This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Improving diagnostic tools in psychiatry

Oishei Foundation grant to establish task force for ontology-based IT support

Published: November 29, 2007

Reporter Contributor

A $148,328 grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation will establish a multidisciplinary task force for ontology-based IT support for large-scale field studies in psychiatry at UB.

Werner Ceusters, professor of psychiatry and director of the Ontology Research Group in UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, and his collaborators have received the funds.

“Ontology is the science of what things exist and how they relate,” said Ceusters. “It involves integrating information by using insights from philosophy and information science. It helps to provide criteria for distinguishing various types of entities, which makes its application useful for philosophers and scientists.”

In 2006, psychiatric professionals from around the globe initiated a five-year plan to prepare the next version of “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM), which is widely used as a standard for psychiatric diagnosis. This initiative will require the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data collected by numerous field studies.

To address this need, a newly formed task force comprised of faculty researchers from the UB departments of Psychiatry, Philosophy and Computer Science and Engineering will help to position UB as a leading information technology partner in these data collection and analysis efforts. Over the next 18 months, the group intends to assess the technical requirements of an appropriate data management system, design an implementation plan for the infrastructure to be built and initiate collaborations needed to deliver data collection and analyses services. Through the accomplishments of the task force, the university will expand upon its expertise in the growing field of ontology, while strengthening its international presence.

“The task force will allow us to create a roadmap for future work and to pursue other funding from the National Institutes of Health and to collaborate with other leading institutions,” said Ceusters.

This grant will build upon the past work of UB researchers in improving the classification, diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric conditions. Additionally, faculty experts will have new opportunities to participate in large-scale clinical trials, apply research in logic and ontologies to psychiatry and apply biomedical ontology to mental disorders.

“In addition to capturing and analyzing data, we must find ways to share our findings and integrate them into patient care,” said Ceusters. “Our work will do exactly that and will provide an innovative technique for detecting useful dimensions in psychiatric disorders.

“Initially, we will focus on personality disorders, as they have proven difficult to account for under the current DSM,” he continued. “By applying ontological theories, we will create a coherent set of data that is reusable in multiple settings.”