If a neuroscientist designed a haunted house, would you dare to enter?

Posted: November 8th, 2017

McLean Chief Scientific Officer and RCP senior advisor Kerry Ressler is featured along with Kay Tye in NOVA broadcast on the science and fun of fear.
Why Do We Like Being Scared?

If a neuroscientist designed a haunted house, would you dare to enter?

Posted by NOVA l PBS on Tuesday, October 31, 2017

RCP alum honored as finalist for prestigious Takeda Early Career Award

Posted: November 8th, 2017

Today Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (TSE: 4502) and the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) announce the Honorees of the inaugural Innovators in Science Award for their commitment to and excellence in neuroscience research.

The Winner of the Senior Scientist Award is Shigetada Nakanishi, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Suntory Foundation for Life Sciences Bioorganic Research Institute in Japan. Nakanishi is honored for developing innovative cloning strategies for membrane embedded transmitter receptors and subsequent identification of functional genes encoding NMDA and G-protein coupled glutamate receptors.

The Winner of the Early-Career Scientist Award is Viviana Gradinaru, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology. Gradinaru is honored for exemplary work in developing novel tools for neuroscience and using them to probe circuits underlying locomotion, reward, and sleep.

Also recognized as Award Finalists for discoveries ranging from neural mechanisms underlying cognitive function and emotional and social behaviors, the role of astrocytes at synapses in health and disease, and ion channels that enable somatosensation and pain perception are:

Senior Scientist Finalists:

Ben Barres, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine

David Julius, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Physiology, UC San Francisco

Early-Career Scientist Finalists:

Michael Halassa, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, New York Universitye

Kay Tye, Ph.D., Whitehead Career Development Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technologye


These individuals will be honored at the 2017 Innovators in Science Award Ceremony and Symposium on November 28-29, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.


See full post at https://www.takeda.com/newsroom/newsreleases/2017/innovators-in-science-award-honorees/

RCP alumnus receives NIH New Innovator Award

Posted: November 8th, 2017

Evan Macosko ('14) was named an NIH New Innovator 2017 based on his novel technique, DropSeq

Evan Macosko, M.D., Ph.D.

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital Project Title: Slide-Seq: High-Resolution In Situ Expression Profiling for Neuropathology Grant ID: DP2-AG-058488 Evan Macosko is a principal investigator in the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad institute, and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on developing and leveraging new technologies in genomics to characterize pathophysiological mechanisms in neuropsychiatric diseases. As a postdoc in Steven McCarroll’s lab at Harvard Medical School, he developed a new method, Drop-seq, for performing highly parallel gene expression analysis of single cells from complex neural tissues. He completed a psychiatry residency at MGH and McLean Hospital, and is currently an attending psychiatrist at MGH. He holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Genetics from Rockefeller University, and an M.D. from Weill Cornell Medical College. https://commonfund.nih.gov/newinnovator/awardrecipients

McLean’s President Announces New Chief Scientific Officer

Posted: August 18th, 2015

Ressler

It is my pleasure to welcome Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, to the McLean community. Dr. Ressler will assume the roles of Chief Scientific Officer and Chief of the Depression and Anxiety Disorders Division, effective August 1, 2015. He will also hold the Patricia and James Poitras Endowed Chair in Psychiatry at McLean Hospital, thanks to a generous gift from longtime hospital supporters Patricia and James Poitras.

As McLean’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Ressler will oversee the hospital’s comprehensive research enterprise, enhancing the breadth and depth of the scientific portfolio, promoting research collaborations, and advancing a vision for improved lab facilities. As McLean’s inaugural Chief of the Depression and Anxiety Disorders Division, he will work to improve communication across clinical operations, while working with researchers with an interest in depression and anxiety to identify greater opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues throughout the hospital and across translational and clinical research programs. A formal Division launch event will be planned for the fall.

Dr. Ressler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, comes to Belmont from the Emory University School of Medicine and Yerkes Research Center in Atlanta where, since 2001, he has been investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of fear learning and the process of extinction of fear. The primary objective of his work is to use the power of molecular genetics to understand the molecular biology, neural circuitry and behavioral biology of fear and recovery from fear in animal models and human patients.

Also a practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Ressler’s primary interest is in translational and clinical research on fear-related psychiatric disorders, with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His hope is that understanding how fear works in the mammalian brain in a laboratory setting will someday translate into improved treatment and prevention for disorders such as PTSD, phobias, panic and other anxiety disorders.

In addition to Dr. Ressler’s clinical and research work, his academic qualifications are broad, numerous and well recognized. He has more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, including a number of articles in high-profile journals including Nature, Cell, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Ressler is President-Elect of the Society for Biological Psychiatry and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute of Mental Health. He has served on numerous NIH study sections and serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Biological Psychiatry and Neuropsychopharmacology, and Depression and Anxiety.

Dr. Ressler holds a degree in molecular biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency training at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. As a faculty member at Emory, he was previously Interim Director of the Emory Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), a member of the Executive Committee of the Emory Neuroscience Graduate Program, and Director of the Emory Psychiatry Residency Research Program.

As we welcome Dr. Ressler, I would also like to take a moment to thank Joseph Coyle, MD, for serving as our first CSO. His leadership has provided critical support and mentorship for young researchers and has helped us to recruit and retain future generations of leaders in the field. Although he is stepping down as CSO, Dr. Coyle will continue to be an active member of our research community, leading the Molecular Psychiatry Research Laboratory and holding the Eben S. Draper Chair in Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Ressler to McLean and thanking Dr. Coyle for his leadership within our research community. A welcome reception for Dr. Ressler will be planned for this fall.

Scott L. Rauch, MD

S_R_signature

Dr. Rauch's letter was originally published in the August 3rd edition of the McLean News

Leadership Changes in the Division of Basic Neuroscience

Posted: August 10th, 2015

Left: Dr. William Carlezon Ph.D.
Right: Dr. Christopher Cowan Ph.D.

In July 2015 Dr. Joseph Coyle, M.D., stepped down from the role of Chief of the Division of Basic Neuroscience, and has been succeeded by Dr. William Carlezon, Ph.D. The Division of Basic Neuroscience, established in 2011, provides crucial support and mentorship to young scientists as well as providing an environment to establish leaders in psychiatric research. The Division also fosters collaboration between researchers at McLean and other research institutions. Dr. Carlezon will continue the exceptional work being done within the Department prioritizing teamwork and efficiency, with specific plans to streamline the grant application process moving forward.

“While Dr. Coyle is leaving big shoes to fill, I can think of no one better suited to take the helm than Dr. Carlezon, who has served as Assistant Chief of the Division for the past 17 months,” remarked McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD. “Dr. Carlezon is widely respected for his influential body of work and will provide strong leadership as he sets priorities for distribution of divisional resources and facilitates broader collaborations and partnerships among investigators within and beyond McLean. Through his energy, enthusiasm and generative style, Dr. Carlezon is poised to elevate and enhance the work being conducted within McLean’s Division of Basic Neuroscience.”

Dr. Christopher Cowan, Director of the Integrative Neurobiology Laboratory, has been appointed to the new role of Director of Education for the Division of Basic Neuroscience. As the Director of Education, Dr. Cowan will initiate and supervisor new trainings and educational opportunities within the Division of Basic Neuroscience. Dr. Cowan aims to create interactive training modules for the general neuroscience community at McLean, and to generate more funding opportunities for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees.

“While a big part of this role involves facilitating research training opportunities at McLean, another important aspect is the implementation of a long-range plan for the Basic Neuroscience Division,” said Dr. Cowan. “A strong focus on innovative training opportunities will enable us to grow and maintain our position as a leading institution for mental health basic research and to ensure that our trainees are equipped to be the future leaders in this exciting field of research.”

See original article in the July 14th issue of McLean News

Research Excellence During Residency and Beyond

Posted: May 26th, 2015

Evan Macosko, Class of 2014, Steven McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and Anindita Basu describe Drop-seq. Video: Boston Science Communications (more…)

Can Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder be treated with Xenon Gas?

Posted: November 30th, 2014

Image source:TheHealthyMind.com

McLean Hospital researchers are reporting that xenon gas, used in humans for anesthesia and diagnostic imaging, has the potential to be a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other memory-related disorders.

“In our study, we found that xenon gas has the capability of reducing memories of traumatic events,” said Edward G. Meloni, PhD, assistant psychologist at McLean Hospital and an assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “It’s an exciting breakthrough, as this has the potential to be a new treatment for individuals suffering from PTSD.”

In the study, published in the a recent issue of PLOS ONE, Meloni, and Marc J. Kaufman, PhD, director of the McLean Hospital Translational Imaging Laboratory, examined whether a low concentration of xenon gas could interfere with a process called reconsolidation – a state in which reactivated memories become susceptible to modification. "We know from previous research that each time an emotional memory is recalled, the brain actually restores it as if it were a new memory. With this knowledge, we decided to see whether we could alter the process by introducing xenon gas immediately after a fear memory was reactivated,” explained Meloni.

(more…)

Novel Treatment of Depression Shows Immediate Results

Posted: November 1st, 2014

Michael Rohan, a physicist at McLean Hospital’s Brain Imaging Center, demonstrated the low-field magnetic stimulation (LFMS) device he developed.

Individuals with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder who receive low-field magnetic stimulation (LFMS) show immediate and substantial mood improvement, McLean Hospital researchers report in the Aug. 1 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

“LFMS is unlike any current treatment. It uses magnetic fields that are a fraction of the strength but at a higher frequency than the electromagnetic fields used in TMS [transcranial magnetic stimulation] and ECT [electroconvulsive therapy],” explained first author Harvard Medical School.

According to Rohan, although other brain stimulation treatments like ECT and TMS are often effective for the treatment of depression, they typically take longer to impact mood, and ECT is associated with side effects such as memory loss. Similarly, while antidepressant medications can be highly effective for treating depression, it can take between four to six weeks before mood changes are detected.

“Importantly, LFMS appears to have an immediate effect on mood and thus has the potential to provide relief in emergency situations,” explained Rohan, who first reported the potential use of LFMS to treat depression in a groundbreaking study in 2004. “In addition to providing quick relief from symptoms, the other exciting piece about LFMS is that no side effects have been observed.”

(more…)

A New Clue into the Genetic Contribution to Addiction

Posted: September 30th, 2014

Image Source: drjanet.tv

A gene essential for normal brain development, and also linked to autism spectrum disorders, plays a critical role in addiction-related behaviors, according to Harvard Medical School investigators at McLean Hospital.

“Chronic exposure to drugs of abuse causes changes in the brain that could underlie the transition from casual drug use to addiction. By discovering the brain molecules that control the development of drug addiction, we hope to identify new treatment approaches,” Cowan said.

The Cowan lab team, led by Laura Smith, HMS research fellow in psychiatry at McLean, used animal models to show that the fragile X mental retardation protein, or FMRP, plays a critical role in the development of addiction-related behaviors.

[The findings were published in the latest issue of the neuroscience journal Neuron. (more…)

Using Advances in Genomics and Molecular Biology to Untangle the Brain

Posted: August 1st, 2014

As part of a new WBUR's new WBUR weekly feature Brain Matters, Carey Goldberg interviewed Dr. Steve Hyman. Dr. Hyman, who currently serves as the Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute explained the current challenges faced by Neuroscientests and the new methodologies which promise to solve them.

Goldberg: The Obama BRAIN initiative. We’ve had a ‘decade of the brain’ before, in the 1990s —

Dr.Hyman: It accomplished nothing. Because it was a media blitz, it wasn’t based on new science.

Goldberg: So — Why this? Why now? What’s different?

Dr. Hyman: Part of the growing public interest in the brain, and certainly much media attention, is a little bit unfortunate because it focuses on people applying tools, such as brain imaging, in ways that are untutored and underpowered but yield interesting — if not really scientifically valid — ideas about say, why a certain person is liberal or conservative, or why a certain person takes risks or is very self-protective. A subset of those may be scientifically addressable questions, but we’re a long way from understanding them deeply. Nonetheless they’re irresistible to the public and then of course it’s given rise to a new generation of debunkers — fair enough. So maybe we can set aside this false interest, this prurient interest in the brain and focus on the serious matters at hand.

The bottom line is the brain is well recognized to be the linchpin of being human in the sense that it is the substrate of thought, emotion, control of behavior, and therefore, undergirds our life trajectories, our actions, our morality. And when the brain gets sick in any way we realize that it exacts an extraordinarily severe toll on the sufferer, on families, on society. Just think about Alzheimer’s disease, heroin addiction, major depression, schizophrenia, autism, intellectual disability — these are common conditions in which people can no longer exert reliable, effective agency on their own behalf and therefore society often has to step in for them at great cost and often really great pain.

Tragically, for the longest time there wasn’t so much we could do about it. Using medications that were really discovered by luck, by prepared serendipity; using, in more recent years, the few psychotherapies, especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, which have been empirically tested, we have been able to help a lot of people manage their symptoms, in some cases to become better stoics. With imaging technologies we began some decades ago — though at really still very relatively poor resolution — to get spatial maps of what’s happening in the brain. But we were really stymied in terms of getting a deeper understanding, a better picture, for several reasons:...

For the full WBUR interview and links to the full Brain Matters series, click here.

Introducing Two New Psychiatry Fellowships

Posted: July 30th, 2014

As any student approaches graduation, there is always the anxiety and uncertainty around the question, "What do I do know?" The MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency program has two new fellowships, one clinical and one for research, for residents to consider when planning their post residency lives.

The MGH Fellowship in Public and Community Psychiatry is a clinical fellowship linking academic medicine with community care. The new fellowship will provide advanced training at the PGY-5 level for psychiatrists who want to pursue a career in public sector psychiatry. Consistent with the mission of, and sponsored by Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the fellowship is sited in the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center, a community mental health center whose emphasis is rehabilitation and recovery. Click here for more details about this fellowship.

Contact Oliver Freudenreich, MD, Director, MGH Fellowship in Public and Community Psychiatry for additional information about the fellowship.

Interested in a career in research? The new Stanley Center Psychiatric Genetics and Neuroscience Fellowship may be the answer for you. This fellowship is intended to create opportunities for advanced study and research in Neuroscience, and to serve as a bridge between clinical training and the development of a research career. The Stanley Center fellowship provides a fellowship stipend for one to two years following residency training. This fellowship is only available to members or graduates of the MGH/McLean Research Concentration Program or Brigham and Women's Hospital Harvard Longwood Residency Program. Additionally, applicants must establish collaboration with a participating mentor prior to the award date. Click here for the full list of application requirements.

Contact Jennifer Moran for for additional information about the Stanley Center Psychiatry Fellowship.

June Means More Than Just Warmer Weather to MGH/McLean Residents

Posted: June 17th, 2014

June of every year is a significant time for PGY4 residents, and not just because it brings warmer weather. June is the time when PGY4 residents give their Senior Talk, a brief presentation what each resident has learned during their residency before the start their post residency careers. The subject of each talk varies, from an exploration of how shame affects both the patient and the psychiatrist to how creating a genetically modified mouse can help further our understanding of eating disorders. For a complete list of the speakers and their topics, please refer to the bottom of the article.

Additionally, each June the MGH/McLean recognizes some of our residents for their outstanding work in the clinic as well as in the lab. Please see below for the full list of award recipients.

  • Hackett Award – Jennifer Gatchel, MD, PhD
  • Joyce and Richard Tedlow Award – Rachel Ross, MD, PhD
  • Paul Howard Award – Stephanie Cincotta, MD
  • Ed Messner Award – Heather Vestal, MD, MHS
  • Anne Alonso Award – Kathryn Tompkins, MD
  • Mel Kayce Award – Christina Brezing, MD
  • Laughlin Award – Alex Keuroghlian, MD, MSc
  • Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience Award – Evan Macosko, MD, PhD


(more…)

TMS: A Safe, Effective, and Non-invasive Treatment for Depression

Posted: June 4th, 2014

Joan Camprodon, MD, MPH, PhD (Class of 2012), demonstrates the use of TMS on Amanda Arulpragasam, MGH Research Assistant

For patients suffering from depression, the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry now offers another treatment option – a new clinic based in Charlestown that uses transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The clinic is part of a broader effort that includes a research enterprise program, both led by Joan Camprodon, MD, MPH, PhD, (Class of 2012) director of the Laboratory for Neuropsychiatry and Neuromodulation at Mass General. Dr. Camprodon’s team aims to understand how the brain’s structure and function affect disease and how interventions such as TMS can change the mechanisms that contribute to disease.

During a TMS procedure, focused magnetic impulses are directed to the brain. The electrical currents produced stimulate nerve cells involved in mood regulation that may be underactive in diseases such as depression. By restoring the equilibrium, TMS helps reset this imbalance of chemicals. from a diseased brain to a healthy one.

(more…)

New Research Links Clinician-Patient Relationship with Treatment Outcomes

Posted: May 9th, 2014

A meta-analysis of studies that investigated measures designed to improve health professionals’ interactions with patients confirms that such efforts can produce health effects just as beneficial as taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack. In contrast to previous such reviews, the current report from the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) only included randomized, controlled trials with more reliable results than those included in earlier studies. While it has long been believed that a good patient-clinician relationship can improve health outcomes, objective evidence to support that belief has been hard to come by.

“Although the effect we found was small, this is the first analysis of the combined results of previous studies to show that relationship factors really do make a difference in patients’ health outcomes,” says Helen Riess, MD, (pictured above) Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the report in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

(more…)

Unraveling the Genetic Factors Behind Schizophrenia

Posted: March 5th, 2014

Image courtesy of Alan Hoofring, Medical Arts Design Section, NIH

Oligodendrocytes (green) wrap electrical insulation called myelin around axons (purple). Image courtesy of Alan Hoofring, Medical Arts Design Section, NIH.

Schizophrenia is one of the most disabling of all psychiatric illnesses. Sadly, it affects is about 1% of the global population and often strikes early in life.

Many studies have looked into causes and potential interventions, and it has been long known that genetic factors play a role in determining the risk of developing schizophrenia. However, recent work has shown that there no single gene or small number of genes explains much of the risk for illness. Instead, groups of genes interact to create the illness.

In a new paper published in PLOS ONE (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089441), MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency Program faculty Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD, Dost Ongur, MD, PhD (Class of 2004), and Jordan W. Smoller, MD, ScD, report promising evidence on what one of those important groups of genes may be.

(more…)

Linking Fear to the Brain

Posted: December 9th, 2013

President Obama's announcement of the BRAIN Initiative earlier this year brought public attention to key the questions of cognitive neuroscience, understand how brain activity leads to perception, decision making and behavior; and ultimately, use this knowledge to provide more effective treatments for debilitating diseases.

A new paper published in the current issue of Neuron, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers report that increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of the brain is linked to decreased activity in the amygdala, the portion of the brain used in the creation of memories of events that scared those exposed.

According to author Vadim Bolshakov, PhD, director of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at McLean and professor at Harvard Medical School, this finding is significant in that it could lead to better methods to prevent PTSD.

"A single exposure to something traumatic or scary can be enough to create a fear memory--causing someone to expect and be afraid in similar situations in the future," said Bolshakov. "What we're seeing is that we may one day be able to prevent those fear memories."

Bolshakov and his colleagues tested their theory using animal models. Dividing the mice into two groups, some were taught to fear an auditory stimulus while in others fear memory was extinguished Increased activation of mPFC in extinguished animals led to inhibition of the amygdala and significant decreases in fear responses.

"For example, if a sound ended with an extremely loud shriek, a subject would come to expect that scary noise at the end of the sound," explained Bolshakov. "What we found was when we suppressed the fear memory by decreasing activity in the amygdala, the subjects were not afraid of the end of the auditory stimulus any longer."

Bolshakov notes that this work could have serious implications for the treatment of a number of conditions including PTSD.

"While there is still a great deal of research that needs to be done before our work can be translated to clinical trials, what we are showing has the potential to ensure that individuals exposed to trauma were not haunted by the conditions surrounding their initial stressor."

Adapted from a McLean Hospital news release.

A New Post-Residency Fellowship for the Psychiatric Scientist

Posted: November 26th, 2013

Stanley Center Fellowship in Psychiatric Genetics and Neuroscience

The MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency is committed to fostering the research aspirations of promising psychiatric scientists. While our NIMH-funded Research Concentration Program provides support to residents during clinical training, a critical time for a researcher's career is immediately following their residency, before they have received extramural funding (e.g. a NIH Career Development, or K, Award). But as a newly announced fellowship shows, this crucial "bridge" period is increasingly well-supported by a range of opportunities for MGH/McLean residents.

On November 18th, the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, which is part of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, announced a new post-graduate residency research fellowship exclusively available to MGH/McLean residents. The Stanley Center Fellowship for Psychiatric Genetics and Neuroscience will provide one to two years of post-residency salary support, representing at least 70% effort, for recently graduated residents beginning careers in psychiatric research. The effort represents a new partnership between the residency and the Stanley Center, which is directed by Steve Hyman, MD, a former McLean resident who later served as head of NIMH and then Harvard Provost, before taking on the Stanley Center post. Read the full announcement for this award here.

This new fellowship joins a host of other research opportunities available to MGH/McLean residents during their PGY5 and PGY6 years. (more…)

Announcing McLean’s Chief Scientific Officer

Posted: October 3rd, 2013

Joseph T. Coyle, MD, will assume the role of Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) for McLean Hospital, effective immediately. In this newly created position, Dr. Coyle will play the principal leadership role with regard to McLean’s research mission. Dr. Coyle’s leadership experience and extensive academic accomplishments make him a superb choice to serve as the CSO. His leadership will help to provide critical support and mentorship for young researchers, and enable us to even more effectively recruit and retain tomorrow’s leaders in psychiatry and neuroscience research. Importantly, the CSO will also oversee research administration at McLean, working closely with Director, Raquel Espinosa, and play a critical role at the interface with Partners Health Care and Harvard Medical School, along with McLean's CAO, Shelly Greenfield, MD, MPH.

(more…)

Novel imaging approach shows both myelin and axonal changes in schizophrenia

Posted: September 23rd, 2013

A recently published study by Dost Ongur, MD, PhD, Co-Director for the Research Concentration Program, Clinical Director of the Psychotic Disorders Division at McLean Hospital, and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, has found abnormalities in the myelin in the brain's white matter.

The research used two types of brain imaging: magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which measures the levels of particular chemicals in the brain; and magnetization transfer imaging, which detects changes in the level of myelin in the brain's white matter. Using these techniques, Dr. Ongur found evidence of abnormalities in both myelin and axons (nerve cell projections) in patients with schizophrenia, a serious psychiatric disorder. More specifically, they found reduced myelination of white matter pathways in people with schizophrenia, and also abnormal spread of a type of small molecule (called N-acetylaspartate) thought to be mainly contained within nerve cells.

"The notion that the brain in schizophrenia is characterized by abnormalities in connections between distant brain regions is not new, and imaging studies using diffusion tensor imaging have long suggested that the white matter where these connections travel is abnormal in this condition,"  Dr. Dost Ongur said in a journal news release. "However, we have not had the tools to determine whether the abnormalities are in axons, or the myelin sheath around the axons, or both."

Click here to read the full article in U.S. News and World Report.

Click here for the abstract of the article in Biological Psychiatry.

Brain Imaging and Food Addiction

Posted: July 11th, 2013

Harvard researcher David Ludwig has linked low blood glucose levels with high activation of the nucleus accumbens, a brain region specifically involved in reward and craving, known addictive behaviors. Using fMRI analysis, his team found that the glycemic load of foods, not caloric intake, significantly alters brain function, promoting hunger and overeating, behaviors related to substance abuse and dependence.

Read the full article on the Harvard Medical School website.

Evidence-Based Research about Suicide

Posted: June 27th, 2013

Matthew K. Nock is the director of the Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research at Harvard. As suicide rates rise higher than murder and warfare, researchers are searching for clues and ways of predicting risk in individuals. "Last year, more active-duty U.S. soldiers killed themselves than died in combat; their suicide rate has been rising since 2004." Nock, a clinical psychologist and recipient of a MacArthur genius award, is interviewing soldiers who have recently attempted suicide. He hopes to glean patterns from these data, and use that knowledge as a path to prevention. He hopes to develop a predictive test and is currently investigating the use of the Implicit Association Test, developed by Mahzarin Banaji at Harvard.

Read the full article on the New York Times website.

Imbalance, Healing and Transformation during Residency

Posted: June 26th, 2013

In June, the Class of 2013 presented their work in the annual Senior Talks Symposium at McLean and MGH. At McLean, residents discussed the process of disruption and repair, identifying with patients, and the importance of screening and intervention for public health. Two complementary talks addressed the importance of peer education, and the value of peer support during residency. The talks in the Ether Dome at MGH ranged from a philosophical analysis of autonomy to neuroimaging in mouse models. Residents presented on complicating factors such as sociocultural issues, comorbidity, and trauma and their impact on public health.

Speakers are listed below.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013 McLean, de Marneffe, Room 132
  • Benjamin Herbstman, M.D., M.H.S. - "Healing through Disruption and Repair"
  • Christopher Keary, M.D. - "The Resident as Teacher: Experiences designing a resident teaching curriculum"
  • Brian Hurley, M.D., M.B.A. - "Transforming the World by Providing Care to Patients who Use Substances"
  • Ying Wang, M.D. - "Parallel Journeys - Learning and Growing Alongside My Patients"
  • Lazaro Zayas, M.D. and Jonathan Moran, M.D., M.B.A. - "Are we all imbalanced? Attempting to achieve well-being in residency: Getting by with a little help from our friends"
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 MGH, Ether Dome
  • John Taylor, M.D., M.B.A. - "The Burden of Psychiatric Illness in High Utilizers of Healthcare Resources"
  • Justin Chen, M.D. - "Toward suicide prevention in East Asia: A sociocultural, historical, and legal perspective"
  • Avi Gerstenblith, M.D. - "Reflections"
  • Michael Halassa, M.D., Ph.D. - "Why Psychiatry?"
  • Amanda Green, M.D. - "Autonomy"
  • Oriana Vesga Lopez, M.D. - "Remembering and working through"
  • Elizabeth Levey, M.D. - "From the Ashes of Disaster: Growing up in Liberia"
  • Leah Bauer, M.D. - "Three Extraordinary Women and What They’ve Taught Me about Life and Doctoring"

DSM-5 Controversy and its Impact on Research

Posted: May 22nd, 2013

“NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories,” stated NIMH director Thomas Insel in April, 2013. He supports an effort to re-categorize mental-health disorders according to their biological bases. To this end, the NIMH is developing a framework called the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). Many scientists protest that the DSM categories do not allow for effective clinical treatment. Some researchers also have concerns that the RDoC focus on biological mechanisms will detract from research on clinical symptoms.

Read the full article here.  Source: Nature, Wednesday, May 10, 2013

Breakthrough system for producing images of brain, nervous system

Posted: May 20th, 2013

"Brainbow," originally developed by researchers at Harvard University in 2007, is getting an upgrade. This system creates colorful images of brain tissue by activating multiple fluorescent proteins in neurons. Brainbow has the resolution to visualize individual neurons, which has enhanced researchers' ability to chart the circuitry of the brain and nervous system.

In 2013 Brainbow is getting significant technical improvements. The colors will be brighter, more variable, more persistent, and therefore more usable. These enhancements will enable researchers to better target certain parts of the brain and visualize the neuronal connections between different regions of the brain.

Read the full article in the Harvard GazetteSource: Harvard Gazette, Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Envisioning the future with complicated grief

Posted: May 14th, 2013

The loss of a loved one is an especially painful and disruptive event. A study by Harvard researchers shows that, for a small number of people, the sorrow that comes with the death of a spouse or partner can lead to problems not only in remembering the past, but also in imagining the future.

As described in a paper published last month in Clinical Psychological Science, Professor of Psychology Richard McNally and clinical psychology graduate student Don Robinaugh found that while people suffering from complicated grief — a syndrome marked by intense, debilitating emotional distress and yearning for a lost loved one — had difficulty envisioning specific future events, those problems disappeared when they were asked to imagine an alternate future that included their lost loved one.

The full story available at here.

Source: Harvard Gazette, May 10, 2013

Faith in treatment; faith in God

Posted: May 9th, 2013

Does religious belief have anything to do with psychiatric treatment outcomes? Recent research by David Rosmarin of McLean Hospital suggests that the level of a patient's belief in God may have influence on the likelihood of treatment response.

By asking 159 patients in a day-treatment program the question "To what extent do you believe in God or a Higher Power?" Rosmarin found that those who answered "Very" or "Moderately" were more likely to respond to treatment than patients who expressed lesser religious belief. This relationship is believed to be mediated by a greater expectancy of treatment success: greater belief in God was correlated to greater belief in credibility of treatment and expectation of treatment efficacy.

Further reading available here. The published journal article can be found here.

Investigating the roots of aggression

Posted: April 24th, 2013

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have identified two pairs of dopaminergic neurons with links to the fly brain's central complex, suggesting that important components of aggression-related behaviors may be processed there."This is the first research to identify single dopaminergic neurons that modulate a complex behavior—aggression—in fruit flies,” said Edward Kravitz, George Packer Berry Professor of Neurobiology at HMS and lead author of the study.

Read the full story here. Source: HMS News, April 18, 2013

HMS Professor George Church on the Brain Activity Map

Posted: February 25th, 2013

George Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, is one of the key researchers behind the next big project in neuroscience: The Brain Activity Map. The project, which has been compared in scope to that of the Human Genome Project, aims to provide scientists with a full map of the brain's functions and connections.

Church sat recently for an interview on the project, its applications, and his own role. The full interview can be found here. Source: HMS News February 20, 2013.

HMS to launch $100M project with NFL Players Association

Posted: February 5th, 2013

Harvard Medical School has received $100M from the NFL Players Association to conduct a ten-year study on health risks for active and retired players

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) has awarded Harvard Medical School a $100 million grant to create a transformative 10-year initiative — Harvard Integrated Program to Protect and Improve the Health of NFLPA Members. The program will marshal the intellectual, scientific, and medical expertise throughout Harvard University to discover new approaches to diagnose, treat, and prevent injuries and illnesses found in both active and retired players.

“We are honored to work with the NFLPA to address the health challenges faced by NFL players and so many of America’s athletes,” said Jeffrey S. Flier, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University. “We will harness the vast expertise of Harvard Medical School, its world-class affiliated hospitals, and Harvard University’s 10 Schools to ensure that we make a meaningful difference in the lives of these players through advances in medicine, science, and technology. We are committed to going beyond our walls. We will reach out to other institutions when necessary, in order to access the resources needed to solve the most pressing medical issues identified by the NFLPA.”

Read the full story here.Source: Harvard Gazette, January 29, 2013

He wrote the book of love

Posted: January 3rd, 2013

Love is hard, and Edison Miyawaki knows it. He wrote the book on it.

The insomniac neurologist, who practices at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and teaches at Harvard Medical School, stayed awake many late nights pondering love and its complexities for his latest book, “What to Read on Love, Not Sex: Freud, Fiction, and the Articulation of Truth in Modern Psychological Science.”

Don’t be fooled by the winding title, or the presence of Sigmund Freud, says Miyawaki. This is a book for anyone “trying to find the right language to frame very complicated emotion.”

Source: Harvard Gazette, January 2nd, 2013

Read the full story here.

Novel study reveals lasting positive residual effects from meditation

Posted: November 15th, 2012

A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating. In their report in the November issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, investigators at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston University (BU), and several other research centers also found differences in those effects based on the specific type of meditation practiced.

“The two different types of meditation training our study participants completed yielded some differences in the response of the amygdala — a part of the brain known for decades to be important for emotion — to images with emotional content,” says Gaëlle Desbordes, a research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and at the BU Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology, corresponding author of the report. “This is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state.”

Source: Harvard Gazette, November 15, 2012

Read the full story here

Steve Hyman keynotes RCP symposium: “The Future of the Psychiatric Scientist”

Posted: November 14th, 2012

The December 12th event featured talks from leaders in psychiatry and neuroscience research, including a keynote presentation from Steve Hyman, former head of the National Institute for Mental Health, and currently Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT).

A poster session featured work from current RCP residents and allow faculty, residents, and visiting applicants to share their thoughts and experience with the wide ranging possibilities for research in the Boston neuroscience and psychiatric communities.


Schedule
  • 10:30 - 11:00 | Coffee & Pastries
  • 11:00 - 11:15 | Introductory remarks – Jerrold Rosenbaum & Scott Rauch
  • 11:15 - 11:30 | Overview of the RCP – Justin Baker, Dost Ongur, and John Denninger
  • 11:30 - 12:00 | Keynote Presentation – Steve Hyman
  • 12:00 - 12:15 | Lunch Buffet
  • 12:15 - 01:45 | Selected Scientific Presentations - Faculty
  • 01:45 - 02:00 | Closing Remarks - Maurizio Fava & Shelly Greenfield
  • 02:00 - 03:00 | Poster Session - Residents of the MGH/McLean RCP

Free will; Good & Evil; Nature & Nurture

Posted: June 14th, 2012

Pictured: Claire Brickell discusses the topic of free will in the context of psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Over the past two weeks, the Class of 2012 presented their work in the annual Senior Talks Symposium at McLean and MGH. Topics during week one covered a wide range and included a discussion of evil and psychopathy, group psychotherapy for patients with psychotic disorders, the neural correlates of emotional experiences in depression, and the epigenetics of schizophrenia. Week two featured a discussion of combined neuromodulation and neuroimaging, the psychodynamics of psychopharmacology, and the rise of "Bath Salts" as a new illicit drug. The full schedule is listed below.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012 McLean, de Marneffe, Room 132

  • 1:00 – Jeff DeVido, M.D. – The Question of Evil
  • 1:30 – Karen Adler, M.D. – From object to subject: The role of the patient's experience of the therapist's subjectivity as a catalyst for change
  • 2:00 – Ellen House, M.D. – A Safe Arena: Group Psychotherapy and Psychosis
  • 2:30 – Chris Tangren, M.D. – The Couch and the Anchor: The Use of Metaphors in Psychotherapy
  • 3:30 – Brad Ruzicka, M.D. Ph.D. – Nature, Nurture, and Chromatin Structure
  • 4:00 – Claire Brickell, M.D. – Psychotherapy and Free Will
  • 4:30 – Sharmin Ghaznavi, M.D., Ph.D. – Neural Evidence for the Struggle To Feel Good in Major Depression

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 MGH, Haber Auditorium

  • 1:00 – Brian Schulman, M.D. – The Psychodynamics of Psychopharmacology
  • 1:30 – Amelia Dubovsky, M.D. – A Brief History of Graduate Medical Education: the Birth of Duty Hours
  • 2:00 – Hannah Brown, M.D. –Bath Salts: The Rise of a New Drug
  • 2:30 – Joan Camprodon, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. – Simultaneous combination of TMS and fMRI: a window into mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disease and recovery
  • 3:15 – Argo Caminis, M.D. – At the Couch-side: Teaching for Medical Students and Junior Residents in Inpatient Psychiatry
  • 3:45 – Nicole Christian, M.D. – Traditional Mental Health Care in a Post-Conflict Society
  • 4:15 – Kelly Irwin, M.D. – Is everyone having a baby? Or is it just me?

The power of belief

Posted: May 24th, 2012

In a study of responses to St. John's wort, sertraline, and placebo, Justin Chen, Class of 2013, and colleagues showed that patients who believed they were receiving active therapy rather than placebo obtained greater improvement, independent of treatment. They found that patient beliefs regarding treatment may have a stronger association with clinical outcome than the actual medication received, and the strength of this association may depend upon the particular combination of treatment guessed and treatment received.

Chen JA, Papakostas GI, Youn SJ, Baer L, Clain AJ, Fava M, Mischoulon D. (2011) Association between patient beliefs regarding assigned treatment and clinical response: reanalysis of data from the Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Dec;72(12):1669-76.

Fostering research education and mentorship during residency

Posted: October 13th, 2011

In Spring 2011, the residency program was awarded an Institutional Research Education Grant (R25) from the National Institute for Mental Health. Under the leadership of Maurizio Fava MD and Shelly Greenfield MD, MPH and with support from over fifty junior and senior research faculty across our two campuses, this five-year, $250K education grant is designed to foster research training and mentorship for all residents in our program.  In addition, the grant allows the residency to further develop the Research Concentration Program, a program established in 2007 to optimize clinical and research training for residents with substantial research experience who plan to embark on psychiatric research careers.  John Denninger, MD, PhD, and Dost Ongur, MD, PhD will serve as co-director of the RCP, with recent graduate Justin Baker MD, PhD, serving as Associate Director.

Pictured, from left: John Denninger, Co-Director of the RCP; Shelly Greenfield, co-PI; Maurizio Fava, co-PI; Kathy Sanders, Training Director; Justin Baker, Associate Director of the RCP; Joy Littlefield.