Psychiatry and other neurosciences have more to offer each other than you might think, according to the head of the SleepWell research program, which studies the mechanisms between sleep and illness.
The study of sleep is a good example of a complex biological phenomenon that requires multidisciplinary networking or extensive programs built around the subject.
Professor of Psychiatry Tiina Paunio leads the SleepWell research program at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Helsinki.
‘Sleep is studied translationally by eight different research groups in the program. In other words, each research group representing different fields approaches the same topic from their point of view,’ Paunio says.
The program studies groups of people of different ages and health. It also includes animal studies and molecular-level research.
‘Our common goal is to better understand the mechanisms between sleep and illnesses. Core questions are, for example, how sleep disorders predispose you to diseases and, on the other hand, what the significance and role of sleep are in the recovery and recuperation process,’ sums up Paunio, who also works as a Chief Psychiatrist and Vice Dean of Education.
Our common goal is to better understand the mechanisms between sleep and illnesses. Core questions are, for example, how sleep disorders predispose you to diseases and, on the other hand, what the significance and role of sleep are in the recovery and recuperation process.
Brain diseases require extensive research
As the head of an extensive, multidisciplinary research program, Paunio welcomes Neurocenter Finland as a platform for people from different fields to collide, which even psychiatrists could make use of more boldly and on a larger scale than at present.
‘In principle, psychiatric disorders are complex brain diseases that you can’t comprehend with a single approach. You need multidisciplinary research instead. And that happens to be the role of Neurocenter – they’re a connector‘, she declares.
According to Paunio, at its best, Neurocenter Finland could be a place through which psychiatrists would find partners to help them hone their research, for example, by expanding their research methods. Likewise, psychiatrists could contribute to the work of someone else.
‘Psychiatry is a must-have for Neurocenter Finland. In other fields of medicine, people aren’t necessarily regarded as psychosocial individuals and, for example, the effect that social environment has on a person’s illness isn’t as widely contemplated’, Paunio emphasizes.
Similarly, psychiatric therapies such as psychotherapy or other psychosocial therapies could be utilized in multidisciplinary studies.
Paunio hopes that psychiatry will be more strongly represented in the activities of Neurocenter Finland in the future.
‘I may not represent the mainstream of psychiatry, but in any case, I believe that the boundary between psychiatry and neurology is a very blurred line’, Paunio states.