by Dr Judith Usall.
  2. Clinical, cognitive and psychosocial basis of severe mental health disorders; led by Dr Susana Ochoa.
  3. Molecular psychiatry; led by Dr Belen Ramos.
  4. Research in Mental Health in the penal field - SMAP; led by Dr. Gemma Escuder.

Scientific objectives

  1. To conduct clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of oestrogen in patients with schizophrenia.
  2. To evaluate the effectiveness of psychological treatments in persons with psychosis.
  3. To promote research into the effectiveness of new technologies in the management of patients with psychosis.
  4. To determine the clinical, social or neuropsychological variables involved in poorer outcomes in severe mental disorders, paying particular attention to the early stages with a view to preventing disease progression. We also explore biological aspects relating to sex hormones.
  5. To study the clinical, social and neuropsychological differences between various serious mental health disorders, in first-episode psychosis and in special populations (e.g. intellectual disabilities or prison) in relation to mental health.
  6. To make available adequate measuring instruments to evaluate people with severe mental disorders.
  7. To discover which molecular pathways are altered in the brain of persons with chronic schizophrenia, especially those involved in the neurodevelopment or the functioning of synaptic transmission and with special interest in transcription factors; and also, to investigate the relationship between these pathways and neuropsychological symptoms and functioning.
  8. To study the regulation of altered molecular pathways in schizophrenia in the brain of animal models of psychosis and in cell models.
  9. To study peripheral biomarkers in psychosis as they relate to symptoms, cognitive functioning, structural changes in the brain and in response to therapeutic interventions.

Area/Field of expertise

Research methodologies and techniques:

In our research into the clinical, cognitive and psychosocial bases of severe mental health disorders, we examine samples from patients with psychotic disorders at various stages of their illness. Patient cohorts are also followed up. Our research is conducted through clinical interviews and the use of clinical and neuropsychological scales. The need for appropriate measurement scales has prompted us to create and validate measurement instruments.

Regarding our research into mental health interventions, we carry out clinical trials of medicines already available on the market to evaluate their effectiveness in new indications. We also conduct clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of psychological treatments.

In molecular psychiatry, we have conducted studies on post-mortem brain tissue, mainly in schizophrenia. We examine specific markers using traditional biochemical techniques (immunoblot) as well as molecular biology (real-time RT-PCR gene expression) studies and, occasionally, genetic sequencing. We also conduct screening activities using quantitative proteomic techniques in post-mortem brain tissue in schizophrenia. Our researchers perform biomarker studies in peripheral mononuclear blood cells in patients with psychotic disorders and neuroimaging studies with structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging. We have attained a deeper understanding of some molecular pathways through studies in primary cultures of rat neurons or astrocytes and/or psychosis models in mice.

Group members

Last Publications

More Publications


Project name:
AFR 2019_Cofinanciación ayudas PFIS Susana Ochoa y PFIS Belén Ramos
Susana Ochoa Güerre
Funding entities:
Parc Sanitari de Sant Joan de Déu -Serveis de Salut Mental
AFR 2019
Starting - finishing date:
2020 - 2024
Project name:
Convocatòria d'ajuts per a la contractació de personal investigador novell (FI-2020). Beneficiari: Clara Serra
Judith Usall i Rodié
Funding entities:
Agaur - Agència de Gestió d'Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca
2020 FI_B 00184
Starting - finishing date:
2020 - 2023
Project name:
Contrato predoctoral de formación en investigación en salud_Beneficiario: Elia Vila Andreu
Belen Ramos JoseMaria
Funding entities:
Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII)
Starting - finishing date:
2020 - 2023
More projects


  • Biomarcadores y Trastorno Bipolar
  • Clinical personality traits in high risk and recent onset of psychosis patients
  • Necessitats de la població atesa a les unitats psiquiàtriques penitenciàries de Catalunya
    Escuder Romeva, Gemma
More Theses