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29 January 2020

Why does PSYSCAN use CANTAB?

PSYSCAN is a global project, which aims to develop a neuroimaging-based tool that will help healthcare professionals to address key clinical issues for patients with psychotic disorders. We caught up with study coordinator – Aimée Westerveld – to find out more about the role of CANTAB in the project. 

Can you tell more about yourself?

I am a study coordinator and clinical research associate at the University Medical Center Utrecht for the PSYSCAN project, focusing on the first episode psychosis (FEP) cohort and healthy control cohort. The broader PSYSCAN project also consists of a cohort of subjects at Ultra-High risk (UHR) for developing psychosis. PSYSCAN is a multicenter naturalistic follow-up study located all over the world (http://psyscan.eu/). In total we recruited a 330 FEP patients and 170 healthy controls.

What is your research question and rationale?

The aim of the PSYSCAN project is to improve the care of patients with schizophrenia. To date we are not able to reliably predict the course and outcome of psychosis at an individual level. The primary objective is to develop and validate a tool to predict the illness course focusing at an individual level. This tool should help clinicians resolve key clinical issues in the management of patient with psychotic disorders. This will be achieved through machine learning techniques.

Which methods did you use?

Data was obtained in both FEP patients and healthy controls on multiple time points over the course of a year. During these visits, multiple variables were examined including: demographics, psychopathology and lifestyle questions, physical examination, medication use, and psychiatric history. In addition, MRI scans were conducted, blood samples were taken and cognitive assessments were performed using CANTAB.

Why did you choose CANTAB for your project?

We chose CANTAB since it is an extensive neuropsychological battery, with a variety of tests available measuring different cognitive functions. For PSYSCAN we want to capture key deficits associated with psychosis, therefore we use tests focusing on sustained attention, verbal memory, working memory and emotion recognition. In addition, this automated neuropsychological battery using an iPad is very easy to administer for the researcher instead of taking multiple cognitive tests using paper. Besides the convenience of performing these tests, it is not necessary to transpose the data into a system making it less prone to errors. Furthermore, this digital way of testing is very contemporary making participants feel more at ease in such settings.

What has been your experience with the app and the Cambridge Cognition support team?

The app itself is indeed user friendly for the researchers as well as the participants and the explanations of the tasks are very clear. Regarding the data, it is an advantage that the data is stored in an encrypted database on the device, and is then automatically transferred to Cambridge Cognition when you go online. It is however a challenge to integrate the CANTAB dataset into our larger complete dataset. Furthermore, my experience with the CANTAB support team is very good. When I have encountered a problem, or had any other CANTAB related questions, I have always received a response and solution within a day.

Tags : cantab testimonial | cantab | psychosis

Author portrait

Aimée Westerveld, Study coordinator - Studycoordinator & Clinical Research Associate PSYSCAN