Three hundred students will answer around thirty-five questions nine times per day for four weeks. Questions about their activities, moods, eating patterns, company and more. The Student Mapping Study is a prelude to the NSMD study with patients with mental disorders, which is due to start in 2022. PhD candidate Alberto Jover Martínez talks about the preparation and the goal.

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Since the start of his PhD trajectory, in September 2020, Alberto Jover Martínez has been busy preparing for this study. This included in-depth interviews and brainstorming sessions with clinical experts to determine which questions are most relevant to ask people with mental illness. "By answering those questions at nine times a day for four weeks, we hope to gain insight into people's symptom network, so how does one symptom influence another," says Jover Martínez. The theory of NSMD is that treatments tailored to the individual network could be more effective than current treatments. A first step is thus to map individual networks. 

On to the patient study

"This first study with students is actually a test of our questionnaire and approach. Based on this experience we can improve the method, after which the patient study can begin." Participants will work with an app from the company Ethica, in which the PhD student has also built the questionnaires himself. "That sounds complicated, but fortunately it is a user-friendly platform," he says laughing. 

Jover Martínez also hopes to complete the patient study during his PhD. He first came into contact with network analysis during his research master's programme in Psychopathology at Maastricht University. "I found it so interesting that I wanted to do PhD research on it. The great thing about my PhD project is that it is transdiagnostic: it is not limited to one illness, but covers a broad spectrum of mental disorders. I find it very interesting to gain more insight into how symptoms influence each other. My ultimate goal, of course, is to improve treatment.”

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