Mental Health, Neurobehavioral Sciences and Psychiatry

NeuronsThe Neurobehavioral Sciences are becoming more and more appreciated for their potential to positively affect the quality of life for all people, since progress made in neuroscience has contributed new technologies to the armament of approaches for treating mental disorders. Examples of pioneering research being done in the clinical and basic science laboratories of the McKnight Brain Institute include the development of new brain stimulation protocols that improve behavioral outcomes for obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.

New translational research approaches include the use of electrical as well as pharmacological treatments to alter brain circuitry in ways that facilitate reversal of inappropriate activities and thus increase progress toward positive behavioral outcomes. Research is also being focused on molecular therapeutics that affect the brain as well as the immune system, where the link between the two goes beyond common messengers that are involved in appropriate cellular behaviors. The cytokines are one family of molecular messengers that are being found to be involved in neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as also being involved in the production of new brain cells (”neurogenesis”) throughout life.

Along this line, drugs of addiction, including alcohol and even anesthetics, are being studied for their effects on persistent neurogenesis in the areas of the human brain which are involved in mood, learning and memory. Initiatives are underway that will focus on the discovery of drugs and factors that enhance the production of new brain cells in the human brain, with the goal of facilitating neural activities that improve sleep, memory, learning, and other aspects of mental state.

With the fantastic facilities of the MBI and dedicated working groups studying all facets of brain development, standard brain operation, human behavior, plasticity of the brain following injury and disease, and the ability to screen large numbers of already FDA-approved drugs and compounds that enhance brain function and plasticity using cells and bioassay screens developed in the McKnight Brain Institute, the future of the behavioral sciences look extremely promising with the hope of enhancing outcomes in all of the affective disorders.