Diana Prata


Instituto de Biofísica e Engenharia Biomédica

Sala/Gabinete IBEB

Email dmprata@ciencias.ulisboa.pt
Página Pessoal

Carreira Docente Universitário
Categoria Professor Auxiliar

Scientific Interests

Why is our research important?

Psychiatry is one of the areas of medicine with the most unclear etiological models, a highly variable treatment response and very little personalized treatment strategies. As such, research into its inherent biology, using quantitative, non-invasive, methods to measure physiological correlates of cognition and behaviour holds much promise. Our interest is the molecular biology of human behaviour, which we aim to translate into improving etiological and therapeutic models of neuropsychiatric disorders. In the past, the PI has reported on the influence of psychiatric illness-related genetic variations, namely in the dopamine system, on: mental illness risk, brain function and structure, and drug treatment response in schizophrenia.

Our current main branch of research is on understanding the role of oxytocin in human social cognition, and its relevance to psychosis and autism. Oxytocin’s role beyond reproduction and obstetrics has recently been strengthen by animal research, but its modus operandi in the human brain is still far from clear. In order to characterize the related brain circuitry and neuromodulatory interactions in a causal manner, we combine psychological and neuropharmacological experimentation with (epi)genetics, neuroimaging and psychophysiological measurements (such as electroencephalography, eye-tracking, and electrodermal activity) in placebo-controlled, double-blind studies humans.

Our second research stream is translational, aiming to build clinically useful biomarkers for aiding clinical diagnostic and prognostic predictions – which gave rise to a startup company in partnership with the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. We are identifying integrated genetics, neuroimaging and environmental biomarkers of psychosis diagnosis and prognosis, and treatment response. This is also done in collaboration with our spin-off company NeuroPsyAI, which applies artificial intelligence to neuroimaging data for neurological and psychiatric biomarker development.

Our work is made possible by a highly interdisciplinary team of biomedical engineers, psychologists, biologists and psychiatrists.