Leading Researchers to Present Cutting-Edge Discoveries at the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Mental Health Research Symposium in New York City on October 25, 2013

Posted: October 7, 2013

Contact: Laura Wells
E-mail: lwells@bbrfoundation.org
Phone: 646-681-4877

(New York, N.Y. – October 7, 2013): The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of those with mental illness through the transformative power of neuroscience and psychiatric research, will hold its 25th Annual Mental Health Research Symposium on Friday, October 25th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Kaufman Music Center, located at 129 W. 67th St. in New York City.

The Foundation’s 2013 Outstanding Achievement Prizewinners and select NARSAD Young Investigator Grantees will present their latest discoveries throughout the day. The Symposium is open to the public at no charge. Prior registration is required and a $20 donation is requested.

Symposium moderator Robert M. A. Hirschfeld, M.D., a member of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council as well as Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, comments, "At this Symposium, you will hear the future of the nature and the treatment of psychiatric disorders. This is a unique opportunity for the public to hear directly from the world’s leading neuroscience and psychiatric researchers.”

The keynote address, Living a Productive Life, will be presented by Elyn Saks, J.D., Ph.D., at the conclusion of the morning session. Dr. Saks is a bestselling author and professor of law, psychology, psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the University of Southern California. She has achieved these distinctions despite her lifelong battle with schizophrenia and recounts her personal story of recovery in The New York Times bestselling book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness.

Comments will be given by Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., who is considered the world's leading authority on bipolar disorder. Dr. Goodwin is a former head of the National Institute of Mental Health and a clinical professor of psychiatry at George Washington University.

The morning program features presentations with interactive Q&A:

  • Integrated Approaches to Develop Improved Schizophrenia Therapies
    Marc G. Caron, Ph.D., 2013 Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research, Duke University. Dr. Caron will present research in his laboratory that has shown that all clinically effective antipsychotics block the actions of the neurotransmitter dopamine by interacting with dopamine D2 receptors, which are members of a large family of proteins called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). Dr. Caron and his colleagues have identified a novel mode of signaling for dopamine D2 receptors and are exploring how the findings can be leveraged to develop more selectively targeted and effective antipsychotics.
  • Next Generation Neuropsychiatric Diagnostics and Therapeutics
    Kafui Dzirasa, M.D., Ph.D., 2013 co-recipient of the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research, Duke University. Dr. Dzirasa will report on his research with animal models showing that disruptions in electrical connectivity patterns across brain networks are linked to mood and thought disorders, and that the patterns can be corrected with medication. His findings show promise of translation into a new diagnostic framework that can be used to create therapies that cure mood and thought disorders rather than simply reduce symptoms.
  • Novel Approaches to Identify Functionally Selective Pathways in Schizophrenia and Antipsychotic Action
    Nikhil M. Urs, Ph.D., 2013 co-recipient of the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research, Duke University. Dr. Urs has been developing specifically engineered animal models as uniquely powerful tools for understanding the brain mechanisms that give rise to schizophrenia and other brain disorders. He will present his latest work on the dopamine D2 receptor (D2R), a common target for antipsychotics, using animal models to test antipsychotic efficacy with the goal of developing new, more effective therapeutic strategies.
  • Groundbreaking New Technologies to Understand the Brain ― in Illness and in Health
    Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., 2013 Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience, Stanford University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Dr. Deisseroth will present two new technologies he has developed for learning about brain function and dysfunction. Both are considered “revolutionary” in their advancement of neuroscience and are now in use at labs all over the world. The first, called “optogenetics,” was developed with the early support of a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant and is enabling the identification of brain mechanisms giving rise to various brain and behavior disorders. The second, called CLARITY, enables researchers for the first time to obtain a virtually transparent view of the brain’s inner structure.

The afternoon program features presentations as follows:

  • What Happens over Time with Youth Who Have Been Diagnosed with Bipolar Spectrum Disorders?
    Boris Birmaher, M.D., 2013 co-recipient of the Colvin Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research, University of Pittsburgh. A leader in the study and treatment of pediatric mood and anxiety disorders, Dr. Birmaher will report on his evaluation of a large group of youths with bipolar spectrum disorders, in particular the factors associated with good outcome, with the idea that such factors could then be fostered to promote mood stability. Significantly, his research shows that youths whose illness started later in adolescence, who had less severe depressive symptoms, less suicidality, less substance abuse, and lived in families with higher socioeconomic status were more likely to do well.
  • Making the Impossible Possible: The Challenges of Practicing Evidence-Based Psychiatry with a Focus on Bipolar Depression
    Andrew A. Nierenberg, M.D., 2013 co-recipient of the Colvin Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Nierenberg will present findings from some of the largest studies of bipolar disorder ever conducted. He will also discuss a recently completed study that compares benefits and risks of common bipolar disorder treatments. Dr. Nierenberg will review the available evidence for treatments for bipolar depression and critique the “impossible” challenge of practicing and implementing evidence-based psychiatry.
  • The Teen Brain: Insights from Neuroimaging
    Jay N. Giedd, M.D., 2013 Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Research, National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Giedd is renowned for seminal studies in brain development that have helped explain why so many neuropsychiatric disorders emerge during adolescence. Dr. Giedd will describe the research he leads to explore the path, mechanisms and influences on brain development in health and illness. He will highlight findings from his team’s 22-year-longitudinal studies of the relationships of genes, brain and behavior and discuss deviations from typical development related to illnesses and the implications of his research for children, teens, parents, educators, clinicians and society.

The final presentations will be made by two NARSAD Young Investigator Grantees: Koko Ishizuka, M.D., Ph.D. of Johns Hopkins University and Paolo Cassano, M.D., Ph.D. of Massachusetts General Hospital. A Q&A session conducted by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D. will follow.

  • Specific Modification of the DISC1 Protein as a Biological Predictor of Schizophrenia
    Dr. Ishizuka and her colleagues have been collecting accessible peripheral tissues and cells from patients with schizophrenia and from normal controls, and using cell-engineering technology to convert them to neuronal cell lines. With these cell lines, as she will explain in her presentation, Dr. Ishizuka and her team are working to build on their previous findings in animal models that a particular modification to the DISC1 protein, a major susceptibility factor for schizophrenia, determines neural fate during development. The aim of Dr. Ishizuka’s current research is to validate this molecular signature as a biological marker relevant to schizophrenia.
  • Therapies for Major Depressive Disorder-Enhancing the Brain's Metabolism
    In his presentation, Dr. Cassano will address a novel option for the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder: the enhancement of the brain’s bioenergetic metabolism through the use of transcranial near-infrared radiation. Dr. Cassano believes that targeting brain metabolism with near-infrared light has the potential to offer a safe and affordable treatment alternative for patients who do not respond to or cannot tolerate conventional antidepressant therapies.

For more information, please visit www.bbrfoundation.org/symposium

About the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly known as NARSAD or the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression) raises funds to invest in cutting-edge research projects to understand, treat, and ultimately prevent and cure mental illness. Since 1987, the Foundation has awarded over $300 million in its NARSAD Research Grants to more than 3,700 scientists around the world. Research projects are selected by the Foundation’s Scientific Council comprised of 147 leading experts across disciplines in brain and behavior research. Funded through private contributions, the Foundation invests 100% of donor contributions for research directly into research grants. For more information, visit www.bbrfoundation.org.