The project focuses on training our future researchers in mental health, and is based on the Center of Excellence NORMENT (University of Oslo) and its clinical team, brain-forming and genetic teams, and collaborative research projects with the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa.
The first part of the project focused on establishing infrastructure and getting started with the interactions. We started working with students and supervisors in mental health research at the two partner institutions in Norway and the complementary research team in South Africa.
The second phase includes a series of workshops and exchanges of researchers. In particular, master's level, doctoral level and supervisor have run collaborative projects. Training in image processing and analysis tools in Oslo for UCT researchers, and training in trans-cultural effects on serious mental disorders are included in the joint projects. Furthermore, the research projects are integrated with educational and dissemination activities in targeted workshops and transnational audits. This has resulted in increased competence and several projects have generated exciting results.
The corona pandemic has reduced the possibility of physical exchange, forcing us to move our collaborative activities to virtual meetings. Furthermore, the analytical projects have been supported by new data storage and calculation infrastructure that gives collaborating researchers access to data and new analytical tools. This has also reduced the need for long flights for physical visits and research exchanges.
In the last phase of the project, we have contributed to concrete results through contributions to the international ENIGMA brain imaging consortium with participants from all over the world.
Mental disorders are ranked among the leading causes of the burden of diseases worldwide. Thus, identifying their underlying pathophysiology is imperative and can lead to major health benefits. The project focuses on education of our future scientists within mental health. It is based on the Centre of Excellence NORMENT (University of Oslo, UiO) and its clinical, brain imaging and genetics teams, and frontline collaborative research projects with University of Cape Town, (UCT), South Africa. The main purpose is to combine mental health research in Norway (UiO) with complementary research in South Africa (UCT), and integrate with education to train the next generation of mental health researchers who need expertise in imaging and genetic tools as well as transcultural clinical expertise. The project will leverage the non-diverse Scandinavian (UiO) and the relatively highly diverse African (UCT) genetic populations, as well as the complementary clinical research of the two partners. The project will develop a strong synergy between the genetics and imaging expertise of NORMENT; and the transcultural expertise at UCT. We will integrate education and research about brain and genetic mechanisms involved in mental illness, to form a strong framework for excellent research. The education and training proposed in this grant naturally build on the infrastructure and expertise from UCT, combining genetics and brain imaging with transcultural aspects, three areas of importance for NORMENT. The project builds on existing collaboration between UiO and UCT, and will extend this into Life Sciences, which is currently growing rapidly as a result of technological developments. However, technology must be combined with clinical and cultural expertise to understand mental illness. The project will apply new analytical methods for big data, and interpret the findings in a clinical setting. The project provides a framework for long-term collaboration at the institutional level.
INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research