Barcelona snapshots

Prof. Annamaria Cattaneo

Annamaria Cattaneo psychiatrist Controversies Psiquiatry Barcelona
IRCCS Fatebenefratelli Brescia & Università degli Studi di Milano Statale, Italy
Talk Inflammation and the immune system; a response that bridges body and mind
Date Friday, April 21st, 2023
Time 11:15 - 12:00
Round Table 2 Precision diagnosis in psychiatry: are we going to succeed in changing the model?


Dr. Annamaria Cattaneo is the Head of the Laboratory of Biological Psychiatry, at the IRCCS Fatebenefratelli Institute; she is also Assistant Professor at the University of Milan, Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences and assistant Researcher at the King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry.

Her main interest is devoted to the understanding of the mechanisms linking adversities early in life (both prenatally and postnatally) with an enhanced vulnerability to develop mental disorders later in life, with a particular focus on neuroplasticity, inflammation, and stress response. She is also particularly interested in the identification of peripheral biomarkers associated with the risk to develop mental disorders as well as with treatment response. Recently she has also focused the attention on the gut microbiome as link between the environment, the immune system and brain functionality.

She is coordinating several national and international projects including those aimed at the identification of early predictors of risk for the development of mood disorders and biomarkers of treatment response (RLINK H2020 project, RF-2018-12365308), and projects aimed at the identification of central and peripheral mechanisms modulated by stress early in life and associated with the onset of mood disorders in adolescence or in adulthood (EarlyCause H2020, IDEA-FLAME projects).

She has more than 100 publications in PubMed, leading to SCOPUS H-Index=41, and more than 5100 citations.

Dr Cattaneo received several Awards including the Dirk Hellhammer Award as distinguished international investigators in the field of psychoneuroendocrinology in 2021, the British Psychopharmacology Association Award in July 2017, the Award for Young Investigator Scientist at the ECNP Conference in 2015 and the Rafaelsen Young Investigator’s Award in 2014. She is currently supervising several undergraduate students and PhD Students. She is Member of the CINP Awards Scientific Committee Member; Member of the Scientific Advisory Board Panel, European College of Neuropsychopharmacology; Member of the International Scientific Advisory Board of the Swiss Consortium on the Gut Microbiota and Alzheimer’s disease, University of Geneva, Switzerland. She has also been Review panel member for ERC grants.


Early life stress, especially when experienced during the first period of life, affects the brain developmental trajectories leading to an enhanced vulnerability for stress-related psychiatric disorders later in life. Although both clinical and preclinical studies clearly support this association, the biological pathways deregulated by such exposure, and the effects in shaping the neurodevelopmental trajectories, have so far been poorly investigated. Indeed, even though we understand that there is a clear association between these exposures and an increased risk at later life to develop mental problems, the biological underpinnings are multifaceted, complex, and not yet fully understood. We currently lack early biomarkers to detect populations or individuals at risk, ii) the (neurobiological) mechanisms underlying the programming effects of adversity, iii) and biomarkers that can predict and monitor the efficacy of interventions.

In this talk I will discuss from both clinical and preclinical perspectives, the role of inflammation as biological system that could be involved in the vulnerability, pathophysiology and treatment of mental disorders, with particular focus to depression.

In human studies I will discuss the role of inflammation in the vulnerability for depression development and in the efficacy of treatments, in different temporal windows that are pregnancy, adolescence and adulthood. I will also show data from preclinical models, where for example we have demonstrated that an exposure to prenatal stress is leading to a pro-inflammatory status in the brain in the offspring with adolescence as the temporal window where such alterations are most pronounced. We observed that PNS adolescent rats showed a pro-inflammatory profile that was observed both in term of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and microglia activation and in term of network analyses. This pro-inflammatory status in adolescence was interestingly then prevented in PNS animals that received Lurasidone, suggesting that interventions during this period can buffer alterations due to the adverse exposure.

Finally, I will discuss the importance of monitor key genes associated with inflammation as possible biomarkers that can predict and monitor the efficacy of pharmacological interventions. I will show data from GENDEP Cohort where we showed that the baseline levels of several pro-inflammatory mediators can predict the treatment response. Interestingly, this data where then replicated in independent cohorts, including the BIODEP study, where we have also performed a RNAseq analyses to identify not only biomarkers but also peripheral mechanisms underlying the efficacy of pharmacological interventions.

Overall, this talk will present clinically relevant research that combines innovative tools in rodents with findings from human studies to provide transformative frameworks on how we may be able to better understand, treat and prevent the detrimental programming by adversities on health.


[Full paper] Cattane N, ..., Cattaneo A. (2022) Transcriptomics and miRNomics data integration in lymphoblastoid cells highlights the key role of immune-related functions in lithium treatment response in Bipolar disorder. BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Oct 27;22(1):665. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-04286-3. PMID: 36303132; PMCID: PMC9615157.

[Full paper] Mariani N, Cattane N, Pariante C, Cattaneo A. (2021) Gene expression studies in Depression development and treatment: an overview of the underlying molecular mechanisms and biological processes to identify biomarkers. Transl Psychiatry. 2021 Jun 8;11(1):354. doi: 10.1038/s41398-021-01469-6. PMID: 34103475; PMCID: PMC8187383.

[Full paper] Lopizzo N, ..., Cattaneo A. (2021) Alterations in 'inflammatory' pathways in the rat prefrontal cortex as early biological predictors of the long-term negative consequences of exposure to stress early in life. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2021 Feb;124:104794. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2020.104794. Epub 2020 Jul 6. PMID: 33429258.

[Full paper] Cattaneo A, et al. (2020). Neuroimmunology of Mood Disorders and Alzheimer's Disease (NIMA) Consortium; Pariante CM. Whole-blood expression of inflammasome- and glucocorticoid-related mRNAs correctly separates treatment-resistant depressed patients from drug-free and responsive patients in the BIODEP study. Transl Psychiatry. 2020 Jul 23;10(1):232. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-00874-7. Erratum in: Transl Psychiatry. 2020 Oct 19;10(1):352. PMID: 32699209; PMCID: PMC7376244.