News Latest news Janna Vrijsen receives NWO Vidi grant

16 November 2023

Janna Vrijsen, researcher at Radboudumc, receives NWO Vidi grant to investigate physical exercise to strengthen depression treatment.

Depression is a devastating mental illness, affecting 400 million individuals worldwide. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an established first-line psychotherapy. However, non-response remains high at 40%, thus calling for the development of augmentation strategies. Physical exercise is gaining interest as an augmentation treatment, and its application would benefit from mechanistic studies that aid the development of a more targeted intervention. Newest studies indicate brain-plasticity benefits on depressotypic mood and memory. The main hypothes of the ‘Work-It-Out’ project is that providing exercise in conjunction to CBT enhances the learning occurring during therapy sessions, yielding greater treatment response/retention. For next level care innovation, the goal is to provide unique insight into the molecular, physiological, and psychological mechanistic underpinnings of exercise, delivering conditional knowledge on when, how, and in whom to apply exercise as innovative augmentation treatment for depression.

The Work-It-Out project will initially use data from the Healthy Brain Study (HBS) to delineate the dynamic interplay between exercise and depressotypic mood, innovatively combining wearables, biomarkers, and fine-grained ecologically-valid experience sampling data. This will be flanked by a longitudinal clinical study in depressed patients. Both the HBS and clinical study will be used to identify effect-modulators of exercise on molecular, neurocognitive, and symptom levels.

Additionally, Work-It-Out will determine optimal timing of exercise in conjunction to CBT sessions based on mechanistic and clinical gains using experimental and experience sampling designs.

Hence, Work-It-Out will establish knowledge on the general and personal mechanisms, duration, and modulating factors of exercise benefits on mood and memory. Thereby, it generates unprecedented insight into the mechanisms by and conditions under which exercise optimally augments depression treatment.