Mental Health, Neurobehavioral Sciences and Psychiatry
The neurobehavioral sciences are gaining recognition for their potential to positively affect quality of life. 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.
Research at the McKnight Brain Institute
New translational research approaches include the use of electrical and pharmacological treatments to alter brain circuitry in ways that facilitate reversal of inappropriate activities, increasing progress toward positive behavioral outcomes. Research is also being focused on molecular therapeutics that affect the brain and 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 recent controversial research emerging about the degree of neurogenesis that occurs in the adult brain, work being done at the MBI to further elucidate this topic is more important than ever.
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 MBI, the future of the behavioral sciences look extremely promising with the hope of enhancing outcomes in all of the affective disorders.
CARE is one of UF’s longest-existing university-wide centers, focused on creating a comprehensive and interdisciplinary environment that will lead to highly specialized research capable of shedding light on the neurobiological consequences of alcohol and drug abuse. It includes researchers from a wide range of basic science departments and colleges at UF to provide diverse perspectives on understanding addiction.
Led by director Carol Mathews, M.D., COARD is driven by an interdisciplinary group of researchers and clinicians who conduct either clinical or translational research aimed at understanding and treating OCD and anxiety disorders. With much still to be learned regarding the environmental versus genetic effects on these disorders as well as understanding the relevant brain circuitry involved and reducing the negative stigma that often follows these patients, this center is poised to dramatically alter and improve therapies and treatments for these disorders.
Directed by Joanna Long, Ph.D., AMRIS is a state-of-the-art core that provides high-resolution NMR, solid-state NMR and microimaging spectrometer systems. This facility enhances the impact and scope of neuroscience imaging research at UF and beyond, as it is available to not only UF researchers, but also to all external academic and industrial scientists.