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

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…)

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…)

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?