Groundbreaking Psychosis Prevention Project secures 2024 FLAD Science Award for FhP-AICOS



A solution to support people at risk of psychosis, led by researchers from Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, has won the FLAD Science Award Mental Health, among dozens of applications. PRODROMUS is the name of the technology that is now in the spotlight.

Designed with the aim of exploring the unmet needs of ultra-high risk (UHR), clinical-high risk (CHR), or First-Episode of Psychosis(FEP) populations, as well as their acceptability toward Digital Phenotyping JITAIs for preventing psychosis, PRODROMUS was thought to ensure FhP-AICOS’ team develop an evidence-based solution that caters to the needs and is adopted by UHR/CHR/FEP populations. Bearing that in mind, FhP-AICOS’ researchers will follow the Accelerated Creation-to-Sustainment Model and combine User-Centred Design, Service Design, Machine Learning, Clinical Research and Implementation Science methods to iteratively co-develop, assess, and sustainably implement PRODROMUS.

“PRODROMUS has the potential to impact science, clinical practice, and society, as well as the lives of UHR/CHR/FEP populations worldwide. The project uses digital technology and innovative scientific data collection, trialing, and analysis techniques to address major clinical and socio-technical challenges related to the accurate assessment of psychotic conditions, the development of DP-JITAIs targeting UHR/CHR/FEP individuals, and the successful implementation of such interventions in real-contexts.” The words are from Cristina Mendes Santos, Senior Researcher at AICOS, and Project Manager of the award winning PRODROMUS - A digital phenotyping enhanced just-in-time adaptive intervention for preventing people at ultra-high risk, clinical high risk, or with first-episode psychosis from transitioning to psychosis.

The FLAD Science Award on Mental Health supports young researchers in Portugal in developing new clinical research lines in Mental Health, ranging from prevention to treatment and rehabilitation, in collaboration with research centres in the United States. The goal is to improve the quality of life for people with mental disorders.
This annual award, recognized by the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been granted since 2021. Awardees receive 300,000 euros over three years to develop their projects.

The motivation

PRODROMUS focuses on psychosis, a set of severe and disabling mental disorders characterized by a loss of contact with reality, delusions, thought disturbances, hallucinations, negative symptoms such as disinterest, detachment, affective blunting, and bizarre behaviors, leading to significant psychological distress and negatively impacting all aspects of a person's life. It is estimated that psychosis affects 26.6 per 100,000 people annually, with significant socioeconomic impacts and high consumption of health resources and services.

Despite the associated psychological distress and the effectiveness of early interventions for individuals at risk of transitioning to psychosis, access to and specialized support are limited and often delayed, typically occurring a year after the onset of attenuated psychotic symptoms—in Portugal, about two years from the first symptoms to treatment.


About the Project

AICOS’ team proposes collecting real-life, moment-to-moment data using widely available commercial mobile devices, such as smartphones and fitness trackers, to capture a digital expression of human behavior. These data will be analyzed using machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to customize and trigger real-time delivery of adaptive psychosocial interventions to at-risk individuals, exploring their effectiveness in preventing psychosis and promoting overall functioning, cognitive functioning, and quality of life in people at risk of transitioning to psychosis.

“We will explore the literature, conduct user research, and iteratively co-develop PRODROMUS. We will build on the mindLAMP framework and use an ML-approach leveraging multimodal data from participants’ smartphones and fitness trackers to digitally phenotype and predict transition and non-transition outcomes.”, underlines the researcher.

This innovative solution will be co-developed with people at risk of transitioning to psychosis, their families, and healthcare professionals, ensuring that the intervention and technologies meet their real needs and facilitate implementation.
The project will also conduct a clinical trial with 168 individuals at risk of transitioning to psychosis to evaluate the solution's effectiveness, user experience, implementation, and cost-effectiveness in clinical and real-life contexts. The trial will be conducted in Portugal by a multidisciplinary team, including clinicians, engineers, designers, and researchers from Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center – Harvard Medical School, Hospital Escola – Universidade Fernando Pessoa, Centro Hospitalar São João, Linköping University, Escola Superior de Saúde, and NOVA School of Public Health.


More on the FLAD Science Award Mental Health 2024 here.