The background for this is that a Bergen-based research team has recently developed a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, with notably good results.
The new research centre will be called the Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity, and the research here will be aimed at understanding the mechanisms behind the effectiveness of the treatment, as well as exploring how this methodology can be used in treatment of other anxiety disorders and how this can be spread internationally.
By developing the intensive treatment called Bergen 4-Day Treatment (B4DT), psychologists Gerd Kvale and Bjarne Hansen have fundamentally changed the treatment of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
The research duo was recently selected as two of the top 50 most influential people in health care, featured in TIME Magazine’s list The Health Care 50: Fifty people transforming health care in 2018.
Along with the world’s top researchers in epigenetics (the study of how we are shaped by both nature and nurture) on the team, the goal of the centre is to identify the mechanisms that may explain the variations in treatment effects in different patients. The centre will also ensure that the treatment method is made available to patients in other countries.
Along with depression, various forms of anxiety are among the most common of mental illnesses, and most patients are affected at a young age. Without access to effective treatment, these disorders often persist throughout the patients’ lives. Providing access to better treatment for more people therefore has tremendous benefits, from both a human and an economic perspective.
“We have seen that 90 per cent of the patients who received the intensive treatment over four days immediately achieved significant improvement, and four years later, 70 per cent were in complete remission,” says Gerd Kvale.
“The treatment gives people a new lease on life, and at the same time it gives us new, foundational knowledge. Our goal is to identify the mechanisms that may explain the variability of the treatment effects, which in turn will be crucial for helping those who don’t receive satisfactory results,” Kvale explains.
To help the researchers achieve this, two private foundations and research institutions are each chipping in generously to provide the funding for the establishment of Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity:
• Bergen Research Foundation is providing NOK 35 million for research to uncover the mechanisms that might explain why the treatment form is showing such good results.
• The Kavli Trust awards NOK 35 million to the work on making the treatment accessible for patients internationally.
• Haukeland University Hospital and the University of Bergen are contributing NOK 41 million. At the University of Bergen, the Faculty of Psychology’s Centre for Crisis Psychology will be the primary collaborative partner.
This amounts to a total of NOK 111 million in funding over the next five years.
Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity will be led by Professor Gerd Kvale and Associate Professor Bjarne Hansen, both of whom are employed by Haukeland University Hospital and the University of Bergen. The main international collaborative partner of the research centre will be McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, USA, which for several consecutive years has been ranked as the top free-standing psychiatric hospital in the United States.
“We have given our grant from Bergen Research Foundation to the new research centre based on an independent academic assessment carried out by international experts,” says Sveinung Hole, Managing Director of the foundation based on donations from Trond Mohn and his family.
“It is wonderful that we can work together with the Kavli Trust to help bring a world-class research centre in Bergen to fruition, and let the rest of the world benefit from the treatment form. Effective treatment of OCD and other mental illnesses will not only give each patient a better life but will also have great significance for society as a whole,” he stresses.
“A great job has been done to make the four-day treatment available for children and young people all over Norway. We now look forward to seeing the treatment spread internationally as well, while the researchers can also work to figure out how to help those who do not experience the positive effect from the treatment,” says Managing Director of the Kavli Trust, Inger Elise Iversen.
“These funds represent a fantastic opportunity. This research is costly because it involves patients, experimental equipment and collaboration with partners, including in the United States. The funding from Bergen Research Foundation and the Kavli Trust of NOK 70 million will allow us to do research that would otherwise not be possible,” says Rector Dag Rune Olsen of the University of Bergen.
He adds, “These researchers think entirely outside the box and ask radically different questions. This is great research that scores highly on all parameters.”
Director Eivind Hansen of Bergen University Hospital says “we are impressed and proud of the new treatment for patients that our wonderful research community has achieved. A new method has been established showing good results for an important group of patients. We are thankful to Bergen Research Foundation and the Kavli Trust for large contributions to further research, and we look forward to partnering with them. We are proud to have a research community headed by Gerd Kvale and Bjarne Hansen as a part of Haukeland University Hospital.”
Managing Director Sveinung Hole of Bergen Research Foundation (left) and Managing Director Inger Elise Iversen (right) congratulate Professor Gerd Kvale and Associate Professor Bjarne Hansen on the grant of NOK 70 million to establish and operate Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity. On top of this, the University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital are providing NOK 41 million. (Photo: Paul S. Amundsen).
Bergen Research Foundation Facts:
• Bergen Research Foundation is the largest non-profit foundation for research funding in Norway. The foundation provides funding for research in a broad range of fields and has a long-term perspective in its contributions. Funding from the foundation is given in combination with public research funding and may comprise up to 50 per cent of the costs for any one project.
• The work done by Bergen Research Foundation is based on donations from Trond Mohn, Marit Mohn and Frederik Mohn. At the start of 2018, the foundation had NOK 2.8 million in capital. Grants are funded by the returns that this capital yields over time. Since its founding in 2004, the foundation has given grants totalling NOK 917 million for research causes.
• The foundation gives contributions to the University of Bergen and Helse Bergen HF, as well as other institutions in Norway, and cooperates with institutions in Bergen.
• Bergen Research Foundation has its headquarters in Bergen, with seven staff members. The Foundation’s board of directors has six members and two deputy members and is led by Professor Emeritus Dr. Stener Kvinnsland.
Kavli Trust Facts:
• The Kavli Trust has funded the national spread of the Bergen 4-Day Treatment (B4DT) for children and young people for over two years with NOK 4.3 million.
• The Kavli Trust owns the Kavli group, including Kavli and Q-Meieriene, and they donate their entire profit to charitable causes.
• Research comprises 30 per cent of the grants given by the Kavli Trust.
• The Kavli group’s profits, and by extension also the Kavli Trust’s grants, have seen a marked increase in the last ten years.
• Last year, the Kavli Trust gave grants totaling NOK 82 million. In 2018, the grants are expected to exceed NOK 125 million.
Sveinung Hole, Managing Director, Bergen Research Foundation Tel: +47 479 00 111
Inger Elise Iversen, Managing Director, Kavli Trust Tel: +47 908 94 567
Gerd Kvale, Professor, UiB / Haukeland University Hospital Tel: +47 916 38 681
Dag Rune Olsen, Rector, University of Bergen Tel: +47 930 85 881
Eivind Hansen, Director, Haukeland University Hospital Tel: +47 932 30 380
Bergen 4-Day Treatment
B4DT builds on commonly known treatment principles, but while the treatment previously was divided into 45-minute sessions and spread over several months, B4DT takes four consecutive days and is given to groups of three to six patients by the same number of therapists.
This approach allows for a tailored, therapy-assisted treatment, while the patients benefit from working together with others who are going through the same change process. Before they begin, patients are thoroughly prepared and ready for four full days of work to bring about this change. The patients have been very satisfied with the approach, and virtually no one has quit.
In Norway, over 1,200 people have received the treatment so far, at roughly 30 clinics that have either started or are in the process of starting to use B4DT.