Research projects and publications

The Bergen 4-Day Treatment provides a stringent approach to induce rapid and lasting clinical change, suggesting that the adult brain is capable of plastic changes. As such, the B4DT offers an elegant tool to uncover the mechanisms of brain plasticity in the mature brain with profound implications for understanding numerous psychiatric disorders as well as learning and behaviour in general. 

The main research goal for the Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity is to use the B4DT to elucidate multilevel mechanisms of brain plasticity to gain new insights of relevance for future therapies.  This will be achieved in a large-scale research effort integrating psychological, genetic, epigenetic and imaging predictors of brain plasticity.       

  • The Bergen protocol’s concentrated structure makes it an ideal paradigm to examine how the brain can rapidly learn new emotional processes, says Kerry Ressler, chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts and one of the scientists involved in this project. Other goals of this work, he adds, include identifying biological markers—in blood, saliva or through neuroimaging—that can pinpoint patients who will best respond to this type of treatment and to gain new insights to help inform future therapies. - Scientific American, November 28th, 2018

In order to achieve this, Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity will provide an infrastructure which will ensure that clinical data paralleled with longitudinal biological samples from B4DT courses will be stored/available at Haukeland University Hospital (yearly~ 1000 new patients), for future research projects to conduct large scale research and test new hypotheses.

Multilevel approaches to brain plasticity

The B4DT is concentrated and powerful and offers a nearly experimental approach where individual clinical responses represent the gateway to describe underlying mechanisms for brain plasticity. Based on data from the Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity we aim to elucidate markers of brain plasticity at multiple levels, including molecular and cellular alterations, structural adaptations as well as changes in neural connectivity and functional reorganization.

Specifically, we hypothesize that the integration of psychological, genetic, epigenetic, and brain-imaging information can provide information about predictors of treatment response and efficacy, predictors for long-term treatment success and predictors of risk to relapse after an initial therapy success. ​

As such, our main research can be focused in three areas: 

Brain imaging (fMRI) 

The Bergen 4-day Treatment helps many patients with OCD to recover, but what happens in the brain when they do so? The Bergen Center for Brain Plasticity will study changes in the brain directly after treatment. Brain imaging is performed the day before treatment starts, one week afterwards, and after three months. The combination of concentrated treatment and imaging directly after treatment gives a unique opportunity to help us understand how treatment changes the brain.

Dr. Odile van den Heuvel (picture) will together with Dr. Olga Ousdal will head the brain imaging project. 

Read more about our fMRI studies


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric condition that causes enormous human suffering and cost to society. OCD and other anxiety disorders have an estimated heritability of around 50%. So far genetic studies have lacked the power to identify genes implicated in anxiety disorders. 

Reserchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and Aarhus University, established a consortium (NORDiC). Through this we aim to markedly increasing the worldwide sample size for genomic analysis, in a first step toward elucidating the fundamental biology of this condition.

Drs. James D. Crowly and Jan Haavik will be heading the genetic studies
Read more about our genetic study NORDiC


Drs. Kerry Ressler and Stephanie le Hellard will be heading the epigenetic parts of the project.
More information on our epigenetic studies will be added later. 


Drs. Gerd Kvale and Bjarne Hansen will together with Dr. Thröstur Björgvinsson be heading the psychological parts of the research project, with Dr. Lars-Göran Öst as a core collaborating partner.
Read more about our publications on the Bergen 4-day treatment here.  

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