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Department of Molecular Psychiatry

Head of department: Prof. Dr. med. Gregor Hasler, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry


The Molecular Psychiatry Department at the University of Bern strives to elucidate the molecular underpinnings of major psychiatric conditions including mood, anxiety, eating disorders, and nicotine dependence, and their interactions with psychological and social factors. The ultimate goal is to develop and test novel personalized strategies and treatments aimed at preventing highly prevalent mental illness.

A multidisciplinary approach is applied to study the bio-psycho-social interplay underlying psychiatric problems. The methods include:

  • Molecular imaging (positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance spectroscopy) to study structural neuropathology
  • Pharmacological manipulations to investigate dysfunctions of neurotransmitter systems
  • Imaging Genetics and Epigenetics to relate neuropathology with genetic markers and gene expression
  • Economic games in combination with functional MRI to investigate abnormal social decision-making associated with social psychopathology
  • Neurostimulation in combination with functional MRI to test the role of specific cortical brain regions
  • Animal models to directly test mechanistic hypotheses (in collaboration with ETH Zurich)
  • The major empirical findings of Bern’s Molecular Psychiatry Department include
  • Identification of marked global reductions of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) in smokers and ex-smokers
  • Demonstration of abnormal mGluR5 binding in major depression
  • Discovery of a hypersensitivity to catecholamine depletion in bulimia nervosa
  • Discovery of dopamine-related learning dysfunction in bulimia nervosa
  • Elucidation of the relationship between dopamine neurotransmission, ghrelin and depression