About the Research

The Developmental Computational Psychiatry Lab seeks to understand why Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) mostly emerges during adolescence, and aims to better understand what is happening in the brain during the illness. Dr Tobias Hauser’s Wellcome grant investigates how brain networks develop during adolescence, how they impact behaviour, and how atypical development may lead to OCD. Using experiments and mathematical models, researchers have identified potential processes in the brain which drive OCD symptoms and have shown that these are linked to impaired brain maturation during adolescence. Thus, adolescence is a critical period for understanding OCD, and the research team plan to focus future research efforts towards understanding this developmental period.

Tobias has worked with OCD stakeholders (including people with lived experience, families and charities) throughout his career and has come to realise that there is a striking disconnect between those affected by OCD and the focus of neuroscience research on OCD. This disconnect is particularly evident in adolescents living with OCD and their families. This suggests that researchers have are failing to reach the individuals who could benefit from neuroscience insights. To overcome this disconnect, Tobias and his team have been using engaged research strategies, such as developing a smartphone app (www.brainexplorer.net ) that allows users to contribute to the group’s research easily and from home. To date, they have collected research data from over 10,000 participants world-wide – making it a dataset that is unique in both scale and scope.

Tobias has also facilitated sessions with people living with OCD to identify the causes for the knowledge disconnect between people living with OCD and neuroscience research, and how these might be overcome. This identified that the disconnect may be because those affected have limited knowledge about neuroscience research and how this research can help OCD. To combat this, this engagement project will enable the team to co-create neuroscience-informed resources with those affected, and ensure the work they are doing is patient-informed and relevant to the needs of those that they aim to help.

Logo for the Developmental Computational Psychiatry Lab

Dr Tobias Hauser leads the Developmental Computational Psychiatry Lab which is part of the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, and the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging.