Prof. Jim van Os


Jim van Os Controversias Psiquiatria Barcelona
Talk Debate 2. Delusions: Nature vs. Nurture
Nurture approach.
Date Friday, April 29th, 2016
Time 18:00 - 18:30


Jim van Os is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands, and Visiting Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK. He trained in Psychiatry in Casablanca (Morocco), Bordeaux (France) and finally at the Institute of Psychiatry and the Maudsley/Bethlem Royal Hospital in London (UK) and after his clinical training was awarded a three-year UK Medical Research Council Training Fellowship in Clinical Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1995, he moved to Maastricht University Medical Centre.

He is on the editorial board of European and US psychiatric journals such as Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, European Psychiatry, Psychological Medicine, Schizophrenia Research, Schizophrenia Bulletin, Early Intervention in Psychiatry, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Psychosis Journal, The Journal of Mental Health and the Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences. He is also an Academic Editor at PLoS ONE.

In 2011, he was elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW); he appears on the 2014 Thomson-Reuter Web of Science list of the world’s ‘most influential scientific minds’ of our time.

Jim van Os is coordinator of a €12M EU FP7 IP project on gene-environment interactions in schizophrenia, and is also active in clinical gene-environment interaction research in depression and bipolar disorder.

He was a member of the Psychosis Group of the influential DSM-5 Task Force, and was co-chair of the APA DSM/ICD conference Deconstructing Psychosis.

He is Director of Psychiatric Services at Maastricht University Medical Centre and runs a service for treatment-resistant depression and first episode psychosis.


The human brain has evolved as a highly context-sensitive system, enabling behavioural flexibility in the face of constantly changing environmental challenges. Bottom-up sensory stimuli interact with top-down cortical expectations, giving rise to affectively meaningful representations of the social world that motivate adaptive, goal-directed interactions. Multidimensional psychotic and affective syndromes can be understood as an imbalance in the cycle of adaptation to the social context, possibly in interaction with genetic factors impacting these psychological functions. At the symptom level, paranoid delusions express alterations in experience of the social environment, and cognitive impairments associated with psychotic disorder reflect difficulties in the ability to read the emotions and intentions of other people, contributing to the reduced social competence that accompanies symptoms. We have developed technology to directly assess situated phenotypes indexing dynamic, within-person environmental mental reactivity as substrate for environmental impact studies and diagnostic systems; and to increase the translational potential to study developmental social-reactive mechanisms associated with psychotic disorder. There is some evidence that the study of environmental risk factors across multidimensional psychotic and affective syndromes may result in useful stratification in terms of diagnosis and treatment needs. Risk factors with potential for stratification include drug use, childhood trauma and prolonged experience of social exclusion.


Van Os J, Delespaul P, Wigman J, Myin-Germeys I, Wichers M. (2013). Beyond DSM and ICD: introducing "precision diagnosis" for psychiatry using momentary assessment technology. World Psychiatry Jun 2013;12:113-117.

Van Os, J. & Kapur, S. (2009) Schizophrenia. Lancet, 374, 635-645.

[PDF] Van Os, J., Kenis, G. & Rutten, B. (2010). The Environment and Schizophrenia. Nature, 468, 203-212.

[PDF] Linscott RJ, van Os J. (2012). An updated and conservative systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological evidence on psychotic experiences in children and adults: on the pathway from proneness to persistence to dimensional expression across mental disorders. Psychol Med. 2013;43:1133-1149.

[PDF] McGorry, P. & van Os, J. (2013). Redeeming diagnosis in psychiatry: timing versus specificity. Lancet 381, 343-5.

Van Os, J. & Murray, R. M. (2013). Can we identify and treat “schizophrenia light” to prevent true psychotic illness? BMJ, 2013 Jan 18;346:f304. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f304

[PDF] Van Os, J. (2013). The dynamics of subthreshold psychopathology: implications for diagnosis and treatment. Am J Psychiatry 170, 695-8.

Van Os, J. (2014). The Many Continua of Psychosis. JAMA Psychiatry.