Jill I’ll never forget the day that he climbed the spiral staircase to my office. Each step was a strain and by the time he reached the top step and sat down beside me, his breathing was hard and heavy. I asked, "How's your back?" He answered, "Jill, I would live the rest of my life with daily back pain if I could only stop the demons in my head." That was about 15 years ago and "he" was Thad Eure, III. I was never able to fully comprehend how a person suffering with mental illness feels. I still don't. But I know that those of us not suffering should be more empathetic and understanding and patient. We should realize that even if we can't "see" how a friend may be afflicted, their demons are [...]
Anorexia Nervosa Classification Research Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., FAED UNC Department of Psychiatry Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry Professor of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health Founding Director, UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders Co-Director, UNC Center for Psychiatric Genomics Using advanced data analytic approaches, Dr. Bulik and her team demonstrated that individuals with anorexia show strong genetic correlations not only with other psychiatric disorders (i.e. obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety disorders), but also very strong negative genetic correlations with body mass index, body fat percentage, and other metabolic traits such as fasting, insulin, leptin, and type 2 diabetes. These novel observations encouraged the team to rewrite the book on anorexia nervosa and to reconceptualize the illness as both a psychiatric and metabolic disorder. Advanced data analytic approaches allow the team to conduct genetic correlations [...]
Largest Consortium in Psychiatric History Patrick Sullivan, M.D., FRANZC UNC Department of Psychiatry Yeargen Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics Director, Center for Psychiatric Genomics, UNC Department of Psychiatry Dr. Sullivan created the Psychiatric Genetics Consortium (PGC), the largest consortium in the history of psychiatry with 800+ investigators from 40+ countries. Results from the PGC have already provided clues to the genes involved in schizophrenia and bipolar depression. The Foundation of Hope has provided funding on multiple occasions to support efforts to uncover the genetic basis of psychiatric disorders. Our long-term support helped begin the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium in 2007. Since its inception, it has produced over 40 major papers that have provided many novel insights into the fundamental genetic basis of psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression (including highly severe individuals getting ECT), postpartum depression, [...]
Markers Discovered for Psychosis Predictors Diana Perkins, M.D., M.P.H. UNC Department of Psychiatry Professor of Psychiatry Director of UNC Outreach and Support Intervention Services (OASIS) Director, Early Psychosis Interventions in North Carolina (EPI-NC) The research supported by the Foundation of Hope was the groundwork for Dr. Perkins' NIMH-funded studies aimed to discover predictors and mechanism for the development of psychosis in persons at clinical high-risk. In particular, she and her team have identified markers related to immune system dysregulation as important predictors of psychosis.
World-Renowned Women’s Mood Disorders Program David R. Rubinow, M.D. UNC Department of Psychiatry Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine Founder, UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders Support from the Foundation of Hope created the Women’s Mood Disorders Program at UNC. This program is now world-renowned and remains the only one in the country with an inpatient peripartum unit and with an NIH T32 training fellowship. Among other accomplishments, studies by the program investigators have demonstrated the following: 1) Estrogen prevents both depressive symptoms and acceleration of cardiovascular disease in perimenopausal women (thus arguing for the potential re-introduction of hormone therapy in this population); and 2) The unique susceptibility of some women to mood disorders during periods of reproductive change resides, at least in part, in differential genomic responses to hormone stimuli (which has shown to be present in the [...]
PTSD Symptom Reduction in Veterans Eric Elbogen, Ph.D. UNC Department of Psychiatry Associate Professor of Psychiatry With support from the Foundation of Hope, Dr. Elbogen and his team identified an astonishing frequency of behavioral disorders in returning veterans as well as the lack of financial literacy, which contributed to their difficulty reintegrating. This led the team to develop several successful interventions: 1) a mobile technology-based cognitive rehabilitation in veterans with traumatic brain injury and PTSD, the first such intervention to reduce anger, aggression, impulsivity, and PTSD symptoms in this population; and 2) a financial literacy training intervention, which decreased both the emotional and financial burden of our returning troops.
Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Flavio Frohlich, Ph.D. UNC Department of Psychiatry Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Cell Biology & Physiology Director, Carolina Center for Neurostimulation With the support of the Foundation of Hope, Dr. Frohlich and his team have taken a theoretical idea of how brain circuits can be restored to treat mental illness to promising clinical trials in schizophrenia, depression, and chronic pain. The team has discovered how weak electric current can restore brain communication for treating medication-resistant psychiatric symptoms such as depressed mood and auditory hallucinations. They've also started the Carolina Center for Neurostimulation, which is globally unique in its tight integration of preclinical and clinical research together with clinical care in the field of non-invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of mental illness. Dr. Frohlich's team has been able to develop an animal model that shares essential [...]
Autism Pre-Symptomatic Prevention Joseph Piven, M.D. UNC Department of Psychiatry Thomas E. Castelloe Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology Director, Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities Dr. Piven's work has identified potential targets for intervention in autism as well as demonstrating that brain scans in infants can accurately predict which infants will go on to receive a diagnosis of autism. This work has tremendous potential for altering clinical practice by enabling the possibility of presymptomatic prevention in children at risk. Over the last 12 years, Dr. Piven has led the NIH-funded Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) Network. The work of this network is unique in mapping brain development in the first two years of life, in a high familial risk sample, as autistic symptoms first unfold in affected children. The work has demonstrated the existence of presymptomatic brain changes [...]
Cutting-Edge Neuroimaging Approaches Garret Stuber, Ph.D. UNC Department of Psychiatry Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Cell Biology & Physiology Developed cutting-edge neuroimaging approaches that led to the discovery of how adaptive and maladaptive behaviors are controlled by dynamic changes in networks involving the frontal cortex, a region implicated in many psychiatric illnesses. One of Dr. Stuber's proudest and highest impact research accomplishments was developing novel approaches for deciphering how frontal cortical network dynamics control adaptive and maladaptive behaviors. Frontal cortex is known to be critical for controlling decision making, impulsivity, and general executive function. Disruption in frontal cortical function is thought to be a driver of many forms of mental illness, ranging from addiction, depression, and schizophrenia. The problem is, neuroscientists and psychiatrists still have a very poor mechanistic understanding of how different cell types in the frontal [...]
First Ever FDA-Approved PPD Treatment Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., M.P.H. UNC Department of Psychiatry Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and Chair of Psychiatry Director, UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders Performed the first study of a novel compound – a neurosteroid – for rapid treatment of postpartum depression, a treatment that will soon be available to the 10-15% of women who develop postpartum depression. As a perinatal psychiatrist and clinician-scientist, Dr. Meltzer-Brody's proudest and highest impact research accomplishment is serving as the academic PI for the brexanolone clinical trials in the treatment of postpartum depression (PPD). Now approved by the FDA, this is the first pharmacotherapy specifically developed and approved for PPD. PPD is a debilitating mental illness that impacts at least 10-15% of women that give birth. This research is directly tied to Dr. Meltzer-Brody's long-term interest in understanding [...]