Research in Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Research Program


Where we are

SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

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The general aim of our work is clinical research into various psychiatric disorders, with special emphasis on neurodevelopmental disorders.

Our current research efforts focus on the study of early childhood psychosis (Principal investigator: Dr Dolz), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Principal investigator: Dr Alda) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Principal investigator: Dr Mairena). More recently, as emerging lines of inquiry that are currently being consolidated, we could mention eating disorders (Principal investigators: Dr Serrano, Dra Via) and self-injurious behaviour (Principal investigator: Dr Sintes).

Recently, the group has been consolidated with different projects carried out with funding from both public (Health Research Fund [FIS] or Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation projects) and private institutions at national and European (European Commission) levels. We also collaborate with different established research groups within the Centre for Biomedical Network Research on Mental Health (CIBERSAM), such as the G04 group at the Hospital Clínic i Provincial in Barcelona or the G01 group at the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid. For our research activity last year, for example, we were awarded the European Focus Locus project relating to ADHD and gamification systems (Principal investigator: Dr Navarra with funding agreement 732.375) and participated in a European clinical trial (reference: 2015- 003.503 -39) exploring the efficacy of omega-3 in patients at risk of developing psychosis. The group, with Dr Camprodon as the principal investigator, has recently commenced as a collaborating centre in a European project carried out by ISGlobal Barcelona and led by Dr Sunyer as the principal investigator. The aim of the project is to study the effects of pre-natal exposure to urban air pollution on pre- and post-natal brain development. It received the prestigious funding to support scientific excellence awarded by the European Research Council.

We should also mention our collaboration (with Dr Sintes as the Principal investigator) with the GRETA group (Self-Injury Study and Treatment Group) thanks to funding from the PERIS grant as well as our collaboration (with Dr Matalí as Principal investigator) with a R&D grant (reference: PSI2017-83146-R) in the study of the diagnosis of family relational disorders in mental health led by the Universitat Ramon Llull (Principal investigator: Dr Vilaregut).

Finally, at the national level, we have been granted numerous awards in recognition of different research projects.

Research lines

  1. Early childhood psychosis. Principal investigator: Dr Montse Dolz.
  2. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Principal investigator: Dr José Ángel Alda.
  3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Principal investigator: Dr María Ángeles Mairena.
  4. Eating disorders. Principal investigators: Dr Eduardo Serrano and Dra Esther Via (as emerging lines of inquiry that are currently being consolidated).
  5. Self-injurious behaviour. Principal investigator: Dr Anna Sintes (as emerging lines of inquiry that are currently being consolidated).

Scientific objectives

  1. To determine the neurobiological stress markers that are present in children and adolescents with psychosis risk syndrome and the group that transition to psychosis.
  2. To determine the role of cortisol and prolactin in first-episode psychosis.
  3. To develop a highly innovative intervention based on video games (strategic/completely non-violent) to develop certain cognitive (mental) skills in children and adolescents with ADHD.
  4. To determine the effect of a mindfulness programme on nuclear symptoms, executive functions and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in children recently diagnosed with ADHD.
  5. To characterise the metabolic profile (bacterial and non-bacterial) in children and adolescents with ADHD and evaluate its relevance as a diagnostic marker.
  6. To assess the effectiveness of a group intervention programme in social skills for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.
  7. To define a differential neurobiological marker between sluggish cognitive tempo and ADHD symptoms.
  8. To help determine the prevalence, characteristics and psychopathological implications in adolescents and young adults with non-suicidal self-injury behaviour in Catalonia.
  9. To evaluate a treatment programme for eating disorders that combines standard cognitive-behavioural therapy with on-line psychological support using the TCApp.
  10. To develop virtual reality exposure techniques to improve anorexia nervosa treatments.
  11. To contribute to the study of the diagnosis of family relational disorders in mental health.
  12. To contribute to a study of a cohort designed to evaluate the effect of pre-natal exposure to urban pollution on the pre-natal/post-natal brain structure and function.
  13. To contribute to the validation of different assessment tools (e.g., assessment of family relationships, detection of children witnesses of domestic violence, etc.).

Area/Field of expertise

Our research forms part of the general research into the characterisation of different psychiatric disorders as well as the evaluation of psychotherapeutic intervention programmes. Our goal is 1) to improve early detection of the most prevalent or most serious psychiatric disorders that children and adolescents may develop, and 2) to develop effective interventions that would help reduce the impact of mental illness on patients and their families.

The group includes psychiatrists, psychologists, technicians with different specialisations who provide a holistic approach of the questions posed by our research. In addition to applying the most up-to-date methodologies in clinical research (imaging), our laboratory has extensive experience in microbiota and cortisol analysis.

Over the past few years, we have been incorporating new technologies, such as virtual reality, gamification, mobile applications, etc., into the study of different interventions in various psychiatric disorders.

Group members

Last Publications

More Publications


Project name:
Early Treatment for children with mental health problems and Genetic Abnormalities through a Parenting intervention (The GAP): a pragmatic randomized controlled trial
Laia Villalta Maciá
Funding entities:
Fundació La Marató de TV3, Villalta Maciá, Laia
Starting - finishing date:
2023 - 2026
Project name:
Early environmental, psychosocial and genetic determinants of neurobehavioral and emotional problems (NBEPs) in the first 4 years of life: the ENGENE study
Ester Camprodon Rosanas
Funding entities:
Fundació La Marató de TV3, Fundació Privada per a la Recerca i la Docència Sant Joan de Déu - FSJD
Starting - finishing date:
2023 - 2026
Project name:
Precursores del trastorno por atracón en adolescentes con obesidad: marcadores MRI temprano de disfunción de circuitos cerebrales de refuerzo e inhibición (Estudio PREC-BED)
Esther Via Virgili
Funding entities:
Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII), Fundació Privada per a la Recerca i la Docència Sant Joan de Déu - FSJD, Via Virgili, Esther
Starting - finishing date:
2023 - 2025
More projects


    Alvarez Subiela, Javier
  • Influencia de un programa de mindfulness sobre los síntomas nucleares, las funciones ejecutivas y el eje hipotálamo-hipófisis-adrenal (HPA), en niños recientemente diagnosticados de Trastorno por Déficit de Atención e Hiperactividad (TDAH). Un estudio aleatorizado
    Huguet Miguel, Anna
  • Estudi de la conducta suicida en el menor d'edat i diferències de gènere
    Sánchez Fernández, Bernardo
More Theses


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