30 Years of Advancements in Research

2005

Basic Research

Francis S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., of Weill Cornell Medical College, was the recipient of two NARSAD Young Investigator Grants (in 2002 and 2005) that supported research on growth factors called NGF (nerve growth factor) and BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which support the birth and growth of new brain cells. Dr.

Francis S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D. - Brain & behavior research expert on mental illness
Francis S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D.

Scientific Council Member

Vice Chair for Research, Department of Psychiatry

Weill Cornell Medical College

2002, 2005 Young Investigator Grantee

2010 Independent Investigator Grantee

Dr. Lee is a pioneer in using cell biological and animal model systems to understand the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. In particular, his research is focused on using genetic models to delineate the role of growth factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), in complex behaviors related to affective disorders. His laboratory has produced one of the first mouse models of a human genetic variant that has led to insights into the molecular and genetic basis of anxiety. This research provides a first step in using model systems of human genetic variants to test novel therapeutics, and also to devise biomarker strategies determining who will and will not respond to psychiatric medications.

Dr. Lee received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, followed by psychiatry residency training at Payne Whitney Clinic and postdoctoral training in molecular neuroscience at New York University and the University of California, San Francisco.

2005

New technologies

Karl Deisseroth used his 2005 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant to develop optogenetics, a new technology that has revolutionized systems neuroscience by providing precise control over brain circuitry in awake, behaving animals. Optogenetics involves the use of light to rapidly open and close the membrane channels that make neurons fire and cease firing and allows for observation of the effects on behavior.

Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D.
Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D.

Scientific Council Member

D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Stanford University

2005, 2007 Young Investigator Grantee

2013 Goldman-Rakic Prizewinner for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience

Dr. Deisseroth coined the term “optogenetics” to name the breakthrough technology he developed that uses light to control millisecond-precision activity patterns in genetically-defined cell types within the brains of freely moving animals. His laboratory and thousands of others around the globe are now applying this technology to probe the dynamics of neural circuits in both healthy and diseased brains.

Dr. Deisseroth received his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Harvard in 1992, his Ph.D. from Stanford in 1998, and his M.D. from Stanford in 2000. He completed postdoctoral training, medical internship and adult psychiatry residency at Stanford, and he was board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in 2006. While continuing as a practicing psychiatrist specializing in mood disorders and autism-spectrum disease, Dr. Deisseroth teaches and serves as the chair of undergraduate education in bioengineering at the Stanford University School of Engineering.

2004

Next generation therapies

In groundbreaking work, Kerry J. Ressler, M.D., Ph.D., with the aid of a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, discovered that targeted medication can improve the effect of psychotherapy. This paradigm-shifting work showed that treatment with D-cycloserine (or DCS) enhanced the effect of exposure-based psychotherapy for fear of heights, and led to further work showing similar results for obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and social phobia.

Kerry Ressler, M.D., Ph.D.
Kerry Ressler, M.D., Ph.D.

Scientific Council Member

Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,

Emory University School of Medicine

2002, 2005 Young Investigator Grantee

2009 Freedman Prizewinner for Exceptional Basic Research

Meet the Scientist Webinar

Updates on the Science Behind PTSD

Dr. Ressler’s work focuses on translational research that bridges basic studies of the mechanisms of fear in animal models with clinical research on the genetics that underlie human fear and anxiety disorders, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Based on the premise that the neurobiology of emotional learning provides tremendous insight into fear-related disorders, Dr. Ressler’s preclinical laboratory is examining the molecular neurobiology of brain systems that mediate fear and emotion in animals, concentrating on the amygdala, a key brain region involved.

Dr. Ressler received a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology at MIT and received an M.D., Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School. In 1992 at Harvard, he was the first student of Dr. Linda Buck, helping to identify the molecular organization of the odorant receptor family in mice, part of the body of work for which she shared the Nobel Prize in 2004.

2003

Basic Research

Daniel Weinberger, M.D., received a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant in 2000 to take an innovative approach in the search to identify genes that increase susceptibility for developing schizophrenia. Dr.

Daniel Weinberger, M.D. - Brain & behavior research expert on schizophrenia
Daniel Weinberger, M.D.

Scientific Council Member

Director and CEO

Lieber Institute for Brain Development

1990, 2000 Distinguished Investigator Grantee

1993 Lieber Prizewinner for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research

Dr. Weinberger’s research has focused on brain mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, especially schizophrenia. He was instrumental in focusing research on the role of abnormal brain development as a risk factor for schizophrenia. His lab identified the first genetic effects that account for variation in specific human cognitive functions and in human temperament and identified brain mechanisms related to a number of genes that have been implicated in causing psychosis, including COMT, GRM3, KCNH2, DISC1, NRG1 and ERBB4. He and his colleagues developed the first high fidelity animal model of schizophrenia. In 2003, Science magazine highlighted the genetic research of his lab as the second biggest scientific breakthrough of the year, second to the origins of the cosmos.

Dr. Weinberger was formerly Director of the Genes, Cognition, and Psychosis Program of the Intramural Research Program at the NIMH.

2003

Next generation therapies

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) was developed in the late 1980s; however it was not tested as a potential treatment for resistant depression until Helen Mayberg, M.D., used a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant in 2003 to do pilot studies. Dr. Mayberg hypothesized that DBS could be targeted to a section of the brain called the subcallosal cingulated (also known as “Brodmann Area 25”) that she had identified as linked to depression in earlier research.

Helen Mayberg, M.D.
Helen Mayberg, M.D.

Scientific Council Member

Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Radiology

Dorothy C. Fuqua Chair in Psychiatric Neuroimaging and Therapeutics

Emory University School of Medicine

1991 Young Investigator Grantee

1995 Independent Investigator Grantee

2002 Distinguished Investigator Grantee

2007 Falcone Prizewinner for Outstanding Achievement in Affective Disorders Research (Colvin Prize)

Dr. Mayberg leads a multidisciplinary research program committed to defining the “neurology of depression.” Her imaging studies over the past 20 years have systematically examined functional abnormalities characterizing the disorder, as well as neural mechanisms mediating antidepressant response to various evidence-based treatments. The goal of her studies is to identify neurobiological markers predicting treatment response and optimized treatment selection. Her long-term interest in neural network models of mood regulation in health and disease led to the development of a new intervention for treatment-resistant patients using Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a study initiated at the University of Toronto and now continuing at Emory.

Dr. Mayberg received a B.A. in psychobiology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an M.D. degree from the University of Southern California School of Medicine.

2002

Basic Research

Kenneth Kendler, M.D., received a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant in 2000 to pioneer studies on identifying gene-environment interactions linked to the development of mental illness. He conducted a pilot study aimed at clarifying the role of environmental risk factors in major depression.

Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D. - Brain & Behavior Research Expert on Schizophrenia
Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D.

Scientific Council Member

Banks Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry

Professor of Human Genetics

Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University

2000, 2010 Distinguished Investigator Grantee

1995 Lieber Prizewinner for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research

Dr. Kendler’s research focuses on studies of psychiatric genetics in brain and behavior disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression, alcoholism, personality disorders and nicotine dependence. He utilizes methods ranging from family studies to large-sample population-based twin studies to molecular genetic studies aimed at identifying specific genes that influence the vulnerability to developing these illnesses. Data collection for these studies has been completed in Virginia, Ireland, China, Norway and Sweden.

Dr. Kendler has been involved in DSM-III-R, DSM-IV and most recently, DSM-5 where he chaired the Scientific Review Committee. Since 1996, he has served as Director of the Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics. Before joining Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Kendler worked at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

2001

New technologies

In 1998, Yvette Sheline, M.D. received a NARSAD Grant for a project titled “Affect Induced Activation of the Amygdala in Major Depression.” The results of this project, published in 2001, demonstrated that antidepressants correct abnormal brain function by reducing limbic over-activation and prefrontal cortex under-activation to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Yvette I. Sheline, M.D.
Yvette I. Sheline, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry, Radiology, Neurology

Director, Center for Neuromodulation in Depression and Stress (CNDS)

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

1998 Young Investigator Grantee

2002, 2005 Independent Investigator Grantee

Joined the Foundation Scientific Council in 2013

Dr. Yvette Sheline is known for her pioneering studies of hippocampal volume loss in major depression and the moderating effects of antidepressant treatment, work widely cited in psychiatric literature. Her research has also integrated structural/functional neuroimaging with depression course, neuropsychological correlates, and treatment outcomes. She seeks to determine how depression affects the brain using neuroimaging techniques, and to understand how stress produces functional dysregulation. Dr. Sheline investigates treatment effects of antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy on emotion-induced fMRI activity in PTSD and depression; longitudinal effects of treatment on neuropsychological and brain structural variables in late-life depression; and modifiers of brain amyloid binding in normal aging and preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn, Dr. Sheline was Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Center for Depression Stress and Neuroimaging at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

2000

Next generation therapies

With the help of a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, Scientific Council Member Mark S. George, M.D. developed Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a new kind of non-invasive brain stimulation as an alternative for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in treatment-resistant depression. In 1995, unable to get NIH funding for TMS, a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant allowed the work to gather important clinical information and served as "bridge" funding to set the stage for the emergence of this industry.

2000

Basic Research

In 2000, NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantees, Paul Greengard, Ph.D. (1992 grant) and Eric R. Kandel, M.D. (1995 grant) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their important contributions to understanding the molecular changes in the brain that underlie memory and mood. Dr. Kandel’s research has focused on what happens in the brain when memories are formed, while Dr. Greengard’s research focuses on what happens inside a neuron after a signal is received.

Paul Greengard, Ph.D. - Brain & Behavior Research Expert on Depression
Paul Greengard, Ph.D.
Foundation Scientific Council Member
The Rockefeller University
1992, 2002, 2008 NARSAD Grantee

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