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.
Unraveling the Genetic Factors Behind Schizophrenia
Posted: March 5th, 2014
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…)
A New Post-Residency Fellowship for the Psychiatric Scientist
Posted: November 26th, 2013
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…)
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
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